Sunday, August 10, 2008
When the mind wanders it starts singing to itself. In general, it's always the same song. These private performances are the mind's screensavers. One friend - he comments under the name Grabber - starts singing Willie Nelson's On the Road Again quite audibly the moment he loses interest in proceedings, which happens a lot. I have no idea whether he knows he's doing this. I, like, I think, most people, sing only in my head. My screensaver song has, for years, been Townes Van Zandt's Pancho and Lefty as sung by Emmylou Harris on Luxury Liner. (And incidentally, God, I wish I was called Townes Van Zandt.) I only realised it had been my SS yesterday when I tripped up over the words and awoke myself to the fact that I was singing 'All the federales say/They could have had him any day...'. I hadn't actually listened to the song for years. This led me to the realisation that my previous SS had been Bob Dylan's Joey. They plainly have a lot in common - sad story, tuneful, direct, strong chorus, easily memorable etc.. But they're not stand-out songs. Joey was not one of Dylan's best and P & L was, I thought, not one of Emmylou's. Actually, having now blasted it out several times on my good stereo, I've decided P & L is up there. It's certainly a lovely piece of writing by TVZ (even the initials sound great), the way it hints at rather than describes Lefty's betrayal and the way the music follows the shift between narrative and meditation. How strange it is that songs do this to us. They console, we cling on to them unknowingly. And all, I suppose, to stop the mind wandering too far.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 4:58 am