Parker and Pals

I suppose I am a Graham Parker fan. I have as mp3s or stand-alones: Howlin’ Wind(1976), Heat Treatment (1976), Stick to Me (1977), Squeezing Out Sparks (1979), Up Escalator (1980), Mona Lisa’s Sister (1980), Steady Nerves (1985), Live! Alone in America (1989) Human Soul (1989), Live 02/91, Your Country (2004). I had some, at one time, as vinyl or cassette & replaced them with the versions I now have.

I was totally into his British r’n’b, soul rock mix. His band was hot & the horn section was excellent. He was one in a wave of British musicians along with Joe Jackson & Elvis Costello who energized the music scene with dynamic, fun work. I was instantly a fan of his British  r’n’b soul sound.

His lyrics were sexy with a film-noir sensibility  ‘Hotel Chamber Maid’ ‘Got A Lady Doctor’ if a bit sexist & very heteronormative. Clever, political & sardonic about love. I love those first couple of lps. The Up Escalator tried to give him more of a Costello sound which didn’t work. He stepped away from his horn sound to something more stripped down. In fact ‘Alive! Alone in America’ is him & his guitar. He’s still around & even more of a curmudgeon.

Also on the mp3 collection is Them: Best Of (1966-67) – Parker owes a lot to Them – solid Irish pub rock band that introduced the classic Gloria. Them influenced hundred of bands besides establishing Van Morrison. 

Out of the USA is Television: Marquee Moon (1977) (expanded) includes, Little Johnny Jewel – part of the CBGBs sound, this was a stunning, moody guitar based lp that inspired the many shoe-gazer bands that followed. Iron City Houserockers: Love’s So Tough (1979) – a fun Springsteen tough-guy rock.

Back to Britain with a fun lp by Wreckless Eric: Donovan of Trash (1991). Eric was a part of the Costello/Jackson wave but his sound was more music-hall with more humour as well. More about Eric when I get to ‘w’. Another gem are 

A friend of mine had an lp by The Housemartins that he had picked up on a visit to London & I love it. It was a year or so before it was released in NorthAmerica. I made a cassette dupe of it but eventually replaced it with mp3s of London 0 Hull4 (1986) (expanded), The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death (1987); – radio friendly, sweet, solid pop with surreal lyrics & great vocals – well worth discovering them if you are unfamiliar. 

The ever changing Peter Gabriel relaunched his career with So (1986) thanks to smart production & dynamic videos that dominated MTV for the rest of the decade. Security remains my fave but this is a great set too. Finally – another band that dominated MTV for decades is Culture Club: 2005 Singles & Remixes. I remember hearing a track of theirs – White Boys – at the Rivoli before they hit big & loving it. Who knew they would ride the wave of image, queers & great music for decades. 

Proof

some people demand

this solid confirmation

a set irrefutable facts data

that prove conclusively 

there either is or isn’t

something to believe in

they want incontestable truth

of the unseeable

of the unmeasurable

when that isn’t presented

to their satisfaction 

you are delusion 

intellectually weak

they want a tidy formula

that makes sense 

of what they don’t understand

of what they see as unfair 

cruel pointless merciless

that if there is a God 

an entity

a creative impulse 

behind our being

it may be responsible for 

the flowers and the torture

but human will 

isn’t part of the equation

unless it become robotic obedience 

to what can’t be defined 

confined refined controlled

why bother 

with the whole unqualifiable mess

better to be stoic 

self-sufficient

defense

or even self-destructive blundered

aimless enslaved to creature comfort

where indifference 

is all the proof we need

and damn the consequences

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Full of It

Full of It

he tells me

I’m full of it

does than mean

full of shit

full of bullshit

full of blessings

full to the brim

spilling over

dripping down the sides

with a puddle of self

all around me

a puddle that keeps getting bigger

<>

if I’m so full of it

that I feel nothing else

why do I feel empty 

unfulfilled

is there no room

for anything else

am I so full of it

I can’t change

learn

share

<>

I get that

this accusation of being full of it

is an attempt to shame me

but I’m so full of it

there’s no room 

for your judgements

I’m not adding your shame

to the ‘it’

I already carry

at least I carry it well

no thanks to you

who aren’t full of anything

is all I hear is the hollow echo

of your empty envy

This is a variation on a list poem – a compilation of some of things one might full of besides shit. The two usual ‘full of’ are shit or yourself. Though it can also refer to a sense of unquestioned entitlement. Usually the ‘full of’ person is unaware of it & someone feels resentful enough to point that out, for the ‘full of’s betterment. I’m not sure which is worse though to be full of self or to be full of judgement? Then again we are all full of judgement.

In the recovery community, & probably outside of it too, there’s a saying ‘what you think of me is none of my business.’ It’s a reminder to not take other people’s opinions of oneself too seriously. This isn’r as easy as it sounds though – we live in a confusing culture in which self-confidence can be seen as arrogance – where saying someone is arrogant becomes you being overly sensitive & a hater. We’ve become very adept at turning critical remarks on to the other person. Critics of politicians are accused of being unpatriotic, not to like a female singer is sexist. You can get unfriended by someone who doesn’t like your friend’s opinions.

It seems no one wants to be contradicted or made uncomfortable. We’re in the midst of a language change in which gendered words are to be removed (very 1984). Some of the zoom meetings I go to have people who, when reading aloud, assiduously replace all pronouns with they or them – if you don’t do that when it is your turn you can get called out for being insensitive. I chose not read out loud rather than spend so much time fixing pronouns I miss the gist of what is being read. 

When I wrote this a few years ago I wasn’t thinking of things like gender neutrality – but over those years our culture has changed as we come to acknowledge the need for diversity, the need to included in more than a nodding way. I recently watched Fame (1980)  with its amazingly diverse cast that actually included a sympathetic gay male character. When the movie became a TV show he was cured & heterosexual. Often what we’re full of is fear & the need to compromise to worship the all mighty needs of commerce. That’s a list for Santa Clause.


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Mushrooms

Various mushrooms, fungi I’ve spotted around east end Toronto over the past year of so. Some ahi popped up overnight & were gone by the end of the week. I have no idea which are edible or poisonous – I get my mushrooms from a grocery store. I don’t even know the difference between a mushroom & a toadstool – who does?

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OP-ting In

As I posted about Oasis, some groups were impossible to ignore at the time. One of those was Outkast. I have the double cd Speakerboxx/ The Love Below (2003) (separate cds for each member of the group). The catch phrase ‘shake like a polaroid’ was showing up as a punch line in conversations on & off TV & on line. The double set is fun, if a bit over-produced, too many comic asides, almost as if they didn’t trust the material to carry itself. Songs about heterosex love, sex, pot, politics & race. A mix of r’n’b, crooning & hiphop. I gave a listen to a couple their other cds & this pair was enough for me.

Florent Pagny: Bienvenue chez moi (1995) a hits collection that includes “N’importe quoi” & “Caruso.” I heard ‘Caruso’ in the background of some movie & I loved the emotional momentum of the song so picked up this hits collection. I almost understand it 🙂 The songs range from rock to adult pop & verge, at times, on easy listening. Florent has a nice full voice that sounds invested in the emotion.

Now for something completely different. Queercore power pop with a punk edge by Pansy Division. I have as stand-alone: Deflowered (1994), Wish I’d Taken Pictures (1996); as mp3  – More Lovin’ From Our Oven (1996), Total Entertainment! (2003). Their sound is rock pop energetic – fully of hooky guitar work & anthemic choruses. I love this band. Reminds me of early Elvis Costello, when he still had a sense of humour. Their openly queer lyrics have probably kept them from a mainstream break through. James Bondage anyone?

Expectations Fulfilled

you make it sound like 

it’s my fault

sure I said I’d be there

and sure I forgot all about it

but it’s not as if 

you didn’t get the job done

someone else stepped up

did what needed to be done

so I’m unreliable

life is like that sometimes

right

<>

it’s not as if 

I have to live up to your expectations

that I have to do what I say 

every time I say I’ll do it

yes I know you counted on me

but you can’t count on people

we’re only human

we’ll let you down every time

<>

besides 

it’s not as if

I haven’t got better things to do

than give you a hand

every time you ask for someone to be there

I know I can count you

but I wouldn’t be so upset

if you let me down sometimes

it would be par for the course

right

<>

I can’t even promise 

it’ll never happen again

so you don’t think 

you can rely on me anymore

because I let you down once

yeah well

I know it wasn’t first time 

or even the second

but these things happen

I’ll try to change

okay

<>

how does that sound

you can really count on me

from now on

give me another chance

oh that’s what I said the last time

and the time before that

then why do you 

keep building these expectations

unless it’s the disappointment

is that what you are looking for

<>

you like to be let down

to feel the victim

to feel you are the only person

who has no one they can count on

alone and helpless 

in this big remorseless world

well then 

you’ve come

to the right person

(2008)

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The Kafka Hotel

The Kafka Hotel

Nothing was the right size. G stood in the centre of the hotel room. The windows were too high to look out of & were too large for the room. On tip-toe G could barely get a brief glimpse of the high-rise across the street.

It strained G’s neck to keep looking outside. The suitcase took up half the bed. The bed would clearly be too small for anyone to stretch out on. The desk was more like ledge. There wasn’t enough room under it for legs. Not enough room on it for a laptop to open properly. The chair back came half-way up G’s spine and offered no support to lean back on.

The wall-to-wall carpet wasn’t quite wall-to-wall. In one corner there was an bare angle of raw concrete floor that hadn’t been covered. The sink in the bathroom was so low G had to stoop to get hands under the taps to splash lukewarm water on the face. There was no cold or hot just lukewarm. The shower stall door didn’t close properly so water rained all over the floor when the shower was on.

Nothing was the right size except for the price.

I’ve never stayed in a hotel room this bad but some have come close. I remember one where the ‘closet’ was just big enough to hang a shirt. More than one had desks with minimal leg room underneath. I did have one with a shower door that didn’t close properly. I suspect every hotel, no matter how good, has crappy ‘discount rooms’ that they give when people book with points or though some online agency.

The first draft of the piece had only ‘G’ as a name so I kept that. I pruned away gender designations to make G as anonymous as the room itself. I was tempted to not mention body parts – hands, face to further dehumanize G but then it felt too much like a parody of Metamorphosis. 

I’ve read Kafka’s novels & short stories a few times. I enjoy his sense of things happening for no discernible reason. Characters who hit that blank wall that refuses to explain, apologize or help. In fact they are made to feel at fault or shamed for even asking for ‘clean towels.’ Life is out of our control – which isn’t fiction as we’ve learned in these covid19 days.

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Standing On Guard

Most of these are ornamental statues that are meant to be more than decorative. All are meant to either attract good luck or repel bad luck. I see various sizes of the Chinese lions more often than the others. The courtier is a one-of-a-kind outside a hotel in Stratford, Ontario.

Chinese lions – Fu Foo Dogs
Fu Foo Dog close up
guarding serenity
meditation
griffins on O’Connor
happy to threaten you
Stratford courtier with cookies
or is that a hamburger
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Telemann for Dinner

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 – 1767) is a German Baroque composer & is one of the most prolific composers in history, as a result of his productivity his music was often seen as second-rate & not up to Bach’s standards. I have as stand-alones: Oboe sonatas 1 2; Recorder sonatas 1 2; Water Music; Paris Quartets 1 2; Darmstadt Overtures 2 cd; Twelve Fantasies for traverse flute; Concertos/Tafelmusick (lp to cd transfer); Partitas (lp to cd transfer); Twelve Fantasies for Flute/Sonatas (lp to cd transfer).

Telemann did not write for the concert hall but for relatively small ensembles for private court musicians. It was meant, for the most part, to be background music: Tafelmusick was for dining to not for dwelling on the mysteries of a spiritual life. He rarely wrote to express emotions or to create pastoral images.

In some ways we’ve done some periods of classical music a disservice by reducing to concert halls or radio broadcasts where we feel trapped or compelled to listen to it without distractions, without being able to do anything but listen. It was meant to be interacted with not worshipped.

Telemann was a journeyman composer who could write an elegant march for your walk down the aisle, or background for the the opening of your water fountain display. In the salons off the day people would walk around, chit-chat whiles the music was being played or danced to – it was meant to create an ambiance not pull focus to itself.

His work is soothing, elegant & sometimes sublime. My favourite are his Twelve Fantasies for Flute – I have two different recordings, one on transverse flute & the other on recorder. Both are a delight & perfect dinner music 🙂

All Is Well

it’s not me it’s them

it’s a war zone out there

no safe haven 

to stop and breathe in

who wants to breathe 

the air out there

stand in what sort of shit

no place to rest 

to put down the gun 

for even a minute

random bullets materialize in the air

when you are down the street

to look for a burger joint

for a corner to piss in

and bang

if the bullets don’t get you

the burgers will

<>

you’re all out to get me

people everywhere cough sneeze

wipe damp hands 

on door handles I have to touch

grimace at me

at my gun

over their newspapers

crank up their mp3 players

so I can’t hear mine

daring me to shoot 

as they light up a cigarette

as they push ahead of me 

to get their death burger faster

fast food being too slow for them

tear off price tags

rip books to shreds

push their way 

down crowded stairs ways

jump at me with atomizers

when I enter a department store

try this sir

what’s your favourite blood 

I like the smell of 

cosmetic salespersons blood

do you have anything like that

or something that smells 

like fast food counter help

that empty fried fresh aroma

that tingles the taste buds

something that makes people hungry 

when they smell me

<>

it’s not me it’s them

I set out peaceful almost serene

avoid the unscooped spots on the sidewalk

even manage a smile at the barista

who would smile back

if she weren’t afraid it’d slow her down

the swish my coffee enough

to make sure the lumps of milk 

and sweetener have dissolved

I’m happy for the first sip

until the lid pops off 

and I have to watch 

the slick scum cling 

to the sides of my cup

as I sip sip sip to the last drop

<>

I am now ready for anything and everything 

that is out to get me

I won’t fight back too much today

I want to be a power of calm

in all this mindless 

that staggers 

stumbles

hurrys me

to step out of the way

resist have a nice day

resist fuck you too

resist kicking cars 

that stop in the crosswalk

as if they owned the damn streets

<>

it’s not me

I know that even if this a war zone

all is well with the world 

(2008)

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I Got You Covered

I Got You Covered

I wanted to throw

the book across the room

the brown paper didn’t cooperate

as I folded it over the cover

one side was too big to fold

the other too small to cover

I tried to slide the book

so everything was even

so when I had it covered properly

it would be neat tidy

the real cover protected

I wanted it to look as perfect

as the book my mother

had done in minutes

<>

I lacked her eye-hand coordination

perfected by years of knitting

of dress making

I couldn’t even colour between the lines

now here I was

with a pair of scissors

a roll of heavy kraft paper

brown

attempting to make covers

for my school books

as demanded by the school

if they weren’t kept tidy enough

we would have to pay

I wasn’t even supposed to write on the books

not even to underline

couldn’t dog-ear the pages

<>

the book wouldn’t fit perfectly

I managed to get it wrapped

taped the corner to keep it in place

it was bunched up

that there was a crease 

on the back of it

I hid it at the bottom of the pile

went to bed

<>

in the morning 

it was covered perfectly

The brown paper covering of school books is a real memory of growing up on the east coast. Grocery stores were still using good quality brown paper bags in those days. Life before the plastic bag! My mother would save them for garbage & also for wrapping packages to mail to Wales at Xmas time plus for the all-important covering of school books. 

I can recall doing this until I left high-school. School issued books had to be returned at the end of the term & checked for condition. The same books, in each grade, would be used year after year until they wore out. Apparently keeping up on the latest development in science wasn’t a priority.  Grammar & spelling books didn’t need updating.

Some years my folks would pay a damage deposit on the books & get it back if they were return din good enough shape. Though I don’t recall ever having to pay for a damaged book. If a book had been in circulation for a couple years I would end up with one that was a little tattered & once I lucked out with one that had important passages underlined & even a few answers on the margins.

Some years we were given already cut covers that had been donated by various business which had their advertising on both sides of the paper. Of course ads appropriate for our ages. I can see the layout of these ads with a space left for writing the name of the book etc but I don’t remember what any of them were for – clearly a successful campaign. Maybe for local dairy, clothing stores. 


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Toys Curbed

When I see these various boxes or collections of toys set out for garbage I wonder – were they outgrown? or was some child so bad their favourites were tossed while they were visiting grandma for the weekend? or maybe they were too painful reminders of lost childhoods

butterfly? or bee that’s lost its stripes
Fall from grace
these aren’t lego 😦 I hate them.
anyone seen Mary?
it’s leaving home whatever it is
look into my eyes
hand-eye coordinators
ramp to the future
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Osibisa

I knew I would love Osibisa from the Roger Dean cover of their first album with its butterfly elephants & the stylized lettering of their name. I was some what prepared for their African rhythms by Santana & their horn section was/is amazing plus some proto-Hendrix guitar work. I also have to admit the amount of male flesh revealed in their cover photos also held my attention. Top that off with a song called ‘Phallus C’ dealing with the myths around cock size & I was a fan.

I have as stand alone First (1971), Woyaya (1971), Osibirock (1974); as mp3 Heads (1972), Live: 1971, The Warrior (1983), Osee Yee (2009). I still have my vinyl of the first two mainly for the covers. I eventually ordered them on CD as Australian imports November 2003. Their Ghanaian-English Afro Rock sound progressed over the years as the influence of the Caribbean members was felt leading to a more reggae sound. 

The live set from 1971, probably a bootleg, is good but not great – it seems to have been done from the soundboard of the concert & it has picked up some crowd conversations that are rather fun but also a little intrusive. Their first two lps are an excellent introduction African music &, to me, haven’t dated much. I have more recent work by African bands & there is little difference. They recently released a new lp! Can’t wait to hear it.

Also in this mp3 collection is Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Shaka Zulu (1987), Zibuynhlazane (1988) – a South African male choral group that recorded with Paul Simon (Graceland). Tradition songs mixed with more contemporary work – the harmonies are sweet, their love work is energetic but a couple of lps was enough for me.

I had a cassette with Liane Foly’s 1990 ‘Rêve orange’ given to me by a friend (it is now in another mpo3 collection). On this one I have Le goût du désir (2008). A sultry jazz blues singer who infuses some of her work with Moroccan flavourings. This is romantic, sweet & sophisticated music.  

Finally from the group that started it all 🙂 is Santana’s Amigos (1976) – touches of disco that work with Dance Sister Dance – critics weren’t happy with the group moving in a more pop direction with latino flavoured songs as opposed full on latino. 

99 Tears Blues

woke up this morning 

with tears in my eyes

pillow was wet 

still so much to cry

woke up this morning 

with tears in my eyes

pillow was wet 

still so much to cry

don’t ask me why

don’t know

nothing going so wrong

all going so good

I have no complaints

<>

couldn’t stop those tears

shower didn’t wash them away

wept all through breakfast 

all the way to work 

people would stare but not dare

ask how come I was crying

glad they didn’t 

I don’t know what to tell them

don’t feel sad don’t feel glad 

just feel like me

<>

went to my doctor to see what he could see 

he said those tears are a mystery to me

went to a man of the cloth he said

those are tears for the sadness of this world

gone to sin and corruption 

someone needs to grieve

I told him get up off your knees 

don’t bother to pray 

I got better things to do today

went on my way

crying sobbing snivelling 

blowing my nose

<>

woke up this morning 

with tears in my eyes

took a plane to the desert 

to see if they can be made to dry

sun blistered my face

salty tracks itch but didn’t fade

each drop a hunger for something 

the sun couldn’t satisfy

<>

I headed home to find a place to hide

not that I felt shame

but life isn’t the same

when you cry all the time

when the tears from inside

find their way out 

there isn’t much one can do

but let them flow 

even if I don’t know why 

or who 

or where 

or what

<>

sun glasses can’t hide 

the endless trail of wet 

wherever I went 

told to leave starbucks 

asked to make myself scarce at bars

all that crying didn’t help 

the doom and gloom already there

took myself home

went back to my bed 

hope that a dream can find it’s way though

<>

woke up this morning 

smiling so wide

why was I happy

it was time for that change

smiling

beaming so strange

people looked away

the grin was so bright

the sun was pale in my sight

didn’t need no doctor 

no bartender

to make me all right

I was fine as I was

ready to face what what to be done

tears have stop flowing

time to get growing

greeting the truth 

rather than crying over it

(2008)

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