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Song Club: Song For December

Discussion in 'Words and Music' started by NoCelebrity, Dec 2, 2008.

  1. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    Well, I’ve shoveled my first snowfall of the season (1” heavy slushy), and I fought myself over my decision for Song of the Month. Wondering what song someone else will choose is part of the fun. My ego says don’t be pushy, keep it simple. But... What song or songs do I personally have to choose from?

    When I discovered Roy in 1978, I bought one album and copied another on cassette. I found two more vinyl LPs in a cutout bin in the early 1980s. That was all the Roy I had or knew about until 2007 and iTunes. Now I’ve got 23 discs of Roy and 3 CDs of Nick.

    My choice is limited to music I’ve known for DECADES, not a couple months or years. Beggar, Baroque, Valentine, HQ (known by the Cricketer title). These songs have inhabited my memory for 25-30 years, especially Valentine and HQ.

    I think I mentioned my pick in my intro to this site, back on 1 August. My favorite lyrics. The first song I heard by Roy. The reason I had to copy my friend’s LP when I couldn’t find it anywhere. The #1 reason I kept searching for more Roy... Why I first visited iTunes...

    I usually like my music on the lively side, whatever genres it straddles. I like lyrics that make you think or are fun to sing along with. From my first 4 albums, my favorite songs are Beggar, Committed, Don’t You Grieve, White Man, Tom Tiddler, Hell’s Angels, MCP Blues, Acapulco Gold, Commune, Magic Woman, Che, The Game, Grownups AJSC, Referendum, Forget Me Not. I play/sing along with I’ll See You Again. (I comment on Forbidden Fruit in the site’s Library.)

    From my new expanded collection, my favorite songs include most of Stormcock, Lifemask, Bullinamingvase, and Jugula... so far. I especially love Hangman, Miles Remains(Live!), Highway Blues, Key to The Highway (BBBronzy), Maile Lei and Death of God.

    Somewhere on this site I said I think Hangman has “perfect” lyrics. They are beautifully constructed no matter your opinion on the subject. Linear, abstract, symmetrical, logical, the perfect example of the pen(song) being mightier than the sword(noose). The poignancy of JP’s sparse but expressive guitar accents, and Roy’s upper register challenging me to sing along...

    I cannot emphasize enough Roy’s gift for poetry in lyrical form. But just as important is his gift of musical composition. Some of Roy’s most popular music is just Roy and a guitar, but I love when groups play music together. How many great bands has Roy put together?

    My choice for Song of the Month December 2008 is:

    Roy Harper’s “The Game.”
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2008
  2. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    The Game--My OPINION

    What follows demonstrates another reason (length) I almost chose another song. I gather by previous example it is okay to post Roy’s copyrighted lyrics here on this website, but that you certainly must not copy them or seek to profit from them in any way. [Please go to Roy’s website for his book of lyrics “ROY HARPER-The Passions of Great Fortune-The Songs explored.” In fact, Roy goes into great depth discussing what the song means to him, as much as any other song. But this is also about what “The Game” means to us Stormcockers.]

    Roy Harper’s “The Game” was my very first introduction to his music (I’m saving that story for a long-overdue recording to send to Paul and the podcast.) For me, “The Game” has many meanings. As I recall, the American Album “When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease” had a photo of Roy as cricketer, so my first listen was primed for Cricket references (“It’s just like Baseball, ain’t it?” And Rugby's just like Football, which is nothing like Soccer).

    Right away “The Game” grabbed me and I listened. I studied the Album notes only later.

    Roy sings with passion and emotion and humor. His musical composition and vocal phrasing fit the lyrics flawlessly. Then there is the magic of the other players and limited studio time.

    The words speak to my discontent and my sense of optimism at the same time. Both sides of the power of “we.” Frustration and self-determination. “The Game” is ambitious and brilliantly executed. Roy’s lyrics speak to my independent, peace-loving spirit. Non-confrontational but at the same time prone to appropriate anger at injustice. Roy’s lyrics are honest, sometimes brutally frank, always a source of reason against the twisted ironies of Social Reality. Roy walks the tightrope AND Ockham’s razor. His career has spanned decades, dozens of albums, hundreds of songs, and THOUSANDS of fans (just counting celebrities!).

    I read meaning for “The Game” as it relates to Life, Religion, Politics, Love, the whole social spectrum, and of course, more Cricket than Roy ever intended. [Hey, I didn’t know all the lyrics for almost 30 years! I thought the lyrics began “(Player’s name) on in the third inning, fixing his brace...” near the end “stand in the slot and see...” and nearer the end “...somersaulting from his slide as well!” I was wrong!]

    Lyrics for “The Game” (from HQ) by Roy Harper:

    There’s an owl in the valley/ Fixing his prey/ He’s not counting the tally/ It’s down to what comes up before the day/ And the trees in the orchard/ Were taken from a narrow view of time/ Where the minds of the tortured/ Perpetuated patron saints of crime/ (O civilisation)

    I can fit into your puzzle/ But it’s hardly, hardly ever a hold/ And I’ll tell you the trouble/ The habits I’ve got are more than ten thousand years old/ And we cannot sell our souls to learning morals/ Big Brother is no place for us to slide/ We cannot live by numbers or on laurels/ And hardly on how far from death we hide/ And it’s not a case of rampant paranoia/ But Just an age I’d love to see unborn/ Not that I’d be missing playing Goya/ But more like I feel awkward passing on civilisation/ Civilisation down to my children/ Without a question/ While the prophets of freedom/ Battery-farming brains for narrow minds/ Have decided, yes they’ve decided that meaning/ Is far beyond the lives they left behind/ As two-thirds of the population dine/ On scraps in shadows lengthening with time/ While propaganda spreads the same old theme/ You is me and we can change the game

    Ah but how many times have we written these lines/ And delivered these signs and not made it happen/ Walking the tightrope/ Of talking our head off ..losing the rhythm/ Idealising/ And all criticising/ And not realising that we’ve changed and left and we’ve gone/ And sad to be leaving/ The things we believe in/ but time has a way and we fly

    The next age is born/ And the old hands are gone/ And done in a wink of an eye/ No point in passing bad reason good guessing/ And no time for massing much more than can flourish with love/ And right now my darling/ I’m lying here dreaming/ Of feeling no daylight between us/ So wherever you are and whenever I’m there/ Is someplace we’ve got to be ours/ Can we right-heartedly/ Stand in this light and see/ What might turn out to be/ Crazy enough/ Enough to be we

    When we’ve had a past said enough to last/ For some time into the future/ These storms have torn and true love is alone/ And the past is almost a failure/ Consciences burn in the programme turn computing the social behaviour/ [Can we have another saviour please]

    And I’d pack my things on a pair of wings and tomorrow I’d be parting/ With the summer birds and the winter herds for a place to find a new heart in/ But it makes no difference where I am, I’m in the game first hand/ There are no certain answers and no time to understand/ The rules are set to paradox/ Coercion and blind faith/ The goal’s a changing paradise a moment out of date/ The dream is righteous grandeur fit to flood the universe/ The fact is more than meets the eye/ But less than runs the earth/ [And it’s running the earth]

    And the prisoner of the present/ Paces up and down inside his cell/ He’s the living replacement/ Somersaulting from the psychic well/ Screaming “I’m the sponsor of a hell”/ Voices like the sea inside a shell/ Telling me I cannot stake a claim/ Possession is a clue but not the game/ So please leave this world as clean as when you came

    [The only time you leaders need us/ Is when you feed your ego/ We need you the way you lead us/ Like, not, as far as we know]
    (end lyrics)

    I am very curious to know what other people think, both how we differ and coincide. Start with this Song Of The Month... I also have questions. Don’t worry about spending a lot of time with your answers, unless of course you want to! (You won't be graded!) And remember, one of you gets to pick the next Song Of The Month.


    1. What does Roy speak after last line verse two “You is me and we can change the game.” ?? The words are not printed in the lyrics. (It sounds to me like a political aside/whisper by the same voice. “Don’t you talk!”)

    2. Is there any intended reference/allusion to Cricket at all? The owl is “...not counting the tally.” Is that just my association with “Cricketer?”

    3. Does anyone else picture “The Matrix” when they hear “Battery-farming brains for narrow minds.” I think the Wachowski(?) Bros. stole the idea from Roy, but I can’t prove it.

    4. Roy mentions his reference to Voltaire in his comments in the book. Where is this? I get the Orwell and some of the Goya (I think). Roy mentions Keats and Shelley as inspirations, any hints in the lyrics?

    5. What is “The Game” to you? Life, Religion, Politics, Society, Business, Love? None, some, all, or more than these things?

    Roy admits modestly, “I think that this is one of my best pieces.” And he praises the contributions of his tag-team of studio musicians.

    My final opinion. I love “The Game.” It’s the RULES I have problems with!
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2008
  3. HarperPR

    HarperPR My destiny offers me up like a lamb

    Wasn't it 'bull****'? Or am I thinking of that from some live show?:confused1:
  4. Shane

    Shane Computer stained fingers

    you're right there. i always hear it as a response to the line that came just before it.
  5. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you


    Guess what song we learned in tonight's Blues Guitar Class? (Spooky...) Our teacher likes Clapton's version though... I keep trying to teach him about Roy.

    Oops! The song we practiced was "Key To The Highway" which Roy did live at the 60th birthday concert. It's by Big Bill Broonzy, not the other song, by Roy.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2008
  6. aspwatterson

    aspwatterson The Unknown Soldier

    The Game

    I bet Roy wrote it quite quickly actually and it was one [or several cojoined ] of those streams of consciousness which flooded out of him encapsulating all his thoughts precipitously. Like Lifemask's Lord's Prayer and his trippy visionary version of Geronimo's picture which inspired him. Probably the same with McGoohans Blues I would guess? On a tidal wave of communication. Sometimes the words do not get written fast enough from thought to wild scribblings with the pen. Then there is a sense of satisfaction as though you've achieved a part of your life's work in trying to communicate exactly what you are thinking on the moment after many years of watching, cogitating and waiting.

    andi :m2:
  7. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    Always amazing how artists are inspired. The writing gets put down as quickly as possible, then we look at what we've done and wonder if we said all we meant and if it will reach others. It is a beautiful, wonderful, mysterious and weird feeling. Why can't/don't we all try to do this? Not every attempt is successful, but Roy's rate of success far surpasses mine and most. Love your (and other) POV, Andi.
  8. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    Did I go too obvious?

    Perhaps I should've chosen a less MONUMENTAL song by Roy. I found no detailed discussions of The Game, and I like to read other people's stories.

    Should I have gone more unexpected in my choice? All my other choices are still new to me. I would have enjoyed discussing Miles Remains, or a blues number (think Chicago) in a more musical (vs. lyrical) way. Probably said too much, but don't let that scare you...

    Comment, or start making your pick for the next song.
  9. pd

    pd Slightly Desperate Staff Member

    You picked a tricky song and I've been having a very busy week... but I thought I'd write a few thoughts. I've deliberately not read what Roy says about the song in the book, in order to not get influenced :)

    Musically first. This is Roy doing some wonderful proggy rock, with a driving beat and a really catchy riff. His voice suits the song perfectly, and you can tell it's from around the same time as he sang "Have A Cigar" as the delivery is a little similar. It often makes me wonder what other marvels we could have had, if the funding and success had come in time for Trigger to continue.

    Lyrically, it's a song that washes you by initially apart from the wonderful "please leave this world as clean as when you came" which, though deliberately tongue in cheek, sums up an approach to life that seems sensible and sensitive.

    The song covers many standard Roy topics; the pure arbitrariness of existence and the all pervasive effect that our DNA (double helix) has on us. The way we coat a thin veneer of respectability and civil behaviour on top of our urges. That part of us that is still animal, that we can never truly control, and that makes us what we are.

    The transient nature of being. How much difference can we make during our time on earth, which gone in but a twinkling of an eye? In spite of that we rail against circumstance and try to stamp our mark.

    I'm particularly drawn to the sentiment of being uncomfortable passing on all the trappings of "society" to our children, propagating the same mess. The best thing a parent can do is to encourage free and open thought outside the artificial, invisible barriers our leaders would have us accept. Change has always been slow because people seem to get entrenched in beliefs and complacent in their role in society. Perhaps it can only come, glacially, as one generation gives way to the next. That's assuming we have a planet left to sustain us, of course.
  10. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Paul. The BOOK even has an illustration of the double-helix (with line-art nudity!) alongside the lyrics. I pretty much agree with your evaluation.

    No one's touching the CHURCH, so far?

    I've been trying to remember the thought I had about "The trees... narrow view of time..." in the first verse. The image has always moved me, but was my thought a revelation about deeper lyrical meaning, or something else? This is a rhetorical question, so answer at your own risk:biggrin:! (Or is it somehow an answer to one of my initial questions?)
  11. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you


    No one's tried to answer my question #4 about Voltaire. Roy says in his comments in the book,

    "There are so many references in this song. Voltaire, Orwell, and Goya are almost paraphrased..."
  12. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    I wonder if the "scraps in shadows..." or "paradox, coercion and blind faith" could be the References ROY makes to other authors?

    I also love ROY's line "Walking the tightrope/ of talking our head off... losing the rhythm." The artist in Roy taking care not to anger the powers that be too much... (I thought Roy discounted this was self-referential but now I can't find the quote. Did I imagine it?)
  13. cmarchet

    cmarchet I've got a zappy little nappy

    Sorry I can't be much help with the references.
    Now that you've got me analyzing the lyrics, I'm wondering how he gets from the owl in the valley to the patron saints of crime..."the trees in the orchard were taken from a narrow view of time" What does that mean?
    I have a hard time seeing an orchard as a very sinister manifestation of civilization...
    But quibbles aside it's a great song. The arrangement really complements the lyrics, especially the way the guitar kicks in behind "I'm in the game first hand". I also love the drum fill at "the prisoner of the present paces up and down inside his cell."
    Thanks for posting the lyrics that come behind the guitar solo--I'd never listened to them before.
  14. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    I believe the first paragraph sets up the contrast between nature/Earth/Gaia and Humanity. The owl ignores humanity's GAME, it will end one day. An orchard is a contrivance and symbol of humanity tied somehow to the evildoers of organized religion. When mankind is gone, the orchard will disappear soon after. Are we truly civilized?

    I'll bet I've missed a whole lot of the meaning.

    Oh, and a BIG welcome to cmarchet!
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2008
  15. HarperPR

    HarperPR My destiny offers me up like a lamb

    I know I love this song, but it is rather one that you could write a thesis on for every line!

    NC how do you interpret a cricket reference? Never thought that before you brought it up.

    Isn't the whole song one of saying well, we (society) can do this and that and try and change things but in the end 'it makes no difference where I am I'm in the game first hand'?
  16. cmarchet

    cmarchet I've got a zappy little nappy

    Aside from the lyrics, I've always wondered what instrument plays the bit that comes in after "we've had a past long enough to last for some time into the future" --is it keyboard or percussion? And who do you suppose came up with it? Gilmour? John Paul Jones? Bruford?
    Well, as I double-check the album credits, seems like it's Steve Broughton on drums for this track instead of bruford. Not that I knew who Steve Broughton was, but now I do...he's still playing in the Egdar Broughton band. I'm listening to their stuff now on myspace...sounds like Scott Walker with a beat and guitars...very trippy

    Anyway, I favor the theory that the little instrumental bit I was talking about is John Paul Jones' thing--he's got a knack for adding just-right sounds into arrangements.
  17. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    "...SAID enough to last?..."

    I think the instrument is some type of xylophone, wooden, not metal. So, in a sense, you are talking about a percussion and keyboard instrument. It may alternately be some keyboard synthesis. I imagine JPJ plays on every song on the album, but I think I read somewhere that is wrong.

    In the BOOK, Roy says about The Game, "...Bill Bruford played the vibes and the drums, (but not together). The jazzier pieces of drumming are Bill, whereas some of the rocky stuff is Steve Broughton..." I only know Steve Broughton thru ROY, so I envy the Brit perspective.

    I'll have to search harder for other answers I think I've read somewhere
  18. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you


    Cricket is a VERY British GAME. Don't you refer to the score as "The Tally" from time to time? As Sergei Eisenstein proved through the art of montage (simply- "editing" images together), any sort of juxtaposition (even accidental) can create a meaning neither concept alone would create. This was a shocking concept to many early moviegoers who assumed scenes were filmed in sequence...

    Enough with the abstract analogy of my thought process. Another explanation is the American Album of "HQ" was titled "When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease" to ride the success of the single. The only thing I remember about my friend's copy was a picture of Roy dressed as a Cricketer. I assumed Cricket would be a metaphor for the game of Life, etc. (I re-read Roy's comments in the CD insert, and find not all my opinions are perfect, either!)

    AND THANK YOU, HarperPR, for you two-bits' (old slang for US quarter dollar) or is that about three bobs' worth of your opinion? I agree with you even when I don't. I love to hear other opinions because they make me think, and when it's someone loving what I love...

    But I'm gushing, we're expecting ten inches of snow overnight (about 2" already) and I need to get up early. Sadly, my oldest brother is at the end of his GAME, and we return to see him in hospice as soon as I can clear the snow from our driveway. Sorry for the downer, just wanted to let my fellow Stormcockers know I'm not abandoning them if I don't respond quickly.

    Love, and best to you all! Jack.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2008
  19. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    One More Thing!

    Is that a challenge, or a boast? (I agree with the sentiment entirely!)
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2008
  20. NoCelebrity

    NoCelebrity Aye lad, I knew you had it in you

    Closing December 2008 SOTM

    In the CD insert/booklet for HQ, Roy writes:

    "I was on my own when I wrote 'It's down to what comes up before the day.' When I imagined an orchard full of 'lords prayer blossom' (see Lifemask) coming to grief because it was not cultivated on the right side of the ice, I was automatically appraising the politics of my lifetime. The same politics that would have millions die because of inadequate preparation, regimented view. Who the hell cares which is the best way forward when the only possibility is love."

    Roy ties together words and images in such a way as to open our minds to truths we often conveniently ignore. Am I making the same associations Roy intended, or totally new ones? Is the Orchard of Lords Prayer Blossom connected to the "trees in the orchard" in The Game? "Whose little children are the delicate blossom of an orchard of electricity." (I found Roy's lyrics on first page when I googled "Lord's Prayer Blossom". Right after Perry Como...). Are these childlike minds doomed to be the "tortured perpetuated patron saints of Christ?"

    Well, you tell me.

    (Is Lords Prayer Blossom even an actual plant/tree name?)

    I love to think, and hear differing points of view, even strive to understand.

    I love Roy's music because I hear a new point of view almost every time.

    Thanks, Roy!

    p.s. It has been quite a month. Chicago politics on the world stage. Over 20 inches of snow (almost all melted). A 3 day stretch with sub-zero temps, 40 mph winds, record warmth, record rainfall, fog, thundersnow and a tornado watch. And I set a standard for the SOTM (verbosity) that likely will not be repeated.

    All this seems insignificant as my oldest brother lost his "game" on 19 December 2008 after a two-and-one-half-year battle with head and throat cancer. He would have been 62 on New year's Day. He was a fan of all music, especially Chicago Style Blues.

    Thanks for the opportunity to RAVE ABOUT ROY! The man who was once "Committed" is always very therapeutic.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2008

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