Tom Waits : (Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night

They say there is nobility in work.

Well, I can tell you none of them guys ever got up in the blue black cold to work at the breakers yard for Mr Conte.

Pop says keep your head down and your lip buttoned and in 10 years you’ll be a manager.

Ten years!

Ten years of Yes Sir/No Sir and hands raw and shredded.

Ten Years and I’ll be nearly 30 – an old man!

I tell you if it wasn’t for the music and Saturday Nights I’m not sure I’d make it through this year let alone 10.

You switch on, turn the dial and Boom!

Elvis. Little Richard, Don and Phil, Dion.

Some girls say I look just like Ricky Nelson.

I guess when I shave close and comb my hair that ain’t so far from the truth.

With my Saturday Night clothes on when I look in the mirror can’t see a trace of that guy at the breakers yard.

Out the door, keys swinging, start her up.

Tank full of gas. The Oldsmobile and me.

Looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

On our way to pick up my sweet one for tonight.

Looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

Heading downtown to the bright lights.

I bet this’ll be like no night I’ve ever seen.

Cash a plenty and a six pack.

What more could you want?

C’mon let’s barrel down the avenue – show these folks what a really sharp couple look like.

Let ‘em stare when we stop on the red.

Wave ‘em bye bye when we go on the green.

Guess they’re looking for the heart of Saturday Night too.

Well, listen to that neon buzzin’ and the crack of the pool balls.

You know, this just might be the Saturday I’m hitting my peak.

But, sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I don’t see Ricky Nelson.

I see a working stiff out looking for the heart of Saturday Night like he looked a hundred times before.

The sweet one with me tonight – will I want to have my arm around her next Saturday Night?

Will she want to climb into The Oldsmobile with me?

Maybe it’s the booze that’s got me thinking this way.

The Irish in me maybe.

Thats what my second cousin Vinnie says.

You know, sometimes, thinking of all those Saturdays past and all those Saturdays to come it’s hard not to find there’s a melancholy tear in your eye.

The barmaid seen plenty of me with plenty of different girls and she gives a smile from the corner of her eye.

Let’s have one more game of pool and one more round of drinks.

I’ll drink to the magic of the melancholy.

Soon enough, on past experience, I won’t be dancin’ so much as stumblin’.

You know thinkin’ of all this you can quiver right down to your core.

But what else you gonna do?

Still, I’m gonna gas her up next week.

Can’t lose that tingle.

I know, just know, that one of these weeks, after I make it through Monday to Friday, I’ll be barrelling down the avenue with my arm around my sweet one in my Oldsmobile and find I’m right in the heart of Saturday Night.

Right in the heart.

Tom Waits.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Kerouac.

Finding the mythic in the everyday.

Writing songs that dramatise experiences we have all had.

Looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

We walk towards the light and tingle even though we know Saturday Nights have come and gone before without us ever landing, bullseye, right in the heart.

There’s tremendous art in the way Tom chooses a loping tempo for this song.

For me, this is the tempo of dream.

In a dream you can in slow motion view the scenes simultaneously from the air for the grand perspective and from the street for the emotional close ups.

The neon buzzin’ and the crack of the pool balls.

The quiver right down in your core.

A song that will have meaning however long your life lasts and however old you were when you first heard it.

Everyone has looked or is looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

The patina of meaning will grow more burnished year by year as you revisit the song.

The one heading out , keys swinging, tingling as they head off into the lights may not be you anymore but your Son, your Grand Daughter.

Looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

Tom Waits.

A pretty good scout if you’re looking for the heart of Saturday Night.

P. S.

If this Is your first visit to The Jukebox – where ya been!

Seriously if it is your debut here do take a look around.

There’s 300 or more Posts to choose from.

I’ll be surprised if you don’t find some old favourites and make some discoveries.

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Paul Brady & Liam O’Flynn – The Rocks of Bawn

Christmas. New Years Day. Spring Solstice. Lent.

Easter. Midsummer Day. First leaf fall. First fall of snow.

Way markers of the passing year.

As the shadows lengthen, as they do for us all, you appreciate all the more the opportunity to celebrate with those dear to you now and remember those vanished like the melting snow so dear in the memory.

Each new feast chiming with all those that have gone before in the quickening parade of our lives.

If you are Irish, or of Irish stock, St Patrick’s Day is a true red letter day.

On my twitter account (@thomhickey55 – sign up now if you’re not signed up already!) I describe myself, among other things, as, ‘Almost Irish’.

That’s because though I was not born in Ireland both my parents and all my forebears were.

So, I unhesitatingly believe that whatever literary or rhetorical gifts I possess are drawn from a deep Celtic well.

My mother told me a million stories and taught me how to tell them too.

My Dad taught me how to listen to the important things that are always said in silences.

So, as I did last year (checkout those posts later) in the run up to St Patrick’s Day on the 17th I’m going to feature some favourite Irish songs, singers and musicians.

As a bonus this time each post will also feature the work of a distinctive Irish Painter/Artist.

The theme for the songs this year is Place. Landscape.

Ireland is a country where there is a deep and abiding attachment to place.

Especially the Home Place.

The Irish, wherever they may travel (and they have traveled all around the globe) never forget the Home Place.

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The place where their family had its roots.

The landscape they knew so intimately which glows bright in their dreams even if they haven’t seen it with their waking eyes for decades.

Sometimes the Home Place was left to foster ambition.

Sometimes the Home Place was left because of poverty.

No one ever left without a backward glance.

Returning no one spies the coast from the air or from the rail of a ship without a salmon leap of the heart.

Today’s song, ‘The Rocks Of Bawn’ is sung by Paul Brady previously the subject of an extensive profile on The Immortal Jukebox.

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No apologies for featuring him again.

Great traditional songs require a singer to bring great gifts of empathy and relaxed concentration to them.

Paul Brady is such a singer.

His style is not to impose himself upon the song but rather to surrender to the soul of the song.

To centre himself in the heart of a song and let its wonders bloom.

Here he is joined by the great Uilleann Piper, Liam O’Flynn, who carries on the tradition of masters like Willie Clancy and Seamus Ennis.

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I can think of no instrument more haunting than the Uilleann Pipes.

Together they produce a performance which stills the heart and which will linger long in the spirit.

No live is so  charmed that it will be without some thankless ploughing.

And you never will be able for to plough The Rocks Of Bawn’.

Nothing brings the Home Place so vividly to mind as a song you heard in your youth.

‘And you never will be able for to plough The Rocks Of Bawn’.

Nothing will set tears a flowing more readily than a song you heard in your youth.

And you never will be able for to plough The Rocks Of Bawn’.

Nothing will remind you more of the longing child within you still than a song you heard in your youth.

And you never will be able for to plough The Rocks Of Bawn’.

 

 

The Artist featured today is the late Basil Blackshaw (1932 to 2016)

Born in Glengormley Antrim and reared in Boardmills County Down.

His paintings both his portraits and his evocations of country life and sports throb with life and colour.

Ireland loves The Horse.

There are few pleasures more sovereign for an Irishman than to cheer home to victory an Irish Horse, schooled by an Irish Trainer and ridden by an Irish Jockey to victory in The Gold Cup or The Grand National.

There are few silences so companionable as those spent watching would be champions exercising on the gallops in the breaking light of a winter morning.

Basil Blackshaw brings such a scene tenderly to life in his, ‘Morning Exercise’

 

 

 

Maura O’Connell – Silence and Stories: Maggie, Down By The Salley Gardens

Posts for Paddy’s Day 1

Christmas. New Years Day. Spring Solstice. Easter. Midsummer Day. First leaf fall. First fall of snow.

Way markers of the passing year. Each new feast chiming with all those that have gone before in the quickening parade of our lives.

And, if you are Irish, or of Irish stock, St Patrick’s Day.

On my twitter account (@thomhickey55 – sign up now if you’re not signed up already!) I describe myself, among other things, as, ‘Almost Irish’. That’s because though I was not born in Ireland both my parents and all my forebears were.

So, I unhesitatingly believe that whatever literary or rhetorical gifts I possess are drawn from a deep Celtic well. My mother told me a million stories and taught me how to tell them too. My Dad taught me how to listen to the important things that are always said in silences.

Stories and silences. Silences and stories. Of such things are true songs and poems made. By singers and poets who have listened, learned and dwelt in the silences surrounding the stories they offer up to us.

So, for the week that’s in it, I’m going to feature on The Immortal Jukebox some of the Irish singers, musicians and poets who have told the stories, sung the songs and made the poems that have touched my heart and lifted the spirits as the parade of my own life has passed by.

There are many stars in the firmament of Irish roots/traditional music and the nation has been particularly blessed by a generation of luminously talented women singers including Dolores Keane and Mary Black.

But, for me, the singer who has always shone the brightest and heartrendingly illuminated the miraculous combination of power, poetry, joy and tragedy contained within a really great song is Maura O’ Connell.

Some mysterious quality in her voice, which frequently brings me to tears, seems to bring out the truth that, ‘behind every beautiful thing there’s some kind of pain’. I can’t think of another singer who marries the story and the silence with such delicate grace as Maura O’Connell.

Her ability to find and reveal the beating heart of a song after searching within herself for the truest way to offer up its gifts, without histrionics or affectation, is achingly exemplified in, ‘When You and I Were Young Maggie’.

There is no grandstanding when Maura O’Connell sings. She once said that, ‘My intention was to just sing the song clearly. I just wanted to be there to serve the song, rather than to show off a particular vocal style’.

She seems to me to have perfected the art of sifting a song for the precious metal at its core. Through instinct and craft she finds the stillness and silence within a song. Then, with respect, discretion and measured emotion using all the resources of her vocal talent and personal presence; the very essence of her being – she sings. And we encounter a true artist.

Maura O’Connell knows that a true song though anchored in the time and culture of its creation will, if performed with a true heart and true art, live on into the future and speak to peoples never imagined by its author.

In W. B Yeats, ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’ Maura found such a song. Though thousands of singers have sung this song it’s Maura O’Connell who sounds the deepest depths of Yeats’ incantatory cadences. Surrender, with gratitude, to the spell she and Yeats have cast.

Now a poem from a true inheritor of Yeats’ bardic role in the life of Ireland and the life of poetry, Seamus Heaney. The sudden manner of his death was a profound shock for Ireland and the world wide poetic community. Yet, while acknowledging our grief we draw sustenance from the poems which will surely continue to speak of the human condition down the ages as do the poems of Homer, Virgil and Yeats.

In his wonderfully vigorous poetry we are brought into imaginative contact with earthed lightning. And, sometimes we are guided to a realm that is usually just out of our vision, though always there.

Flaggy Shore 2

A place where known and strange things pass right in front of us and the world is made anew. Seamus Heaney made poetry which caught our hearts off guard and blew them open.

Postscript

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

Dedicated to Peg Brosnan, Mikey Brosnan (RIP) and Kevin and Nora McElligott (RIP).

Thanks to Catherine Dunne for the haunting image