Posts tagged 'Music'

Psalm

On September 25, 2018 / Tagged: , , ,

I’ve always enjoyed travelling. Not just the being in new places part, although that’s good; I mean the act of travel itself. Air, land or sea, there’s something about travelling somewhere, moving, that I’ve always enjoyed. I think a part of that is the feeling of being semi-isolated. If you’re travelling then it’s basically OK to cut yourself off from the world, to switch off the phone and ignore the people who aren’t in your immediate vicinity, because you’re in transit. It’s a great time to sit back with some music, a film, a book (maybe even work, if you insist), and compose your thoughts.

It was on such a trip recently that I was listening to Stranded, the album by Roxy Music. I was on a plane, going… somewhere or other, I can’t recall. Since I first listened to this album, it’s one that I keep coming back to. And in particular, Mother of Pearl has always been a standout. I love the musicality – the whirlwind first couple of verses giving way to a more laid back melody, which perfectly matches the lyrics. It’s a great song. A Great song, even.

I’ve been looking for something
I’ve always wanted
But was never mine
But now I’ve seen that something
Just out of reach, glowing
Very Holy grail
Oh mother of pearl
Lustrous lady
Of a sacred world

Anyway. On this flight I had the album on, half-listening and half daydreaming. Then part way through one of the songs it grabbed my attention, a complete “fuck me this is good” moment. That song was Psalm.

Up to this point I’d always enjoyed Psalm, but not really got it. But at that moment it made sense. The music, pared-back, with every note perfectly placed. The lyrics, steeped in irony and dry as a martini. The song starts gently – peacefully, as you might expect a psalm to be. But with every bar, every beat, the song slowly builds to a withering crescendo:

And then you’ll see all that you should
Forget all your troubles
You will feel no pain
He’s all that you need
He’s your everything

And that’s why I love travel. A chance to gather your thoughts, get some distance (literal and metaphorical), and see things anew.

‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Shelter from the Storm is one of my absolute favourite Bob Dylan songs. It was originally released on Blood on the Tracks in 1975; in my book a rare example of a perfect album. No weak songs, and everything working together to make something greater than the sum of the parts.

I recently came across a recording of a live version from 1976. It’s very different to the album version, and sounds phenomenal.

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin’ there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Oddly enough although I’ve known the album for years, it’s only recently that Shelter has jumped out at me. Dylan’s songs are like that; you’ll listen to them hundreds of times and still find new things, come to the song with a new point of view, hear it in a different light.

As with many Dylan songs, it’s appeared in film and TV pretty frequently. A notable example is the end of a film called St Vincent, where there’s a version with Bill Murray’s character singing along to it. I’ve sung this song (and others tbh) in a manner similar to this many, many times.

Well, I’m livin’ in a foreign country but I’m bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor’s edge, someday I’ll make it mine
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

As many different versions as there are, I always come back to the original album version. The performance on the album perfectly matches the tone of the lyrics, particularly the way he sings some of the lyrics (“I bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose/I offered up my innocence I got repaid with scorn”). A proper gem of a song.