Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pale Blue Eyes -- the Lou Reed song that rips my heart out

OK. Lou Reed is dead.

As amazing as it is that he even lived to 71 given his serious substance abuse (in the early 70s, the press was basically just waiting for the guy to die, believing it was just a matter of time), I actually find it really unsettling to realise I now live in world without Lou Reed in it.

I am not going to try any profound analysis of Lou Reed's career and his vast body of work. Others far better equipped have had their crack at it.

I am not gonna talk about the raw rock'n'roll perfection of "I'm Waitin' For The Man" or the pop perfection of "Perfect Day", which starts so superficially pleasant and ends in such despair. I'll just simply note my personal favourite Lou Reed song -- one he recorded with the Velvet Underground, "Pale Blue Eyes".

'Thought of you as everything I've had but couldn't keep... I've had but couldn't keep.'

It is, put simply, one of the most heartbreaking songs I know of -- to such an extent it reminds me of the best Tom Waits' heartbreaking ballads. And, as anyone who knows me will attest, that is pretty the highest compliment I could pay.

And I find it heartbreaking for similar reasons -- like a great Tom Waits’ ballad, it is not polished or even close to "perfectly" sung. The song is dragged through the dirt. It is the sound of someone falling down and trying to get back up. Lou Reed's vocal sounds just like a man having his heart torn out... and trying to keep on going.

The music is downbeat, basic and repetitive. It provides an almost haunting background over which Lou Reed sings, in a shaky voice that threatens to collapse under the weight of the pain, the story of his love for a married woman (Wikipedia claims the song was about Reeds' first love, who was married to another man). This is a stylistic trick Canadian band The Cowboy Junkies later used to great effect.

The song is raw. Lou Reed's vocal is utterly fragile, he sounds at every moment like the emotion will overwhelm him and he'll break down. Yet he pulls himself together -- just.

Each line is delivered with repressed emotion. But by the end, when he sings to the woman he loves, but cannot love, "But it's truly, truly a sin", the suppressed emotion in that highly conflicted line nearly bursts through to drown the song.

But it doesn't. You can feel the dam cracking. It comes so close to splitting wide open. But somehow it holds. And this near-unbearable tension makes the song even more heart-wrenching.

This is a personal favourite -- one that rips my heart out each time I hear it. But the skills as a songwriter and singer Reed employs here are found throughout his career.

Lou Reed was truly one of the giants, and the fact he no longer walks among us is still more confusing to me than painful. I can't comprehend it. Lou Reed has always been alive. He has just always been around. I guess getting older is as much about confronting the mortality of others, even those who seem immortal, as it is confronting your own.

Pale Blue Eyes

Sometimes I feel so happy,
Sometimes I feel so sad.
Sometimes I feel so happy,
But mostly you just make me mad.
Baby, you just make me mad.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.

Thought of you as my mountain top,
Thought of you as my peak.
Thought of you as everything,
I've had but couldn't keep.
I've had but couldn't keep.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.

If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see,
I'd put you in the mirror,
I put in front of me.
I put in front of me.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.

Skip a life completely.
Stuff it in a cup.
She said, 'Money is like us in time,
It lies, but can't stand up.
Down for you is up.'
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.

It was good what we did yesterday.
And I'd do it once again.
The fact that you are married,
Only proves, you're my best friend.
But it's truly, truly a sin.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hello! Rodeo! I am brilliant!

Hello world! It is a little known fact about Carlo Sands that he... that is *I*... am actually the greatest rodeo rider thingy person who stays on those *totally mad* bulls the longest IN THE WORLD! TRUE STORY!

I don’t really like to boast about it, being famously modest. In fact, I would say probably I am the MOST MODEST PERSON *EVER*! TOTALLY! I AM A FUCKING *GENIUS* AT BEING MODEST!

The point is, I am a *brilliant* rodeo rider. The greatest ever. Now, *true* I have never ridden a bull. I have never even *seen* a rodeo except once briefly on TV *or* been to Texas. Like, ever!

But my statement remains accurate. You see, I can *tell*. I look at a bull and I am like “I could totally ride that! I’d be AWESEOME!” Seriously, I look in the bull’s eye... I stare right at the bull on the other side of the fence... and I just KNOW I could totally dominate that beast!

It is this feeling I get. And, as a 21st century sensitive new age male, I trust my feelings. Those fucking bulls are MINE, MOTHERFUCKERS!

I would totally *own* any bull I chose to ride. I just *know it*.

But I simply stare the beast down and walk away. It is just one of those things. I could never *actually* get on a bull, not with my cheekbones. I have my adoring public who are obsessed with my cheekbones to think of.

I would just never do anything to risk the object of their adoration. And sometimes, the bravest thing is to walk away.

But trust me, I’d be great. I know.

Did you know that rodeo is the official sport of Wyoming, South Dakota and Texas? Wikipedia taught me that, and if we have learned anything from the unprecedentedly severe and destructive bushfires that struck New South Wales over the past week, it is that Wikipedia is the source of all knowledge.

Anyway, did I mention out what a great a rodeo rider I am? Fucking brilliant. A natural. But I don’t like to go on about it, due to the modesty thing.

I'd point out just how great I am at this kinda shit if I wasn't so modest.

So, ah, just go on about your lives like before and pretend I never imparted this groundbreaking information. But just remember... if you are ever in a life-threatening situation where what is desperately needed is someone who can ride a bull without falling off... just think of me... then ask someone else coz I hate showing off.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Thousands are sailing... a song for our times. RIP Phil Chevron

'And I never even got so far that they could change my name...'

I break my long silence on this godforsaken blog to post that song, due to the tragic news today that its writer, The Pogues' Phil Chevron, lost his long battle with cancer, aged just 56.

I mean seriously what kind of fucking godforsaken world is this when Phil Chevron is taken from us yet Robin Thicke lives? A severely fucked-up world is the answer. A severely fucked up world indeed.

I am extremely glad I had the immense pleasure of seeing the pretty much "classic" Pogues line up in Sydney last year. It was an amazing night, I couldn't believe my eyes -- there on stage was these legendary figures from another, glorious era, who created an entire new genre of their own. And Phil Chevron stepped up to sing "Thousands Are Sailing" while Shane McGowan staggered off stage to refill his drink.

I put the full words to "Thousands Are Sailing" below, coz it is not just a great song, but fucking goddamn poetry. And its story of forced emigration -- specifically about Irish emigration to America -- is just really fucking relevant. And the tragic dying trying to reach safety is really fucking relevant, from the horrific death of 363 (at last count) who died trying to reach Italy to the goddamn hellhole of *THIS* so-called country where the authorities make of point of letting asylum seekers die.


Thousands are sailing

The island it is silent now
But the ghosts still haunt the waves
And the torch lights up a famished man
Who fortune could not save

Did you work upon the railroad
Did you rid the streets of crime
Were your dollars from the White House
Were they from the five and dime

Did the old songs taunt or cheer you
And did they still make you cry
Did you count the months and years
Or did your teardrops quickly dry

Ah, no, says he, ‘twas not to be
On a coffin ship I came here
And I never even got so far
That they could change my name

Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
To a land of opportunity
That some of them will never see
Fortune prevailing
Across the western ocean
Their bellies full
Their spirits free
They’ll break the chains of poverty
And they’ll dance

In Manhattan’s desert twilight
In the death of afternoon
We stepped hand in hand on Broadway
Like the first man on the moon

And “the blackbird” broke the silence
As you whistled it so sweet
And in Brendan Behan’s footsteps
I danced up and down the street

Then we said goodnight to Broadway
Giving it our best regards
Tipped our hats to Mister Cohen
Dear old times square’s favorite bard

Then we raised a glass to JFK
And a dozen more besides
When I got back to my empty room
I suppose I must have cried

Thousands are sailing
Again across the ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Postcards we’re mailing
Of sky-blue skies and oceans
From rooms the daylight never sees
Where lights don’t glow on christmas trees
But we dance to the music
And we dance

Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Where e’er we go, we celebrate
The land that makes us refugees
From fear of priests with empty plates
From guilt and weeping effigies
And we dance

'The island it is silent now, but the ghosts still haunt the waves ' Phil Chevron sings his song.