As the main news story here over the past few days has been the Government’s ‘new’ guidelines for what we can and cannot do at present, this seemed as good a time as any to make ‘lockdown’ the theme for Tuesday Tunes. Those of a nervous disposition may like to look away now: this piece contains some criticisms of our leaders!
I had thought I might give you a brief rundown of the new guidance but it doesn’t seem very clear: every time a government minister says something about it they are either correcting something someone else has said or are immediately contradicted themselves. Government by chaos. This bears all the hallmarks of our Prime Minister: lurking behind him is his eminence grise – Dirty Dom – who becomes ever more dictatorial, and then they trot out the Prime Clown to make the pronouncements. For those who haven’t seen them, they basically amount to ‘wiffle waffle, piffle paffle, hrmph.’ And we now have the perfectly clear ‘Stay Home’ slogan replaced by ‘Stay Alert.’ What?
A brief summary: on Sunday evening Johnson commandeered the tv screens to make a statement. Except that he didn’t: anyone hoping for a live broadcast would have been disappointed to learn that it was pre-recorded, presumably so that the producers could edit out the inevitable cock ups. Mind you, his cabinet ministers shared in that disappointment, as the whizzo 50 page booklet that they were due to discuss in Zoom cabinet had apparently already been sent to the printers. If he doesn’t even trust his own cabinet, what chance is there for us poor plebs? But good news: there was to be a slight relaxation of the lockdown rules. People who could go to work should do so. But not by public transport. We would now be allowed to meet with one family member (pick between Gran and Grandpa, folks) but only outside at two metres distance, of course. But it was ok to have a carer or cleaner in your home, just not your relatives. Oh, and he forgot to tell us that this wouldn’t all be starting until Wednesday, and one of his sidekicks had to be wheeled out for an instant correction. Asked yesterday by a teacher why it would be acceptable for her to be in a classroom full of children, but not for her to see her own grandchildren, he didn’t have an answer. And that is just the tip of the iceberg – a confusion of Titanic proportions.
At times like this there is only one thing for it: music! I’ve picked two tunes for this week which, by their titles alone, are good complements to this week’s theme. That they are both from favourite artists of mine, and that their lyrics speak of being apart from people or being restricted in what we can do, is a bonus! First up is the late, great Warren Zevon. His slightly gravelly voice may not be to everyone’s taste, but he wrote some great tunes and his lyrics are often masterful. See what I mean from this:
That was on his seventh studio album, Transverse City, and the harmonica and harmony vocals are by Neil Young – Warren may not have set the charts alight but he had a very loyal following and fellow artists knew just how good he was: there are many cover versions of his songs, a particular favourite of mine being Poor Poor Pitiful Me by Linda Ronstadt. The novelist Carl Hiaasen was a big fan, and often featured snippets of Warren’s lyrics in his books: they became good friends right until Warren’s passing in 2003. Hiaasen’s books, like Warren’s lyrics, are full of larger than life characters: I guess, in Warren’s case, that is the product of his upbringing as the son of a Mormon mother and a father who worked for a notorious LA mobster. He once wrote a song called My Shit’s Fucked Up – it’s not hard to see why!
As I said earlier, this week’s second tune is also from a favourite of mine. It’s a Bob Dylan song, but I think the Byrds did it better – as they did with many of his songs. Their version was on Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, which was the only one of their albums to feature the late, great (secondary theme here) Gram Parsons. It has since become recognised as the forerunner of what we now know as country rock, and led to Parsons and Chris Hillman leaving the Byrds to form the Flying Burrito Brothers – I still play both bands’ albums to this day. As a Tuesday Tune for lockdown, it is hard to find a better message than this:
Parsons left the Byrds during a UK tour in 1968, which gave him more time to hang out with his friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richard/s. If you’ve ever wondered where the Rolling Stones’ country influence came from, on tracks like Country Honk and Faraway Eyes, Gram’s your man!
To wrap up this week’s selection, a serious note. I don’t think I was being too disingenuous in my description of the state of guidance here in the UK, and it worries me that things are that unclear. This is vitally important, and is something that has to be got right. I’ve been critical of Johnson et al in their early complacency and lack of response to Covid, and they have to be decisive now: lives have been lost, and more depend on it. There has been a spike in infections in Germany since they eased their regulations last week, and I am fearful of that happening here.. Stay alert (whatever that is supposed to mean), be safe, and take care. Till next week….