The Go Betweens : Cattle and Cane

What are we made of?

Well, you could say we are mainly Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium and Phosphorous.

Add some pinches of Potassium, Sodium, Sulphour, Chlorine and Magnesium.

Just the tiniest amounts of Boron, Chromium, Cobalt and Copper.

Traces of Flouridine, Iron, Iodine, Manganese, Silicon, Selenium, Vanadium, Molybdenum, Tin and Zinc.

Scientifically that’s absolutely the case.

Still, I prefer to think we are, each of us,  a whirling constellation of dreams and memories.

Dreams beget memories and memories beget dreams.

We are star shine, dreams and memories.

Just before you go to sleep – a shimmer in the mind.

Just before you wake up – slow spools of overexposed film.

A Life lived in a landscape of dreams and memories.

Sometimes pin sharp with hallucinatory detail.

The grain of the kitchen table, the fragrance of your mother’s perfume, the bark of a long dead dog, the leathery feel of your father’s hands.

Sometimes drifting in and out of focus – colours merging and fading.

The faces of the children you played with, snatches of skipping rhymes, the clang of trolley buses passing by.

Tracking shots, jump cuts, slow motion.

And, the landscape of dreams and scudding memories is so often the landscape of childhood.

A landscape that will never leave you.

When we are very old and our powers are failing we will forget today’s appointment and the name of the current political leaders.

But, until our last gasped breath we will remember the intensity of the light in our youth.

We will remember the sounds of our childhood home and street.

We will remember the breeze blowing our hair awry and the sound of the wind outside our window in the deep dark of night.

However old you become you will always in some sense remain the child you were all those years ago.

The child who will be your secret companion and your deepest mystery.

And, if you are a songwriter – an individual given to times of silent thought – you will find yourself returning over and over and over again to that landscape in search of that companion and that mystery.

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If you are Grant McLennan you will recall a schoolboy coming home.

Home.

Through fields of cane.

Fields of Cane.

To a house of tin and timber.

Tin and Timber.

And in the sky a rain of falling cinders.

A rain of falling cinders.

Falling cinders that will fall, fall, fall all around you all your life.

If you are Grant McLennan you will dream up a hypnotic guitar riff in the key and time signature of memory and write a classic song of recalled childhood and the greatest song ever to come out of Australia.

If you are Grant McLennan living in a world of books and music and silent times in thought you will write, ‘Cattle and Cane’ and you will be certain of immortality as a songwriter.

I recall ….

Grant recalled his childhood when he was far from Home, Queensland and Australia when he wrote Cattle and Cane.

In 1982 he was staying with fellow expatriate Nick Cave on whose guitar he conjured the unforgettable guitar figures threaded all through Cattle and Cane.

With Robert Forster (his song writing partner) and Lindy Morrison on drums as The Go Betweens the song was recorded in Eastbourne in 1983.

Forster added the enigmatic last verse identifying the heart of the song as both the consolations of Home and the sense of aloneness you feel when Home is far away.

Home first became far away for Grant when he went away to Boarding School leaving the fields of cattle and cane far behind.

Boarding school where he would never forget losing his father’s watch.

In silent times of thought he will have returned to the rain of falling cinders and the sky above his Home.

Dreaming in the night he will have returned on the virtual train to the fields of cattle and cane and been blessed by the rain of falling cinders.

Those dreams of home will have flashed brighter when he left Australia in search of his chance.

Recalling the genesis if the song Grant McLennan said in 1983:

‘I wrote (the song) to please my mother. She hasn’t heard it yet because my mother and stepfather live (on a cattle station) and they can’t get 240 volts electricity there, so I have to sing it over the phone to her.’

The beauty of the lyrical imagery is fully matched by the melody and rhythm.

Opening with a riff that seems to signal a dive into the subconscious the song builds and builds through the verse until there is a feeling of breathless elation.

This a song which has the space and time stretching quality of dream.

Further, longer, higher, older.

Further, longer, higher, older.

The adult and the child co-exist and find peace with each other.

For the duration of the dream and the song they live together surrounded by fields of cattle and cane.

Fields of Cattle and Cane.

For the duration of the dream and the song they live again in a house of tin and timber.

A House of Tin and Timber.

A House that will always shine bright in the memory.

And, Boy and Man, dreaming their dreams, they stand under the sky and a rain of falling cinders.

A Rain of falling Cinders. that will never stop falling,falling, falling.

There is the quality of an anthem about Cattle and Cane.

An anthem to an Australia that is both real and mythic.

The anthemic ‘Australiana’ nature of the song is very well captured in the version by Jimmy Little.

 

A Song that can be deeply personal and an anthem for us all is some Song.

So, ‘Cattle and Cane’ tales up an honoured place on The Immortal Jukebox as A45.

I’ll leave you with a glorious live version with Grant and Robert diving deep ….

‘I recall a schoolboy coming home

Through fields of cane

to a house of tin and timber

And in the sky

A rain of falling Cinders ….

 

 

In memory of Grant McLennan 12 February 1958 – 6 May 2006.

For Malcolm McCulloch.

 

 

First Aid Kit : Wonderful homage to Emmylou Harris ‘Emmylou’

Some things we know to be true.

No life escapes the bitter wind.

Everybody wants to have a home and someone to come home to.

Like The Boss says : Don’t make no difference what nobody says –  Ain’t nobody like to be alone.

Two can easily do what’s so hard to be done by one.

Elizabeth and Darcy.

Tristan and Iseult.

Rochester and Jane.

Scott and Zelda.

Odysseus and Penelope.

Anne and Gilbert.

Everybody’s got a hungry heart.

Every wandering bark is in search of a guiding star.

And, once found, will sail, unafraid, even to the edge of doom.

Everyone yearns to find that voice they were meant to harmonise with.

Someone, a confidante,  who knows just where you keep your better side.

Someone who forgives your falters.

Mere speech cannot wield such matters.

Turn to Song.

To Harmony.

Find someone you can sing out loud with in your own true voice.

Oh, oh, Emmylou needs Gram.

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And Johnny needs June.

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Sing Darling.

Sing with me.

Sing with me.

Sing with me.

 

 

Two Sisters.

Johanna and Klara Soderberg.

Voices entwined.

The mystery of unspoken sibling connection.

Other worldly gleanings.

Finding an alchemy unrevealed to the single voice.

A tribute to the voices that called their own.

At 14 and 16 discovering the longing and the keen in, ‘Love Hurts’ and, ‘Thousand Dollar Wedding’.

Gram and Emmylou.

Johnny and June.

Johanna and Klara.

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Everybody’s got a hungry heart.

Scarlett and Rhett.

Fred and Ginger.

Lancelot and Guinevere.

Beatrice and Benedict.

Nick and Nora.

Carol and Therese.

Hadrian and Antoninus.

Menakhem and Sheyne.

Boundless as the Sea.

Look, Love and Sigh.

Walking out among the ancient trees to lie down among the flowers.

Face to face with the sky.

Of the very instant that I saw you.

Everyone’s got a hungry heart.

Sing with Joy.

Find the Magic.

Things grow if you bless them with patience.

Fermina and Florentino.

Virginia and Vita.

Robert and Elizabeth.

Bogie and Bacall.

Rick and Ilsa.

Play it one Time.

Play it one Time.

Sing Darling.

Sing with me.

Sing with me.

Sing with me.

Sing this one for Emmylou.

Sing this one for the ghost of Gram.

Sing this one for Johnny and June.

Sing this one for Emmylou.

 

 

 

Alan Gilzean RIP : Elegance and Flair make for a Football Legend.

 

There are no heroes like the heroes of your youth.

And, none you miss more when they die.

The image of Alan Gilzean playing for Spurs alongside Jimmy Greaves always floods my mind and heart with sunlight.

To watch him play in his heyday was a rare and true privilege.

Just the mention of his name made you feel that sport and life could be expressed with elegance and style without any loss of effectiveness.

in his honour and with endless thanks I Reblog my earlier tribute to a unique footballer and a very fine man.

May he Rest In Peace.

 

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Elegance as a quality in life, sport and the arts is hard to define but easily recognised. It’s surely something to do with speed of thought, economy of movement, grace under pressure.

The elegant glide to triumphs without overt strain so that we catch our breath and sigh, ‘that’s how to do it!’. And, having seen the elegant work their magic with such panache we queue up to see them do it again so we can exclaim I was there and saw them do it.

Fred Astaire in every dance routine of his career. Lester Young launching into a saxophone soliloquy, Barry Richards caressing the cricket ball to the boundary, Barry John casually wrong footing an entire All Black defence.

P G Woodhouse crafting a perfect inimitable paragraph. Maria Bueno conjuring a Wimbledon winner.

The elegant performer wins your heart and your allegiance to their cause. This is not a matter of statistics, of heaped titles or medals but of indelible memories, stories of famous feats to be retold to your own and the following generations.

My own exemplar of elegance is the one and only Alan Gilzean a footballer whose fabled history at Dundee, Spurs and for Scotland feels more wondrous as each season passes.

At Dundee he scored an incredible 169 goals in just 190 games between 1959 and 1964. He was the glory of the best side they ever had under the tutelage of the great Bill Shankly’s brother, Bob.

With the Dark Blues he won the the league title in 1961/62 and the following year he was the spearhead of their thrilling run to the semi-final of the European Cup where they lost to the eventual winners – the lordly AC Milan.

At the end of 1964 the ever shrewd Bill Nicholson bought him for Spurs where he was to remain until the endof the 73/74 season. The Spurs fans quickly came to adore Gily recognising a player who met their demand for style as well as success.

In no time he was lionised as the King of White Hart Lane – a title he will hold in perpetuity!

The statistics relate that he scored 133 goals for Spurs in 429 games and that he was a member of the sides that won an FA Cup, two League Cups and a EUFA cup.

But, with Alan Gilzean it’s not the numbers that you remember it’s the breathtaking elegance of his play – the way he could amaze you game after game with the subtlety of his footballing imagination.

He insouciantly brought off feats of skill and technique that other fine players could only dream of – leaving opponents admiringly bemused and teammates exhilerated.

Alan Gilzean was to use a fine Scots term a supremely canny player. He seemed to have an advanced football radar system that allowed him to know exactly where he was in relation to his markers and his team mates.

He could compute the trajectory of any pass that came towards him on the ground or in the air and instantly assess whether the ball should be held up or delivered on.

He had exquisite touch on the deck regularly wrong footing defenders before setting up goal chances for himself or one of his strike partners.

His sense of football space and keen eye for opportunity made him one one of the great collaborators.

He forged a legendary striking partnership (the G men!) with the peerless Jimmy Greaves who profited greatly from Gilzean’s vision.

No one has ever been better at coolly converting chances into goals than Jimmy Greaves and Gilzean provided him with a wealth of those chances.

Indeed, Jimmy has called Gilzean the best player he ever worked with – some accolade. Where Jimmy was all poise and deadly sureness Gilzean’s other principal strike partner, Martin Chivers, was all power and swagger. Gilzean was a superb foil to both.

One of Alan’s great attributes was his ability to change the direction of play to open up seemingly closed paths to goal. He was the master of the shimmy, the feint and the dummy – leaving many a defender bewildered and bamboozled in his wake.

He turned the back-heel into an art form and won the plaudits for artistic impression from the White Hart Lane faithful.

However, the defining skill of his genius was his heading of which he was the supreme master.

To watch Alan Gilzean working his way through his heading repertoire was an intensely pleasurable privilege.

The power header, the precisely placed in the corner of the net header, the chance on a plate for Jimmy header, the eternal glory of the Gilzean glancing header and the masterpieces that were the Gilzean back headers will forever define the art and science of heading a football.

He seemed to intuitively understand a geometry too complex for Euclid when it came to directing headers.

Given his eminence and elegance as a player I propose some additions to the language to reflect his unique contribution to footballing and sporting culture.

Gilzean: Noun – A sporting term for a perfectly executed back header or back heel gemerally resulting in a goal being scored.

Gilzean: Verb – To display enormous technical skill with nonchalance.

Alan Gilzean was brave, hugely talented and gave unstintingly of those talents.

He is a footballing immortal whose legend will burn bright wherever elegance and beauty of style are celebrated.

God bless you Alan Gilzean.

Further reading: Happily there is an excellent book on our hero, ‘In Search Of Alan Gilzean: The Lost Legacy of a Dundee and Spurs Legend’ by James Morgan.

Van Morrison : Coney Island (Epiphany)

My son and I – The Two Toms – are about to set out on a trip, actually a Pilgrimage to the Far North.

To God haunted Northumbria.

The land of Celtic saints and the Roman Wall.

The land of St Cuthbert, St Aidan, St Oswald and Bede.

Oak Groves, high moorland, the Cheviot Hills.

Bluebells, Campion, Hawthorn.

The rushing sibilant waters of  the Tyne, the Tweed, the Coquet and the Rede.

Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands – thin places where eternity whispers in the wind.

Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, Turnstones and Oystercatchers.

It’s a Pilgrimage I’ve made many times now drawn by History and deep friendship.

I’m by nature a Pilgrim.

I need to be physically present in those places, landscapes, which have challenged and nurtured the Souls of Pigrims for thousands of years.

There are two other Pilgrimages I’m planning.

First, The Way of St James.

The Camino, from my front gate to Santiago de Compostella.

More than a thousand miles.

That one requires a lot of research before I’m ready to go (though you’re never really ready – one morning you just have to tie your cloak, take up your Staff and go!).

The other Pilgrimage will be far easier to organise.

Across the Irish Sea to Ulster.

With Van Morrison, a Pigrim Soul if there ever was one, sign posting the Way.

The Way to Coney Island.

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Coming down from Downpatrick to visit St Patrick’s grave and maybe a few scoops in Mullan’s Bar.

On and On and On.

Stopping off at St John’s Point.

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Birdwatching – scanning the Sky for Arctic Terns, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, Curlew and Purple Sandpipers.

Stop off at Strangford Lough early in the morning.

On and On and On.

Drive through Shrigley enjoying the craic and taking pictures as we go.

On to Killyleagh.

At Lecale District we’ll take a breath and read the papers.

On and On and On as Pilgrims must.

Over the hill to Ardglass.

Glorying in the sunshine carrying the light that has shone for thousands and thousands of years on Pilgrims – lighting their Way.

In case we get famished before dinner let’s stop of here for a couple of jars of mussels and some potted herrings.

On and On and On we go heading on over the hill, lit up inside, heading towards Coney Island.

Living, Being, in the moment, sunlight streaming, all the time journeying towards Coney Island.

Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?

Wouldn’t it!

Take it away Van.

 

A moment of eternity captured.

That’s what Van can do.

Epiphanies.

Time present.

Time past.

Time Future.

Captured in 120 seconds or so.

Cymbals, Strings, G and F.

Harp and Guitar.

Summoning up the previous time – the 1950s – before the career, before the fame.

A day trip with his Mother.

Images that enter the Soul – if you will allow them to.

Intimations of Immortality.

With Mussels and Potted Herrings.

Breathing life into reverie and reminiscence – Van Morrison.

Here’s Van demonstrating that there is a sense of humour animating the Visions.

 

 

And here’s another Son of Ulster, Liam Neeson, with a sonorous version.

On and On and On.

 

 

Things won’t ever be great all the time – this side of Paradise.

Be grateful for the Epiphanies.

Have Faith Pilgrim.

Have Faith.

On and On and On.

On and On and On.

 

Notes :

The Musicians on Van’s original recording are :

  • Van Morrison – vocal, guitar
  • Clive Culbertson – Bass Guitar
  • Neil Drinkwater – Synthesiser
  • Roy Jones, Dave Early – drums, percussion
  • Arty McGlynn – guitar

There is an excellent short Film set on Coney Island. ‘The Shore’ directed by Terry George and starring the brilliant Ciaran Hinds.

This Post for my boon companions of The Way – Tom & Ian.