“The stress of life in the spotlight and the city can make it difficult to connect”
In Portugal during Easter, my girlfriend and I were driving through the Douro valley listening to Graceland. Our niece and nephew love Simon and Garfunkel, most of all El Condor Pasa. “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail…”
It’s perfect road music and my niece was holding the iPhone speaker to her ear at a dangerous volume.
One of the lines that stood out, aside from the title of this article, is a time when the prosody – the mix between musical and lyrical harmony – seems slightly off. This is extremely unusual for Paul Simon, a man who must gargle his mouthwash in tune. The song is titled ‘Crazy Love Vol. II,’ a nod to Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love,’ this time referring to a disintegrating relationship rather than l’amour fou.
The lines read:
Somebody could walk into this room
and say ‘Your life is on fire –
it’s all over the evening news,
all about the fire in your life on the evening news’
The words ‘all about the fire in your life’ are uncomfortably crammed before the refrain of ‘the evening news,’ with Simon having to elide the ‘e’ of ‘the’ and ‘evening’ to croon it in time. He is addressing the public break-up of a relationship, and it is easy to imagine the line is compressed to show discomfort. In other words, the prosody is spot on.
A few years ago I was telling my sister, a psychology graduate, how I feared I was going deaf as I was finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with people’s conversations in the pub. She asked if this might not stem from anxiety. I immediately cast my mind back to my schooldays when Christopher Evans, a classmate, told me he was going to whisper a secret in my ear, which I could not repeat to anyone. I raised my ear to his mouth but still had to ask him to repeat himself twice. After the third attempt, I nodded my head and pretended I had heard his words. The pressure to hear had made it impossible.
When I was living in Camberwell, South London, sometimes I would wake up on a day off and not want to do anything. What I needed was a field in which I wouldn’t be passed by joggers or forced into a reaction by my environment. To be exact, I wanted the walks I used to take in Longleat with my dog, where I could roam in my mind undisturbed. The nearest I could get to that in the city, aside from drawing the curtains, was a cinema in which I could sit till the credits rolled and the lights came up.
Earlier this year, the planning minister stated that homes create more ‘human happiness’ than fields, mistaking how the countryside is a corrective to the city; a place where things can fall into place and perspective be restored.
You can struggle to make out a lyric for years, replaying it at full volume on earphones, placing your ear to the speaker, until one morning it quietly comes on the radio as you are watering the plants, and it is as clear as day.
That line in ‘Someone’s Got a Hold of my Heart’?
…a lily among thorns
Matt has a blog, so check it out.
About the author
Matt Bryden is an EFL teacher & his poetry is widely published in the UK with his first collection Boxing the Compass launched at Keats House in 2013.
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