Sunday, 14 September 2008

Duck! Here comes the final curtain...

Even more thoughts on music than ever this week (is that seems so...). My musical pal Verona and I are part of an event called 'Angus Words and Song' at the Brechin Arts Festival in just over a week's time (Mon 22nd September). We are on the bill with local author, singer and musician James Penny, local poet Raymond Vettese and musician Andy Davis down at the Retreat in Glenesk. I will read about 8 poems but that never worries me (in fact I love doing it so much that it always seems a bit cheeky to take money for it) however we are going to sing too and that is more like work. We are going to sing one easy old favourite ('Sing when you're nervous'), one Verona solo ('Love song without a tune' which she sings beautifully - probably the best of the songs we have co-written) and one fairly new song ('The wandering song'). 'The wandering song' is a funny one because it started off as a screenplay I tried to write years ago. I had an idea I liked and I could see the film in my head but I just couldn't turn it into an interesting story on the page so I gave up. Some time later (when I was writing poems regularly and feeling more sure that this was really the best way for me to write) I remembered the unfinished project and it turned into a poem (or what I used to call one of my songs-without-tunes). Later still Verona read it, liked it and gave it a tune. We practised it for a while but we were never quite happy with it. Then just recently we tried it again, cut out a verse,fiddled a bit and now finally we think it has found its best self. This event on 22nd will be the first proper airing in public for this round-the-houses number. Maybe we are crazy to do a new song at a show like this...what can I say...we like to live on the edge...

During one of our talks about songs the other day we touched on that old 'what music do you want at your funeral?' business. I won't tell you Verona's choice (that's her business...she doesn't do blogs or email or websites) but I can tell you some of mine (I have enough for a full make 'em laugh, make 'em cry mix tape). Here are a few of my possibilities:

Tricky Hell is round the corner - this track from the Bristol boy's most magnificent album 'Maxinquaye'(1995) is the one I've mentioned for years in this context. I was a very bad girl in younger seemed apt then. Plus it's a great song. “Let me take you down the corridors of my life,” groans the Tricky one and that will do me as a way out. “Until then, you have to live with yourself...” Indeed.

Paul Simon Slip slidin' away - because I want it to be a cheerful occasion.

Carole King It's too late - I love CK and...same as the above.

Led Zeppelin Stairway to heaven – do you dare me?

Elton John Candle in the wind – no, this time I'm REALLY joking.

The Rolling Stones You can't always get what you want - I know. It's been done in 'The Big Chill'. Still a great funeral song though. And my pal Andy can play the joanna bit.

James Keelaghan Who dies? - Keelaghan is a great Canadian folk singer and this song has the chorus "Who dies? Everyone dies". I like the audience to feel involved.

But seriously..after a flick through my CDs I decided that probably the one song I want most (should I drop down dead tomorrow) is I think I'll call it morning by Gil Scott Heron. I've been a big fan of GSH ever since I first heard that amazing voice back in the 1980s some time. His voice isn't gravel – it is great big boulders of rock in his throat and I used to love his albums as driving music (in the days when I still drove myself...that was before I wrote poetry regularly...I think the two are not compatible...not for me anyway). GSH has a lot of brilliant songs (and a few terrible ones) but 'Morning' is one of my favourite cheer-me-uppers. It's uplifting without being an overplayed radio regular (in fact I've never heard it on radio – not ever). The lyrics don't look anything special on the page but coming out of his fine mouth they turn into something wonderful. Plus there's this bit:

“Why should I let tears fall from my eyes
When I've seen everything there is to see
And I know there's no sense in crying...”

Not a dry eye in the house. I can't wait.


Kat Mortensen said...

Rachel, you might very well like a Canadian trio called The Be Good Tanyas (if you don't already) - and particularly, their take on a song by Townes Van Zandt (sorry, I don't know much about him), but The BGTs are really something special. This song gives me chills - it's the kind of song that makes me want to get drunk and just wallow in its misery. That heightened sense of connection that you only rarely feel with a piece of music - the sound, the voice, the words - the whole experience.

Oh! You really should see the film, "Songcatcher" with Janet McTeer as a woman musicologist who, in 1907 goes to visit her sister at an Appalachian school and discovers a treasury of undocumented Scots-Irish/Ulster Scots ballads. I have the soundtrack and practically every song is a gem. (Added bonus: Aidan Quinn stars as the male lead.)

Anyway...I'll have to give this post some thought. I suppose Someone Saved My Life Tonight is out of the question.


Rachel Fox said...

More to look up!

I have heard of the BGTs but never listened to them. We get a lot of Canadian guests at our folk club due to the Scottish-Canadian connections but it's a function room in a hotel (not a concert hall) so we have our limits. We get James Keelaghan, Tanglefoot, Eileen McGann...and Scottish/Canadian David Francey is coming this season too.

Who's that 'Someone saved..' song by? I don't know that I don't think.

Anonymous said...

Rachel - Gil Scott-Heron..yes! Great poet, great singer. Did you know his dad played for Celtic? Strange world. I agree with poetikat - check out The Be Good Tanyas and, more importantly, the incredible Townes Van Zandt. Maybe you already have.

Rachel Fox said...

I did not know that Celtic fact! Amazing!

I saw GSH live once in Leeds about...10 or more years the Irish Centre. Another time I drove for miles and waited for ages and he was...not allowed into the country (for the umpteenth time...drugs in pockets usually). He really is brilliant though.

Kat Mortensen said...

Rachel, Someone from (in my opinion) Elton John's best album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. I just always liked it (of course I was 14 when it was released).


Rachel Fox said...

I don't know much Elton. I LOVED 'Crocodile Rock' as a little kid and then didn't really listen to any more till 'Tiny Dancer' in 'Almost Famous' years later. He did some bad things in the 80s but then who didn't? I have always preferred the music of the 60 and 70s. I was born too late!

Anonymous said...

hi rachel, just sent you e-mail then decided to chck your blog.When dad was cremated last year played johny cash,he liked,though not brave enough for 'ring of fire'.Mine would be charlie rich ,not sure of title as the cassette i have doesn't have play list.The lyric starts 'You gave your hand to me,and then i said hello.....'.hard to choose ,out of so many,but i wouldn't want to keep everybody stood about for hours.Maybe arrange to put them all on the jukebox at the pub afterwards.all the best rich

Dominic Rivron said...

Talking of final curtains, I think Sid Vicious singing My Way would be quite good.
More candidates, for anyone who wants their funeral to be a cheerful occasion:


Marion McCready said...

I can't quite believe you've done a post on funeral songs!! lol
Actually I'm quite freaked out by the new phenomenon of reading dead people's blogs, makes me feel a bit sick in the stomach.
As a Christian I'm a hymns girl, some really gorgeous ones I know I want at my funeral.
I think Robbie Williams' Angels is quite popular for funerals.

Marion McCready said...

Just in case you're interested here's a youtube rendition of one of my fav hymns I want played -

And a song by one of my favorite Christian singers Yvonne Lyon who I've been lucky enough to hear live on several occasions, in fact she sang at a friend's silver wedding anniversary party that I was at last night -

Rachel Fox said...

I think we should all try and have a joint funeral. I'm liking the idea of Sid Vicious and Charlie Rich (in the pub) and Sorlil's hymns and Elton John for afters. Maybe there is a film screenplay to be had after all ('Four funerals and no bloody weddings'?).

I haven't listened to hymns since primary school but just recently one of our favourite guitarist/singers (Martin Simpson) recorded a version of the hymn 'When a knight won his spurs'. That was my school hymn in primary school and we sang it quite regularly. Whenever I hear it on the album it makes me want to sit down crosslegged on the floor and think about needing the toilet.

Rachel Fox said...

Forgot to say..nice to see you on the comments page Rich!

And Dominic - I can't get those links to do anything! What are they?

Also on hymns...I always wonder...if there is anything like a god...who says she/he/it likes hymns? What happens if there really are pearly gates and you get there and saint whoever it is says "sorry, god's not here just now. she's over at her pal's watching 'Heaven's got talent'."


Rachel Fox said...

Dominic, I take it back - I could see the full links in the email about the comment but they haven't all showed up here in the comment box so I'm not sure if anyone else will be able to.
As you can see - I am very hi-tech.

Jim Murdoch said...

Not a great fan of funerals to be honest. I've never been to one that's worked for me. The last one I attended had 'We Are the Champions' by Queen and it so didn't work. I'm afraid I'd have to go for one it'll have to be an instrumental, something understated like Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel. I mean, what's the point asking for AC/DC's 'Back in Black' if you're not there to see the look of horror on everyone's faces?

Rachel Fox said...

Was the person who wanted that Queen song a big football fan? I can't think of any other reason for choosing it...(it gets sung a lot at matches so I understand).

Plus...who says you're not there to see their faces? I don't believe in god but I don't know for sure what's going to you? Maybe our essence hangs around for a little a bad smell...till the funeral sandwiches are all eaten anyway...till the fat lady sings...

Jim Murdoch said...

No, he was just a huge Queen fan apparently. And, as for not seeing their faces, I can be pretty sure of that because I'm not having a funeral. They're morbid exercises at the best of times and redundant if you don't adhere to any kind of religious faith.

Rachel Fox said...

But that's one of the times that being morbid is...well... natural...reasonable...allowed. Someone has died...maybe someone you love...enjoy the grief!

I don't think funerals have much to do with religion (not for me anyway). You're just marking the end of a life...hopefully in a way that suits the person whose life it was. So mine will be music - lots of of it! And yes, I want some people to be sad. Not very sad...but a bit.


Marion McCready said...

I know what you mean jim, I hate funerals as well and would rather avoid them at all cost, but I do love that Part score.

Colin Will said...

I like Spiel Im Spiegel, but Pärt's Cantus In Memoriam Bejamin Britten has those dolorous tubular bells in it.

At my father's (humanist) funeral we had Holst's Venus from the Planets, and we left to a Glenn Miller piece, because he loved it.

I think that soon I may blog about funeral decisions Rachel, because I've spoken to several friends recently who've started thinking about their own. It's a touch weird.

Rachel Fox said...

I think it probably helps loved ones if instructions are left. Otherwise they have to come up with something at the time when they are least filled with ideas and most filled with...sadness, uselessness and/or confusion. As long as the instructions are not too difficult or ambitious that is (I want Freddie Mercury singing at my funeral, I want to be buried in Westminister Abbey etc.).

Of course there's always the possibility that loved ones are not loved ones at all and feel relief when a person shuffles off. I already have a poem about that. Hey, I'll stick it here - why not?

A funeral affair

There must be lots of things to say
About you now you're gone away
But most of them might seem unkind
At least the ones that spring to mind
You were not fair or good or true
You only seemed to care for you
You showed no heart or sympathy
So let us end you honestly
No one will cry for you today
At most a little prayer they'll say
Perhaps they'll urge you try again
But for god's sake be still till then


hope said...

I've always heard it said that funerals aren't for they dead, they're for the living.

Grief needs a place to go and work itself out. It's a coping mechanism for some, a religious celebration for others and I swear some just come for the food. :) Then again I went to one that made me wonder if I'd stumbled into the wrong place because they were talking about a potential saint instead of the mean SOB the person was on a daily basis. :)

My Dad's funeral was easiest on me because he and I had discussed what he wanted. I felt like I'd done my best to honor him by fulfilling his wishes. And I have to admit imagining him sitting in the corner with a big grin and a cheerful, "You done good!" {His favorite thing to say, which drove my grammatically correct Mom nuts}.

We just did a program with my senior citizens called "Five Wishes". After discussing wills and living wills, there's a section where you tell your family exactly what you want when it comes to funerals.

As for me, I love "Amazing Grace" but the version I like best is performed on flute by Native American Carlos Nakai.

Rachel Fox said...

I can't believe I forgot it...I would like the theme tune to Cabaret too. A girl has to go out in style.

Dominic Rivron said...

Sorry, the "links" that won't open want copying and pasting into a new browser window. They're of music from WFMU's 365 Days Project (on UBUWEB). There must be loads of other tracks there that would be great for a "funferal".