Discussion in 'Words and Music' started by Thamika, Sep 6, 2007.
Hi, why don't we start analyzing some song?
I propose...the first in Stormcock.
Hors d'Oeuvres psycho-narcissististic-pshyco analysis: Part One
Have always found it difficult/ impossible to separate any of the songs on Stormcock and found it as a complete rational entity from beginning to end.
Most of Roy's songs can usually be interpreted on several multifarious, metaphorical levels and I use the first premise whether they are drug - and/ or another influence - inspired or not; or whether the listener has listened to it in both induced and non-induced states? So why call the first track Hors d'Oeuvres then? Is it just because it's the first track introducing you to the main course ahead, giving you a sampling taster ,so your taste buds have put you in the mood for what lies ahead? Or to get you in the right mental mood for the multi-life-trip journey you are about to embark upon?
On first listenng to Stormcock in 1971, me and my friends were absolutely bowled over by it. We were all at that time quite heavily experimenting with Cannabis during the week days and LSD on the weekends (despite holding down full-time jobs) with Alcohol to smooth the transitions (and any extreme negative reactions like bad trips, paranoia, schizophrenia etc.). My very first reaction, which I remember very clearly, was when my dear friend (John Hills RIP) asked me about it on first hearing and I replied simplistically that it summed up a very sad but accurate viewpoint on the human condition cleverly done..... he riposted that it was all about tripping on Acid as you can identify with the unique lonely place in the whole Universal cosmos in your head.
The way the Same old Rock seamlessly drifts in from Hors d'Oeuvres makes it seem connected so you are in the right meditative mood for the next track having prepared you mentally for an extreme meditative deep cosmic trip concerning everything from inordinate love, total loneliness, the frail human condition, religion, cynicism, people's insecurities / uselessness in the scale of things, facing death, to the point of saying goodbye to your loved ones on your death bed. The whole gambit man! His voice likewise has a very caring, personal quality as though Roy is actually communicating with you personally, especially via headphones which maybe the reason they are depicted on the album cover?
"Damn it all man! Can't you see?" Finishing the first side with a provocative question makes it even more cryptically everlasting for eternity and makes one think that none of us will ever find the answers to the Universe or appreciate the fact that we actually have eyes to see and should appreciate our wondrous physical attributes more?
"One new sling"? Sling = drugs? love? religion? new age thinking?
"Same old rock"? Rock = me? you? love? personal insecurity? lifeforce?
"The judge sits on his greater size"? Judge = brain in your head? past ancestry? real judges in a real world with real juries judging you?
No matter where our minds go, the whole album is a masterful trip of 'living (through) the record" as an experimentalistic empirical experience on the moment as it happens and takes you to the next level of questioning/ self doubt / wondering.... in a beautifully seriously caring manner. Facing the music and the man.
'Welcome back you total stranger' is when you come back from the journey he has inspired you to take by exploring the antipodes of your mind and all those strange and wonderful places.
"You only have to breath to fan the blaze"... again so simple to just meditate (without all the crap that sometimes you can't filter out of your head) and breath in like a Yogi to centralise your thought patterns again. Plus the fact, which I've mentioned before, the sheer wonder of seeing in itself is a blessing indeed. Imagine being blind or imprisoned and re-appreciate all the stuff you'd been taking for granted all these lost years?
And then we have the perfect finale to all the lives lived through the record, when he has been 'out there', and welcomed back to the bosom of an earth mother in 'Me and my woman' trying to explain all the wonders of his travels across his mind to a new relationship as a changed man and how he can continue to communicate with the same old world through his reborn mindset / eyes.
So Stormcock is an entity which might sound more continuous on a CD rather than have to turn over an old LP to get Side B? We go through the whole civil war raging in our heads (positive / negative reactions to outside / inside influences) and it perfectly defines our phenotypical state responding to the environment.
I am not promulgating the use of drugs (not sure if I could handle such psycho-silliness these days in my frangible state); but all I am saying is that enlightenments (nirvanas whatever) or mini-enlightenments (satoris?) can be achieved through chemical-induced states or just as deep thoughts, meditation techniques, external stimuli, natural responses to historical / artistic / religious works (dolmans / standing stones / mandalas / music / old masters / repetitive chanting / Quakers silence etc. etc.). Or even a bird resting on your bird table. Or a sunset behind a church steeple.
T'would be interesting indeed to ask Roy himself why he thinks it may be his most creative work (to date!?) and I bet some of you may disagree with some of my interpretations but I can more or less assure you that Roy has been to some of the Elysian palaces I've refered to in his mind and has a good chance of seeing through other's eyes. Including yours!
andy [enuf hippy trippy shite for the mo... give you all a rest!]
Forgive any arrogance on my part, making this my first post here (although since this was the first RH song I ever heard, maybe it's an OK starting place...)
To me this is the most straight-forward song on the album: familiar RH themes of moral cowardice and hypocracy inside an hilarious scenario comparing idiot judges and a mouth-breathing jury to music writers looking for a savior, which role RH was steadfastly refusing to play.
I agree. This is to me a straightforward song, in so far as any of them can be. I'm sort of looking forward to the "Lords Prayer" thread, that one might go on for years :willy_nilly:
the arrangement is the striking thing about this song, imo. the instrumentation and vocals are very beautiful and lush, musically its very warm and inviting although the lyrics are quite barbed. at the end of the day though its a tarted up version of one of his lesser songs of the time as heard on les cousins. that said stormcock is an amazing album, not a weak moment on it...
Yeah I'd go along with most of the above. I guess that Roy was less than enamoured with judges following the St. Pancras climbing incident, and his views on armchair critics and professional hacks were pretty much laid out in his early spiels to White Man. Fraid I never saw anything like what Andy describes, prolly cos I never did much acid
Not heard about the St Pancreas (St Pancras?) climbing incident.. pls elucidate further.. or perhaps it's on Google etc.?
The Judge Sits on His Great Assize
Well you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink
The sparse response to this thread illustrates the maxim only too well. I think this is one of Roy's great Juvenalian satires, targeted at judges and critics in equal measure, reminding us of their human frailties: they too are not beyond criticism. It's a great way to start the record, featuring as it does the great soaring couplet that always made me think of the song as "Horse to Water" - it was a long time and many listenings before I ever read the album sleeve and realised it was called "Hors d'Oeuvres" - another of Roy's little jokes, I suspect. The album proceeds with the satire on new religions (The Same Old Rock), and the less specific One Man Rock and Roll Band. I'd need to listen to that one again to have a chance of working out what it's about. The closing Me and My Woman is one of the greatest songs ever written - I never get tired of hearing it. Overall the album manages to be a great personal statement of what Roy thinks is wrong with the world and how he feels about it all. This song serves as the perfect introduction.
This is what is being referred to....
Roy escaped the mental hospital in his pyjamas through a bathroom window. Living on the streets, he was arrested some weeks later in London for trying to climb the St. Pancras Station clock tower and other minor offenses and spent one year in jail.
Nabbed from here http://www.musicianguide.com/biographies/1608002724/Roy-Harper.html
It's the first song of Roy that I've heard...
A friend gave me the cd STORMCOCK, he knew I love acustic music, so he asked me if I knew Roy....I said no..
At home, when I put the cd on...I was impressed.
It's the song I still love most.
If you go on the ROY harper H.q. website, and go on the bibliography page, it tells you all about the "escape" and lots of info about his early life and influences..
Hope this helps!
Bob said (quoted) Well you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink
I always prefer the subsequent lines:
You can lead a man to slaughter but you're never gonna make him think!
That for me rings with the most truth..
Oh I agree. It's the combination of the two lines that delivers the power.
Roy stated in Passions that he thought of Caryl Chessman when he wrote this song. Chessman had been fighting for his life for ten years representing himself.
When Chessman was executed in San Quentin’s gas chamber, on May 2, 1960, the debate on capital punishment had reached a peak, a peak that was fueled further by an even blacker irony: After Chessman’s execution, it was revealed that a federal judge had granted him a last-minute reprieve, but the judge’s clerk had lost precious minutes dialing a wrong number before getting through to the death chamber, and the cyanide pellets had been dropped only moments before word of the stay got through to San Quentin’s warden.
Prior to his death Chessman had claimed a man named Terranova was the "Red Light Bandit," but the L.A. police said no such man existed. After Chessman’s death, William Bradford Huie (author of The Execution of Private Slovak) wrote a story for a popular magazine claiming that Terranova was an inmate in the L.A. County Jail at the time police said he did not exist. from http://crimemagazine.com/cp101.htm
So although some of us might associate the words of this song with Roy's own experiences, he was describing a loftier principle and no doubt his experiences allowed him access to information about the case which had worldwide repercussions for the anti-death-penalty.
In this respect there are some word phrasings that give a hint to the judicial systems that can convict and kill an innocent man being run and operated by morons and in the end when justice is served the beauraucrats are just too late.
This is far more than just a mockery, there is an intense anger at the failure of justice to deliver. We all serve the system and we are all culpable!
And yes it won't make the charts. People do not want the truth as its unpalatable.
BTW Roy spells the name wrong in Passions referring to Carl Chessman when it should be Caryl Chessman. The reason I know about the Chessman case is that it was a big topic of conversation in our house when I was growing up and sparked a great deal of interest because of the injustice.
The sheer horror of knowing that you've killed someone who was innocent affects people of conscience. It also acts as a discrimminator for determining who is good and who is fundamentally evil. A good person would always see the horror in the final act. An evil person would accept the act as just bad timing.
The responsibility for State murder by death penalty or warfare carries the same indictment but thats a topic for a different lyric.
BTW if anyone really wants to try and understand RH lyrics, then Passions of Great Fortune gives some great clues and should be a must read for all adepts and fans alike. Its only £20!!!
I don't know what it is about me and Roy's songs. Back in the Good Old Days - from Genghis up to about Bullinamingvase - I would buy the albums as and when they appeared, no pre-listening, reviews or owt else, just because they were Roy.
I then almost lost touch completely (apart from the 84 tour) - you know, parenthood, mortgages, respectability and all that, keeping me away from any record shop and any newspaper likely to carry a review - until the early/mid-90s when I started catching up again, and again started buying because they were Roy.
Anyway, I digress, sort of. "Stormcock" was bought at a time when I, being a young impecunious teacher living in digs with a genuine old-fashioned Irish landlady, had no access to anything approximating to a "record player" (that's what we used to call them in them days, whipper-snappers all, because they were better than gramophones). So the LP remained unplayed for about 6 months until I moved into a rented cottage with a couple of other characters, one of whom, working in North Sea oil, was rich and had a B&O kit, including those radiator-sized electro-static speakers like only my very wealthy uncle had previously been able to afford.
So, "Stormcock" first hit my ears from such a hi-fi source. I can remember feeling like a kid at Christmas, being allowed to open the presents at last, and I was not disappointed - quite the opposite - but it was the overall sound/effect that hit me first.
I caught a few lines from H d'O - probably the ones I was looking for - like "horse to water/man to slaughter" - and presumed here was another assault on things like Vietnam, the Middle East and so on. It was, literally, months and months later that I sat down and listened to the words in detail, and was amazed to find left balls flying through the courtroom, arses being scratched, and farts. Not what I expected at all. Clever, but not what I'd imagined. My fault, not Roy's.
And in honesty, I was disappointed. The other three tracks were immediate masterpieces - still are, none more so than "Me and My Woman", but I'm never quite sure, still, about H d'O and its ilk. The Crappy Little Chappy bit still jars, and the grunting bit on Jugula. I've never been sure that I see the point. The well-worn path of "Forbidden Fruit" is another case - I used to think it was a lovely love song, until I heard the words.
Oh I've tried very hard, honest, I've tried, but it is still a rule that I will hear Roy's songs and revel in them, long before I listen to them. My fault, not Roy's - and I'm still not sure about H d'O, except that it sounds lovely.
Hors D'Ouvres/Caryl Chessman
I suppose it was inevitable that a discussion about Stormcock would include HDO and Chessman, however I didn't realise how much it still really affected me now and both as a child and through adolescence into adulthood.
The Chessman story conjours up an image of the poison pellets falling just as the telephone starts to ring to tell the Prison Governor to stay the execution for the 9th time.
It was just two days before my eighth birthday when Chessman was killed. To me the sheer horror and terror of being killed by cyanide, especially when you're innocent of the charges was bad enough but so much worse when the reprieve comes a couple of seconds too late. I guess Roy was equally as appalled as I was and its such a defining moment like Kennedy's murder some three years later.
These are not the only things which engendered an anti-establishment streak within me but they were symptomatic of the distrust with which I hold those who set themselves up as the arbiters of correctness. In fact it is almost a pathalogical hatred for the establishment types who are third cousins of a conscience twice removed.
Most recently Blair who became part of this cabal after succeeding the Grey Man who had also been subsumed, proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the lives of human beings in Iraq were of no value. Irrefutable proof of his turning to the dark side. Anakin Skywalker without the mask and light sabre.
So the exercise in considering the lyrics of Hors D'Ouvres, has served to remind me vividly why I get Roy Harper. I sometimes wish that I didn't get him quite so much because life could be simpler shrouded in ignorance or with less of an innate sense of injustice.
For me what makes Hors D'Ouvres so significant is the fact that although it doesn't state it relates to Chessman it is entirely about the injustice, callousness and indifference of the Judiciary and the State.
It ties in well with the notion of a conspiracy on 9/11 and the aftermath especially the disposal of evidence and the disappearance of gold bullion and the misreport of the Commission of Inquiry. Even those who do not profit directly play along with the perpetraitors!
Gracing the Bahamas in see through pyjamas
How come Fuzzy has got this new nomenclature and not 'computer stained fingers' then?'
A bit strange, isn't it?
Hello. My first post too, so why not here, indeed?
I haven't really got anything much to add to the comments above, concerning the lyrics and how they refer to certain long-standing "preoccupations" of Roy's - judicial murder, misuse/distrust of authority, the Done R Bit Club, critics and mass-culture, career "self-sabotage" etc - but I would like to mention how, from my first hearing of it, this song's sheer musical beauty made such an emotional impact on me. The verses, sung with such sorrow and world-weariness, in a repeated descent that give an almost soporific effect, but serve as a wonderful foil to the suddenly-soaring and (to me) perfect harmonies in the chorus. They stopped me in my tracks then, and they still do now.
On this level alone, it's a special song for me - even among such a rich canon of beautifully-sung songs.
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