Wednesday, 14 March 2018

A Different Dementian

"I Can't Forget," by Leonard Cohen

Earlier today, I had a fascinating experience. I had purchased a book of fairly sadistic-looking crossword puzzles, and soon after settling in with the first puzzle, I started thinking I'd already tackled it. I went to my pile of old (mostly solved) volumes and, sure enough, I came across one with the same damned cover as the one I'd just bought.

No big deal, really -- I'd just plow through the thing again because the fun with crosswords is the doing, not their doneness. Don't get me wrong -- I like to solve them, but if I come up short, I come up short. But here's the fascinating part of the experience: After almost completing the first one, I decided to see if my first stab at the thing had been more successful or less than my present effort . . . And it was exactly the same! Disappointment and relief at the same time: I hadn't become any smarter, but at least I hadn't gotten any dumber. But, Jesus in heaven, my memory -- it shouldn't be that faulty. 

What to do, then, but to listen to the great Leonard Cohen sing this song from thirty years ago? Like pretty well all his songs, this one has so much more in it than its uncomplicated aural beauty (that steel guitar -- oh, man, what a sweet buttery treat): It's got a regretful older guy, a warm city, and a truck, and the changing seasons, and an ever remembering, ever forgetting human brain. All in under five minutes.

I still get sad when I remember Leonard Cohen isn't here anymore. 

Thursday, 22 February 2018


"Lawyers, Guns, and Money," by Warren Zevon

I like it when songs abandon love, their most common subject, for stories. Love is wondrous, but you can get too much of a good thing.

This song tells a hilarious, cynical, very short story (it clocks in at under four minutes), with one of the most reliable unreliable narrators -- he ain't nothing if not obvious -- you'll ever come across. I think an aesthete might call it using broad, mordant brushstrokes. The broadness includes the raucous players, who sound like they're having the time of their lives. They're all pounding at their instruments with great wit and panache, and Mr. Zevon (goddam, I miss that unlucky bastard), does what he so often did so wonderfully while he was still here -- talk really clearly to us while also grunting and yelling and exclaiming with near-monosyllabic verve:  Hyeah! . . . Alright! . . . Huh! . . . Yes! . . . Unh! . . . Oow! . . . Yeh! . . . Yeh! . . . Yeh!
. . . Unh! . . . Alright!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018


"St. James Infirmary," as performed by Louis Armstrong et alia

I recently stayed overnight in a local hospital because a part of my body that had been proceeded upon normally and safely in a local clinic by highly qualified and competent medical professionals joined the club of statistically anomalous phenomena that force all those poking and probing pros to make you sign a paper that accepts the reality of inner organic variety. My particular anomaly involved a significant loss of blood, but I was taken care of with great respect and kindness and ability, and when I arrived home with my clean bill of health, I started wondering about songs involving hospitals. This song topped the Google list. I'd listened to it before, and maybe because I'm probably just generally sadder now than I was then, it struck me as a very sad song.

But the celestial trumpet and clarinet and voice also cheered me up because, well, sad songs, if they're beautifully played and sung, can't not make you feel happy (especially just after you've been loved by strangers). Ironic, huh?