Behind The Song

New Song: John Lennon Blues

Pray for a man to put the ‘fist’ in ‘pacifist’
The good die young. Or they just die.
Download     mp3 demo

I’ve never really written a 12 bar blues I was happy with but John Lennon Blues is the closest I’ve got so far. At first it may seem like a pro-gun song but it’s anything but. I was trying to explore the paradox that those who promote peace are often the ones who die violent deaths and the resulting dilemma: if they hadn’t have been so committed to non-violence they’d have survived to preach peace another day, but then their message would have lost it’s potency. So would you rather the men (and women) survive at the cost of their message?

Verses 1 and 2 started with leftover lines from my song Guns. “The lone gunman is not alone” and “put the ‘fist’ in ‘pacifist'” came from my random lines folder and verse 4 borrowed a phrase from Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller“Hold our palms against the wound” (p.114).

“That coward Caulfield” is a reference to Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger‘s novel The Catcher In The Rye, a character that John Lennon’s killer Mark Chapman strongly identified with (in fact he read the book outside the Dakota Building whilst waiting for the police to arrest him after the murder). There are biblical references, Jesus refused to “call down fire from heaven” on those who didn’t welcome him (Luke 9:54), promised “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) and said “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7). I also liked the ambiguity of juxtapositing the blues holler “whoa” with the biblical curse “woe”.

Musically it owes something (maybe an apology?) to The Beatles Yer Blues and Helter Skelter and Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe. When I wrote the track during FAWM I had a really heavy cold and knew my voice wouldn’t be up to multiple takes so I decided to record guitar and vocals at the same time. Sure enough by the end of the first take I started to cough uncontrollably (I managed to mute the mic but you can still hear it in places) and the coughing fit lasted another 10 minutes until I tore a muscle in my chest. And that’s why there’s no take 2.

Whoa If John Lennon had a gun
Whoa If John Lennon had a gun
He still be singing “all you need is love”

Oh if he’d given peace a chance
Oh and pulled a piece on each crazy fan
And shot that coward Caulfield in the back

Woe if Gandhi had a knife
Woe if Reverend King took a life
If Jesus Christ had enough and just rained down fire

If you live by the sword you’ll die by it – that’s gospel truth
But the sword of a sinner can pierce a righteous man too
And you’ll die holding innocent hands against the wound

Woe, the lone gunman is not alone
Woe, the lone gunman is not alone
And every man without sin has pockets full of stones

Woe that the world should come to this
Woe that the world should come to this
And pray for a man to put the ‘fist’ in ‘pacifist’

Whoa if John Lennon had a gun
Whoa if John Lennon had a gun
Those Dakota steps would have been stained with another man’s blood

Top 10

Top 10 Books of 2013*

*(books I READ in 2013)

1) Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
David Bayles and Ted Orland

A beautiful little book full of rich insights that demythologises the creative process helping to remove the hinderances to making stuff

2) Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
Donald Miller

Finally shedding some of my evangelical prejudices and clearing up my confusion between Don Miller and Doug Coupland I found BLJ to be a warm and engaging book about faith where for once the writer is not the hero.

3) No Country for Old Men
Cormac McCarthy

Hard to improve on a film with Tommy Lee Jones but the source book is even better. McCarthy’s dialogue sings and the Sheriff’s internal struggles make sense of that ending.

4) The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles
Dominic Pedler

A beast of a book crammed full of insights. Not just for Beatles fans but anyone who wants a thorough grounding in pop songwriting and the related music theory.

5) All the Pretty Horses
Cormac McCarthy

Two of McCarthy’s most likeable characters go through a rite of passage that is brutal and beautiful in turns. Any book that can make a city boy like me interested in the art of  breaking horses must be the work of a master.

6) The Road
Cormac McCarthy

Bleak, very bleak with occasional outbreaks of bleakness, I still haven’t mustered up the courage to watch the film. McCarthy portrays the smouldering wick of humanity in sea of evil.

7) The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form
Cormac McCarthy

A two-hand play in which a black Christian ex-con tries to talk a respectable white atheist out of killing himself.

8) Crap Lyrics
Johnny Sharp

Undoubtedly snarky fun but full of useful ‘how-not-to’s for any budding songwriter

9) The Street Where I Live
Alan Jay Lerner

The genesis of My Fair Lady, Camelot and Gigi on stage, screen and record as told by the raconteur extraordinaire lyricist himself.

10) Nineteen Seventy Four
David Peace

It’s grim up north. Yorkshire noir – where everyone is a bad guy.

Honourable Mentions

Other books I enjoyed

A few classics – Othello – William Shakespeare, Heart Of Darkness – Joseph Conrad. Coraline – Neil Gaiman, The Beatles Phenomenon – Barry Miles (a budget version of Mark Lewisohn with great photos and sheet music). The Crossing, Cities Of The Plains and Outer Dark – Cormac McCarthy. As if I didn’t get enough C- Mac this year! Good books only let down by mystical mexicans, weird endings and characters who spend 60 pages not interacting with another living soul. The Stand (The Complete and Uncut Edition) – Stephen King. Enjoyed my 20 year check-in with SK. Epic (obviously). And Gilead – Marilynne Robinson. Such a warm book that manages to convey such drama in what essentially is a man’s 270 page letter to his son.