The Hang of Music: Smog
Did anyone else know that alcohol can induce time travel? Apparently alcohol can induce time travel! Even against the erstwhile traveller’s WILL! Empty night! Now it looks to you like I’ve wasted the week, celebrating my birthday and seeing friends, when in truth I’ve merely been the victim of a whiskey-based wormhole…
Anyway, here’s the best known Lindisfarne album, “Fog on the Tyne”, with the opening track “Meet Me On The Corner”. Don’t judge me!
The opening track is something that you have no excuse not to know. I’m pretty sure that anyone with any knowledge of the timeframe that I’m talking about will know of “Meet Me On The Corner”. But for the other three of you, it’s a great song. It’s actually one of the most real, tangible selling points for this album. Listen to it. It’s right up there. See. Above this paragraph.
And now that I’ve got that video playing, I am standing up, singing and dancing in my room. It’s that good.
That said, there is no avoiding the fact that it sounds a lot like Dylan’s “Hey Mr Tambourine Man”*. Though the similarity is more in tone, I think, than in the instrumentation They’re both quite mellow paced, toned down, have very jingle-jangle guitar (or possibly mandolin) and above all happy songs. Also, in its subject matter of meeting in the dark of night.
Moving onto the lyrics on the album, I want to give special mention to the band’s their attack on city life in “City Song”, which is a dismissal of the “glaring” vulgarity of the city.
“You tried your best to strangle me, but I could take the pain
You tried to hypnotize me, but I see’d right through your game
And now your tatty tricks to me are really rather tame
I’ve been too long traveling on your train
City lights don’t shine, they glare
And your music doesn’t speak, it swears
And in your streets, the ghosts have forgotten why they’re there”
But his opinion of the hedonistic and crass city life of the time really asks the question; if he thought that of the sedate, inoffensive, pre-punk, pre metal late 60s and early 70s, what do you reckon he’d think of the 21st century? For example, I love swearing, and find it hilarious (possibly because I’m still a child at heart, or have the mental age of one), and a Precision F-Strike can be marvellous!
But I can see how a person would be put off by how frequently you hear people swear these days. Back then; less so. Chief songwriter Alan Hull would probably be having a heart-attack if he were around now.
Whilst googling this video, I found a number of other videos which were football related. Which makes sense, considering Newcastle’s formidabble town pride, and how much of it centres around their football team. But wait; they made a 90s dance cover version? A terrible 90s dance version? Featuring Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne butchering the lyrics? Allow me to step out of my typical impartial reviewerly tone by asking why on earth would the people who made this (not one of them being Gascoigne himself) wish to inflict such a horrible thing on the world?
Had they glimpsed the future, perhaps? Maybe they saw themselves, and loathed what they saw, wishing instead to try to drive us all over the edge rather than face that. Or maybe they just wanted to retroactively stain the past with awful, cheap sell out moves, talent free talk-singing, and the worst branch of the already rotten tree of Ibiza club tunes? Maybe that was it. It couldn’t be that they had wanted to make music, because that is not how people make music. You make music by starting out with good intentions and an actual instrument with an element of talent.
We will never know what nefarious purpose this was made for. And even if we could know – what with wiki being what it is – I don’t think I even want to.
Anyway, back on topic.
This album is clearly heavily folk influenced, as “Fog On The Tyne” – the real “Fog on the Tyne” – reflects well. However, it is interesting to note that although folk it clearly is, there are just as clear elements of classic rock. I’m looking at you, “Alright on the Night”, whose opening verse reminds me of nothing so much as “Going Mobile” by the Who. These tints to the album show exactly how blurred the lines between rock and folk were in ’71. And look at how different they are now. Lindisfarne probably never walked the line as much as some other acts, but even so this album shows exactly how much a genre can change over 50 years.
More than the Who, though, in this I can hear Neil Young and his various collaborations. The same sort of reedy voice, the same sort of mellow and slightly sad songs. I wouldn’t be surprised if underneath it all, Neil Young had modelled himself on some of Lindisfarne, actually.
You know what this album sounds like, regardless of being from Newcastle? Americana. What with the blues-y piano and harmonica on tracks like “Train in G Major”, and in the context of songs like “Uncle Sam”. But there’s NO WAY that any american band would be singing about the Tyne, unless those damned yanks nicked the river name too**. And with that, even without going on the wiki page, I know their nationality.
This last few days***, though, I have found it impossible to get out of my head ANY song OTHER than the ones on this album. I don’t know what that says about he album. What’ve I been humming these last few days? “Kooks” by David Bowie, “Eddie’s Gun” by The Kooks, “Gonna Leave You” by Queens of the Stone Age and SOMETIMES, “Meet Me on the Corner”. I’ve been humming Meet me on the corner a bit, and I can tell you one thing about this album: I can definitely see why that was the main hit. It’s partly because it’s good. But mostly because I cannot, for love nor money, remember how any of the other songs go. I really like them when I’m listening to them, but the moment the track stops playing, I can hardly remember anything about it.
So my verdict? I’m not really that fussed. I can see that there’s some good stuff to this album. Some nice tracks, and at least one great one. But I could live without this album. It doesn’t really inform me about the music scene at the time – Rock was slightly folky, folk was slightly rocky, etc, but Led Zep, later Kinks and Fleetwood Mac all show me that. And I would definitely make more connections with the last than the previous two. Muchly.
And though the construction’s solid, it’s just not as interesting as I’d like. At all. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve become addicted to minesweeper (quite possible, actually), but I find it nigh impossible to just focus on this album. Maybe it’s too light and easy for my liking, but despite a few stand out tracks, this album is a bit dull for me. That said, the stand out tracks are themselves pretty great, so maybe that justifies it. Who knows? But I just can’t get myself too excited over it.
Well then, back to drinking, I guess. See you next week! (Hic!)
* “… Play a song for me” </sings>
** It wouldn’t surprise me; they have a Birmingham and two Coventrys at least, as well as the horrendous Paris, Texas. Think of your own names, goddamnit!