Fatherhood by Baby Bird
It's the 1990s. In Sheffield or in Nottingham there is a Stephen Jones, a k a Baby Bird, recording songs on a 4-channel porta-studio with a microphone, guitar and maybe a Casio synthesizer.“Have you ever seen the golden mile? Have you ever driven someone wild? Oh, I hope so”. What were the neighbors saying? A little bit later, newspaper writer Ben Thompson writes in The independent about this music and that "it's the sound of someone flying before they should even be able to walk”. And yes there was something peculiar whimsical-aerodynamic-spacey about this music that really caught my ears when I first heard it; as if a slightly drunk comedian was sampled off-guard while singing and improvising inside his glorious space-suit when walking on the moon or on some defunct space station.
The Fatherhood-album, twenty songs long, clocking in at 59:59 minutes, is the third of five home-recorded lofi albums that was released in quick succession between July 1995 and July 1997. These five albums make up “The original lofi” box, which also includes a bonus album (the Black album), and it was this box that really got me hooked on this “wonderfully weird” bird. “Is that a suitcase in your hand? Or just a black box that fell from the plane that crashed when I met you? “
On the slightly unsettling cover photo of the Fatherhood-album we see a nude pregnant man, which we assume is Stephen Jones himself. What is he giving birth to?
(01) No Children.
Don’t like the style and internal monologue of others? Develop your own. But we are yet to encounter any monologue, dialogue or polylogue on this journey. We are traveling inside something, an embryonic ambient medium of Portastudio-cushioned feel. There’s an “insideness” to the blissful ba-ba-ba-ba singing on this first track on Fatherhood that makes it easy to imagine a music video with a singing fetus lilting an inverted lullaby-intro of a song. Falling in and out of sleep. Falling through dissolving categories. In a parallel universe we’re also in the spacewalking dream of the slumbering comedian just before awakening, or in the philosopher’s brain just before an epiphany. This is pre-speech, pre-symbolization but we are getting there. This is the warm up to birth. It’s the infinite babbling-jukebox with a slow program, with a dose of drowsiness. “Where to, what for? Nevermind I’m going anyway”. Invoking the mood of anticipation, it has that tired early Christmas morning vibe. I’m thoroughly biased. This is hyper-subjectivity before being an actual person. It’s the somewhat dizzy morning wake-up call from euphoria itself, it is epiphany’s rambling just before attempting to enter consciousness. (This essay has perhaps already transformed into gibberish; maybe that is what excitement can do to me)
“In the slot between waking and sleep
a large letter tries to get in without quite succeeding."
(from Tomas Tranströmers poem Nocturne).
(02) Cooling Towers.
With a narcotic smile and smokeblue mobile eyes. The adolescent subject is walking, no almost dancing, down the winding stairs inside the tower, "let’s go out today and listen to the showers, listen to the flowers and the cooling towers", with confidence. It's in a dream, a pending surreal atmosphere where large ears may be found in the grass, and there was someone shadowy who wrote on the wall inside the tower that "no dream, or book for that matter, comes with a manual that says, 'this is how I should be interpreted'"; what I project into these haunting, gritty sounds is up to me, it says more about me than anything, it may be the ultimate Freudian slip of my life. “Make your own noise make your own toys make everything you'd ever need, have your own garden, just enjoy life”. I can even quote lyrics from another song. The reduplicated babbling of "ba-ba-ba-ba" from the previous song and the previous stage is still with us. It is as if we are in the phase just before the youngster flies out into the wild world and someone has, half-jokingly and half awake, recorded a singing message on the antique answering machine. And the message calls for attention to other messages and signs or a glitch in the matrix; right now there may be a transformative message for me, from the flowers or from the cooling towers.
Cool and Crazy things to do. (a short movie)
Film synopsis. The Jester has grown up and drives a convertible at a comfortable pace through the greyness of adult community. He has tasted resignation and bitterness, but he takes it easy, with some kind of breezy indolence. He is the only splash of color on the map and a functional alcoholic and slightly ingenious; a mocking wildcat in the game. He is on his way to the royal court to deliver a defense speech. He tricks the royals into drinking his Valium-laced Gin with him, and he dances in front of the congregation with comical swagger and sings "It was a cool and crazy thing to do". The drugged and sleepy royals begin to nod and stomp in time with the music. The jester gets away with just a warning once again. Ones actions have unintended consequences, they can reach outside metropolis. But the jester he doesn’t really make mistakes, his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.
What porta-studio did Stephen use when recording this material? I have no idea.
(04) Bad Blood.
The song proceeds at a slow umpa-umpa rate. It’s like a soundtrack to a funeral march in a religion no one ever heard of. There's a sense of bitterness in the air, “it never dries”. The singer rides at the front of the equipage and describes the situation;
“Bad Blood is everywhere, it’s in the flex of ten fingers.
Like the singers on the Larry Grayson show
It'll run and run like red snow, until the world blows
Splitting LCD's into pop songs that put the atom back where it came from”.
To stir up bad blood, create annoyance and contempt, I wonder what Stephen himself would think of these pretentious mental excursions based on songs he made more than twenty years ago? One could talk of having an intact “faculty of indifference”. Why bother? The singer goes on to reveal the basis of the scandal; “What's wrong with the bridge from here to Hong Kong?” It was an experiment that sparked bad blood. As a philosophical substance, the bad blood is in us, latent all the time, ready to take possession of us ... the eternal mercury of discontent. But the ironic humorist tries to rise above all that, wanting to transcend dissatisfaction (who doesn’t?); the singer’s absurd and colorful poetry is a sharp contrast to the gloomy polka being played in the instrumental section of the funeral equipage.
“Bad blood like love is a good feel with an asbestos glove
Run along the thigh containing bad blood.”
Interpreting a text in a certain way can get you in a lot of trouble. But I’m not afraid of bad blood.
Quote from a magazine or a blog. “Principally lauded for his cynicism, there's actually a clogged-artery reality-infected romantic heart that underpins everything Jones does”
(05) Neil Armstrong.
In the solitary nook of the space capsule. Echoes like in a fuel tank. We forge our plans – like “in the smithy of our soul”. Whenever boredom flare up I sail away in the mind. ”I’m floating out now,……..My body won’t move and my mind won’t stay”. I enter the space capsule of absentmindedness. Standard procedure. Concentration cannot be fixed on this unbearable dullness, it slips away. The interest in this is fleeting but I hope I can keep it on earth for a while, before it disappears into space, into the space of abstraction and daydreaming. This song is the spell and the ticket away. The song is our drugged spacecraft, a sleepy transcendental tablet and a tribute to “lostness” itself; it is our opportunity to distance ourselves. And we do it sneakily; we are the secret agents of absentmindedness who, in the middle of a murderously boring conversation, crawl out, in the imagination, and board our dreamy space shuttle. In the end we are as far away as Neil Armstrong. And from this height, this perspective, in this daydream, we accost someone we like, in the elevator or in the street. And I let them burn right through me with their eyes because they know that I am spineless and that I will flop under pressure. I get a kiss from the spokesperson of contradiction and then I wake up. Pleasantly hypnopompic. But to look at you now and feel good that I am me must be the best feeling I have ever had. The absentminded have finally found home.
Boredom, so central, who can escape. I think of large streamlined apartment buildings. Organizations. People pushed and shoveled into schedules. Workplaces. Rows of desks resembling hollow statements. Seconds and minutes slithering degradingly slow; like mud over your desires and dreams. Statistics. Figures and sluggish bureaucracy that are astounding the angels. In this gray rainy concrete landscape is where the poet is growing up. Can he dance above that life? I read somewhere that” To a poet everything is possible except life”
(06) I was never here.
Lost in hermeneutics, I’m flying inside the thin soap bubbles of my interpretations. I cannot reach or find what Stephen Jones really meant with these songs (and perhaps I shouldn’t either, out of respect for integrity), I cannot track the biographical data that sparked his imagination or uncover the visions that sent him off on that particular psychedelic tangent. I won’t even say hello, because it wouldn’t be true. I won’t say goodbye, coz I was never here. The artist has left the stage. The song, the artist’s ghost, is now a spokesperson in its own right.
Speaking of ghosts. On a Thursday the sixteenth of June 1904, another Stephen (Stephen Dedalus) goes to the national library on Kildare Street in Dublin to prove to some literati and librarians that Shakespeare is the ghost of Hamlets father in the play Hamlet. All this is taking place inside a novel called Ulysses written by James Joyce.
Stephen Dedalus is, according to some, the autobiographical James Joyce but an earlier version so to speak. James Joyce could also be interpreted as the ghost in Ulysses; the narrator is the ghost and the future self of Stephen Dedalus. The ghostly creator, the writer speaking to the reader from beyond, is, because his imagination is so vast and inclusive, father of all, he is all in all; he even becomes the father of his own artistic father, Shakespeare, by recreating him according to his own experiences.
Stephen is trying to present a materialistic, Aristotelian and biographical reading of Shakespeare’s work. “Hold to the here, the now through which all future plunges to the past”. Stephen is proposing that Shakespeare was emotionally wounded because his wife, the six years older Ann, had seduced him (on a cornfield!) early on and later cuckolded him and that these circumstances forms the basis of Shakespeare’s writing. His opponents are making the case that “art has to reveal to us ideas, formless spiritual essences. The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring. The painting of Gustave Moreau is the painting of ideas. The deepest poetry of Shelley, the words of Hamlet bring our minds into contact with the eternal wisdom, Plato's world of ideas. All the rest is the speculation of schoolboys for schoolboys. ”. To the Platonists, if we dare call them that, biography doesn’t matter.
Aristotle and Plato, “Which of the two, Stephen asked, would have banished me from his commonwealth?”
The schoolboy is standing outside the door. See this. Remember. Hear; harping jangling lofi-guitar. Feel; nerve-wracking anticipation, otherworldliness. I am about to knock on the door. Trembling hands. If this fails I will surely die, or at least faint.
“Why don’t you love me? I ask you out each day.
Why, when I do this, do you say:
‘OK, I’ll go out with you if you stop pestering me.’
So I say “OK” and we go out Saturday”
Yet there is something crass and ominous embedded in a distant chorus ;
” all the love in the world, won’t make things better”.
The great discrepancy; I was insanely in love with my neighbor, you barely raised an eyebrow and I sensed a vast disinterest, so I didn’t ask you out each day, in fact I never did once ask you out. Maybe I should have. I imagined the astronomical difference in energy- and time consumption; all the neuronal firecrackers and the fireworks of desire and agony shooting off in my brain on a daily basis; a cognitive machinery overheated by working through the variations on the subject of "you", and how you, by stark contrast, supposedly, wasted very little time and energy on me. And all that is fair play of course. The key was that all the love in the world, won’t make things better. All that love can’t bring the loved one any closer. Some love stories are also horror stories.
"IN SPACE, NOBODY CAN HEAR YOU PLAY CASIO" (4/5 SELECT)
(08) Good Night.
Me and the neighbor from across the street became friends and we met under the leafage of the garden association;
“I hold you close, you push me away
I want forever you just want today”
My heart was like hearing the tick of a bomb. I was a bad day, you were a good night. Walking the tightrope of not revealing the secret even though that was all I really wanted. I could only sing “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba”. Insecure. Give me my fingers, I’ll bite of my tongue on this bloody couch. You said, that’s not a nice thing to do and I said I don’t blame you, you’re always right. “Ba b aba b aba “. Sometimes we would meet by chance for a few minutes or so on the street, and I knew that it could be weeks or even months until the next random encounter. I had to be sensationally witty, smart and funny. The Joker tried to win you over. Unsuccessfully. “Can you run me a bath, then plug me in. I’m like a TV learning to Swim”. Imaginary I would sing “you’re a Gooooooood niiiight!” while watching you walk towards the building on the other side of the street.
(09) I don’t want to wake you up.
On board a plane from Gothenburg to Amsterdam and Schiphol airport. We float over and through white and gray-changing creamy clouds, a fluffy inviting landscape. It’s important not to initiate fear of flying, important to maintain control. So much that requires moderation, caution and adequate medication. And I do not want to develop into an unbearable literary critic by writing this text. I have that cursed pretentious strain in me, only it’s injected the wrong way. Someone told me that Dylan Thomas threw himself on the floor in convulsive attacks when asked to analyze his own texts. How did he go about when he was going to analyze the texts of others? There is something about the high-flying theorizing and the analysis, something disappears along the way like fish escaping through the large mesh of fishing nets. I let go and fall into the music. I’ve covered the church in fish wire.
In the dream I meet Bruno K
Long cigarettes. Cheap country. Cheap wine
I'm lost in a completely different way
we take a few steps around the underground vase and then we work
on the black puzzle
And it just grows and grows
In Sheffield or in Nottingham. A collection of houses, towers, roofs and chimneys. Millions of bricks. Inserted with varying degrees of accuracy. It's like the library; millions of words, still and unruffled on page after page, book after book. Words written down with “varying degrees of accuracy” and recorded during a wide range of moods and circumstances. Words, once quick in the brains of men and women and transsexuals. Sedentary words waiting to be set in motion by You.
Sheffield or Nottingham. Bramall Lane. The City ground. Among red and white and black football jerseys. It is here somewhere the experimental theater group Dogs in Honey originated, and Stephen Jones was a member. Fatherhood came after that. I lack elementary data but my imagination is set in motion. It was a good thing and a bad thing.
Bricks should preferably lie still. Words, on the other hand, should preferably be moved, communicated, morph-changed, pushed and soaked. Tomas Tranströmer writes;
"The language marches in step with the executioners.
Therefore we must get a new language“
In a slow ice-sliding anthem, the jester declares;
“I found an Iceberg floating
in my soul
It was always there until
the sun went up my hole”
Here is a sorrow that does not travel by that name. Or a depression that is the frozen grief of the comedian, waiting to melt. “I miss you like madness”.
Inside you I found a house falling down, a collapsing theory. From the parts of the rubble I built a pillow. Freud would probably have said that we have found unconscious material on our icy expedition. The jester, however, makes an ironic song out of that assumption. “And it’s hard to know what I mean” and you can't put Freud's psychoanalytic theory-sock over everything, and to paraphrase him; sometimes an iceberg is just an iceberg. I tried to illuminate the iceberg in the dream with waking-hours-rationality and got multiple answers that spread out in different camps and that soon started war among themselves. Tootoolah. The jester can see the manifold objects and situations on earth in their full multiplicity and he will “debunk any synthesizing theory”. He sharpens the senses and cut the fences with old contact-lenses and, at this time being, he doesn’t seem to care whether there is an (unexplainable) iceberg up his hole.
(11) Aluminium beach.
I run down to the beach, hoping they never find me. It feels like my words are chasing me, all assumptions previously made are out looking for me, like angry vengeful monkeys released from their cages. But I only feel alive when chased. Far away I see the people drive their Fords to the moon and I will never forget when they burst my balloon. This is where it happened, on the aluminum beach; where the preachers preach and the teachers teach. Some scintillating energy source is keeping me going, making me hover confidently a few inches above the ground. Windy rock music and the sunshine in your eyes, it withers like bluebottle flies coming out of cans on the beach.
I can't let it go, everything they did, but I still have to rush into the whirlpool they call life. It feels like I've gone too far in this essay, I'm afraid I've become like the leech that Stephen sings about; “I was sucked out by a leech, on aluminium beach”. I amputate some of my pretensions and ambitions.... and a magnet of truth pulls out my teeth, on aluminium beach.
I'm like Sisyphus; I roll the stone up the mountain and up there on the top, before the stone rolls down to the beach again, I can see, between the clouds of the night sky, people driving their Buicks to the moon. Down on the beach I conclude that my niche is just out of reach. But we toast with vodka and bleach and try to enjoy the grinding stream they call life.
(12) God damn it, you’re a kid.
The evenings are darker now after the balloon has burst. Rain-soaked and graphite-gray. A few simple words, composed in a certain combination, can get you thrown out of the community. I was evicted from the apartment, but that’s another story. Debts are growing. I wander the streets in my hat, wig and trench coat. I don't want my old friends to recognize me. Invisible USA is on my tail. I live with an old woman, a Mrs Selfridge. It's just a thin cardboard wall between us. She tells me that when she was young, the travelling salesmen were many. At night when I can't sleep I hear her Pepsi Cola fridge drone and hum. Sometimes she gets up to make popcorn or to bake a cake or something. I meet a guy I do errands for. I don’t know his real name but we call him Father Christmas. I deliver packages wrapped in newspapers to nervous people in the alleyways. "Try to look happy, God damn it, you're a kid". Father Christmas can go to hell but I need the money. I still had to sell the video game to afford the rent this month. Boom bang, boom ba boom bang. Sayonara Nintendo. Fuck you Father Christmas.
Transformed into a leaky old dinosaur, I have barricaded myself in the room in a pile of pillows, quilts and blankets. Through a gap in the closed curtains I see the overgrown garden; daisies that want to be sunflowers, a fox that wants to be a hedgehog and the car is bricked up with no wheels, a reservoir of spare parts. I will stay here until next season, until there is a shift in the semantic categories, until the clouds of worry in my brain have made peace with each other. The bills pile up on the doormat, I'll make a paper tree out of them and start with voodoo. Mrs Selfridge is gone. She said "this is my very last trip and I have not yet taken the medicine". I'll stay here and grow daisies that turn into sunflowers. There must be a way. All my perceptions must be changed, I hope I live to see it happen
"That's if there's room in forty years.
That's if there's room in forty years from now. "
And I have to become a human again. But right now I just have this song, this song about how bad things are.
(14) Failed old singer.
Mrs Selfridge is still gone. I wander around in the dark and dusky apartment. Curtains are pulled down. A solitary green desk lamp is glowing on the hall table. I have stopped going to the forum, the others ignore me and talk about me when I'm not there, I sense a secret pact to defame and slander me. "He is a chicken winger". At night, I sneak out to the little playground and ride on the swing and smoke. And I see that little bird that seems too small to fly and who sings and looks at me while I swing. “If only I had your wings”. Sometimes in the evenings I sit by the fireplace and watch the flames, hour after hour, like a fisherman with a fishing rod but it is unclear what I am fishing for.
Among matches, old magazines and firewood I found paper-strips from a letter or some diary, it read;
"... holding on like murder
to this failed old singer
whoa i love you, whoa i love you ”.
For a moment I wondered who it could be.
When I woke up, it felt like glass was melting around my head. Recapitulate the course of events; the paternity test, the father ... a form for someone to start from. A point of departure, like language. After receiving the message I went out for drinks and later I woke up on the playground in the middle of the night. There was broken glass around my head. Walking is dead hard but I can breathe. Dark clouds have driven me here. This is the sum of my actions. I hope my son does not scream when he wants ice cream and that girls will feel safe when he starts to dream of fatherhood.
My father. I wanted to drink from the same glass, I cut bald spots on my head to look like him. But the times they are a-changin’. I don't want him when I've given up, “Lord, I can’t go home this way”. And something fishy happened in his past, his "glorious past” that nobody talks about.
I need to clean up here, take care of the flowers and contact the police; Mrs Selfridge has disappeared, probably abroad, broadly speaking.
“Paternity may be a legal fiction. Who is the father of any son that any son should love him or he any son? “ (Stephen Dedalus)
What the hell is he driving at? Robert Kellogg writes about that opaque chapter 9 in Ulysses by James Joyce; “the quest for a bride was mysteriously one with the search of a spiritual father”.
(16) Dustbin liner.
In the evening something made me walk down to the harbor district. Old ships, floating museums, moored at the docks. Warehouses. Mute containers with graffiti. A crane stalled in a peculiar posture. You’ve gone away, don’t know where you are. Your absence is tattooed in me, you are real yet absent. It's like this hole floating over my head. Like a dustbin liner. On the way back I hear music from an open window. Jingle jangle hell. Someone sings it like the Byrds are chewing on the Beatles, cute little pop songs coming from a needle. “Jingle jangle heaven. Jingle Jangle hell”. I leave a shoe in the garden before I go inside, maybe a hedgehog can use it as a house. I've given away so many shoes now that I barely have any left over to myself. I drum lightly with the keys on the car plate. Nothing feels swell, nothing but swell. “The first essential factor of sensation, which we all share, is the sense of touch…. the medium of tangible things is the flesh”. So many years I have dwelled, in this particular fleshcase. And now I have the sensation that you’ve gone away, don’t know where you are. Absence is the medium through which I travel. It’s like this hole has been dropped over my head. “Like a dustbin liner”.
“The meaning of number 16;
… number 16 denotes one who seeks wisdom in the attempt to learn enough to both teach and help others.
This number analyzes the self to grasp this wisdom; it has a knack for research and it is important to them that they appreciate both the spiritual and analytical parts of themselves.
…number 16 is gifted at understanding the spiritual, it should watch for indulgence in fantasy.”
(17) Not about a girl.
On the day I went to the seminar to present my thesis that Stephen Jones is a reincarnation of Charlie Chaplin but with a twist; he is sort of a linguistic music maker-Chaplin with a bit of William S Burroughs surrealist added to the mix. Jones himself possesses Chaplin's bodily, kinesthetic, slapstick-style and animated comics though it is more ingrained in (and blasted into) language, prosody and phrasing than in the body's movement patterns. What unites them, and where their twinhood becomes apparent, is, in my theory, that they both have the shimmering ease of exposing the inherent absurdity of existence; they seem to stumble upon it almost, they are dancing carefree among the forms but fixed in two separate mediums. But I was annihilated by Professor Sam Munc and Associate Professor BA Cottonmouth Fermer. Bearded Acolyte Cottonmouth Fermer argued that the thesis was not only ridiculously unlikely and esoteric, but also completely incoherent and the illogical methodology belonged in a “ding ding world”. Lit chic Sojan Eh Tent flipped the switch and argued that the arguments being put forward where so loose and vapid and whimsical that one could swim in them and that the reader would “just make up things on the go according to their own whims and interests”. All-seeing Professor Sam Munc added that in my theorizing, I was also on dangerous terrain because I risked, "in my rejection of reason and truth", falling into "chickenism", the detestable ideological sock. At one point during the heated hearing BA Cottonmouth Fermer had asked if I really believed in my own theory and I answered "no". The air went out of me. I ran out of steam. The test balloon burst. “Performance baby” or did she say “appearance baby”. Chilly mood in the room. I went home rejected and sat by the fireplace and threw my thesis in the fire. I cried and cried. Water down the cheeks; very peripatetic. The sobbing was intermingling with noise from the street. The hours went by and I cried until the annual growth rings on my psychic tree dissipated and all psychological suits and roles fell off me like leaves and I stood in direct astral phone link with my five year old self:
” I’d forgotten how to breathe
til you came back
I’d forgotten how to live
when you went away”
And slowly everything cleared up. After some time, a bubbly joy announced itself. I pulled up the curtains and let in remnants of daylight from the dwindling petroleum world. I was in contact with myself for the first time in a long while, maybe for the first time ever. I opened the window to the garden and began to sing; ” Come back Scumbag Come back Come back scumbag come back ”. The colors seemed to me clearer and sharper than before and it was as if I saw the garden for the first time in all its splendid minuteness; the car bricked up with no wheels, a blue shoe donated to the hedgehog, Mrs. Selfridge’s Pepsi-cola fridge lying on its back, a piece of wood resembling an ear and daisies stretching themselves in the wild grass. Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door. Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? Neighbor Sissy. I use to call her CFC, It used to rhyme with happy but now she is a tad difficult.
"What the hell are you really singing," she wondered.
"There are children in the house".
I said “You’re mistaken if you think this song is about a girl, it’s about myself not that I’m self-obsessed, but I went away as well staying here at the same time. When I came back I held out my arms and I said Stephen I love you.”
I am my own father now, I said… I am trying to take care of my inner child. You should too.
Like in a moment on American TV she became hysterical, hysterically unhappy with me. What a torrent of nonsense, she screamed, and slammed the door shut. Part now. The time is now. Normally such hostility would have left a hole where my heart use to be but I felt nothing of the kind. I can breathe now that I have come back, I can breathe.
(18) Good Weather.
Outside the grocery store Thursday afternoon. I feel the world slide in and out of my coat. Kind air. Speedy house martins crisscross in mild sunlight. They go, they come. You don’t need to be clever to enjoy the good weather, but it helps. How often do the house martins crash into overly reflective windows?
In the delivery room. I remember almost passing out in the delivery room when I got to hold my newborn baby for the first time; a bruised and battered bundle, black and blue, needing warmth and care. He came crashing into this world and opened a brand-new chapter. A nurse sent me a rolling stool to sink down on. "Hold to the here, the nowwwww". Wow. Sometimes the moments fail, these tumultuous moments in the flow of life. Too little blood in the legs and syntax error in the brain. Fogbeds. Kokko bang. Bend upon these present things. Are you ready to take the step, give up, cease to strive? Oh, I do not know where I'm going to. I'm going to cry until the world changes. But it's already changing. I’m standing in the ashes of my old ideas and beliefs, I walk through a forest of empty armor. And nobody is learning that the warmth comes from burning the past. I get on a melonfruitcoloured bus. Passing streets of harlots. When I get home I can hear the rain beating on my windowpane. I can hear the hale banging round in the pale I left outside. And I will whistle that tune until the Indians come back from decline.
“You don’t need to be clever to enjoy the good weather, but it helps”
(19) But Love.
We are at the end of a chapter, and soon in the beginning of another. At the end of Chapter 9 in James Joyce's colossal novel Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus is standing on the steps outside the library. He seems to have freed himself from his aspirations, if only temporarily. According to Robert Kellogg, Stephen has now reconciled the truth of the imagination with the facts of life. It's hard to know exactly what Kellogg means, but I'm thinking of a Bob Hund quote;
” Forget everything you learned
Forget everything again
Follow me home
Evil has fled "
(Translated from Bob Hund’s song Glöm allt du lärt dig)
I can’t find the lyrics to But Love on Google, the oracle of our times, maybe it is because the text is sparse and minimal, maybe it is because the penultimate song on a disc is easily overlooked, probably even more so on a twenty-song long album like Fatherhood. And this song is also not one that immediately screams for attention, it has more a sort of hovering low-key sound going for it. When listening, I can decipher the text fragment "feelings come and go, but love stays forever". It sounds as if the singer is singing from the other side of a rainy windowpane in a conciliatory dream sequence (in a sequel to the movie City of Angels) or through a psychedelic ventilation system at the astral hostel. The singing is tender and a bit flanger-like and seems to accommodate a hope that we, despite all quarrels and disputes, stand on a foundation of love that lives on and is bigger than us.
I am reminded of an exchange of words inside the library;
where there is reconciliation, Stephen said, there must have been first a sundering.
Yes. And this song is a low-key reconciling lullaby for the fighters of "togetherness"
(a long distance thematic relative to Suede's "stay together") and a hymn of dialogue even ; there is (hopefully) something that holds us together in spite of all the misery we are subjecting each other to.
I’m closing in on the finish line of this essay and it’s time to wrap it up and connect the dots but I don't know if it's possible. Have I distanced myself from Stephen Jones original material too much? In a way not really, you could say that he is the spiritual father of these little pieces of text, no matter how far-fetched and wacky they have become. The apple, or the apples, may have fallen far from the tree; they may not even be apples anymore but the original tree, that 1990s Portastudio audio material, is still the same.
I guess there are several simultaneous associative trips going on in this text. One journey cruise into the songs and the fantasies and associations the songs initiate, another journey is like a speculative search for Stephen himself (his ghostly presence and absence in the songs) and one trip is sort of an unconscious meandering through myself, I’m like a stray dog guided and mislead by magnetic fields of fantasy, chance, inclinations and intentions - "we walk through our selves" so to speak. I find the chance-like element in these encounters especially fascinating. ”There were incidents and accidents, hints and allegations”. Who knows where one ends up?
In the end, after stripping away my pretentious BS, I have to psychologically accommodate myself and become my own father, but that which can be said, and created, is dependent on another father/mother (in addition to my biological one, and spiritual father if there is such a thing) and that is the form and the language itself, this subject-object-expanding- system… father, form, schemata. What meaning is allowed us to be communicated, what can be said within this myriad of signs, rules and norms, this vast enclosure of letters, dots and grammar? Someone told me that the worldview itself is contained within the form and maybe it’s true.
Anyway here’s the lyric to the last song on the album.
(20) May We
”It’s funny how love goes,
when you’re in the old music biz.
Some write from what they know,
others take a little Billy Whizz.*
Oo la la, mais oui, c’est moi, tout la monde, c’est la vie, ca va. ~1
On the big road to success,
I completely lost my way.
I forgot that I was blind
as seven on Thursday.
Oo la la, mais oui, c’est moi, je suis plein d’amour pour toi. ~2
I couldn’t believe that I missed it,
so I took my watch and I kissed it goodbye.
The only turn-ups I refuse,
are the ones above my shoes.
Oo la la, mais oui, c’est moi, tout la monde, c’est la vie, ca va.
Bloody Hell and Heaven’s above!
It serves me right for singing about love.
Give me an ark, I’d sail away,
but Paul Daniels* stole the dove.
Oo la la, c’est la vie, ca va, tout la monde, mais oui, c’est moi.
Oo la la, mais oui, c’est moi, je suis plein d’amour pour toi.
Oo la la, mais oui, c’est moi, tout la monde, c’est la vie, ca va.
Oo la la, mais oui, c’est moi, oo la la d’amour pour toi.
Oo la la, mais oui, c’est moi, tout la monde, c’est la vie, ca va.
Oo la la, oo la la, oo la la, oo la la.”
Stephen Jones music project was originally a one-man band enterprise called Baby Bird but it was transformed into Babybird with the arrival of a full band some time after, or during, the lofi-album era in 1996. That erased little space between “Baby” and “Bird” marks, for some at least, the end of Stephens Jones early musical output. He says in an interview; “ those 400 songs that appeared on the five Lo-fi albums are like a diary of me being on the dole for five years. Cries for help, time killers, desperate times but always with a sense of humour”. Some of those early songs were of the time and some were silly, but the link to now is that hopefully the humour grew up and became more serious, like finding an ear in the long grass (Blue Velvet)” .
Check out Stephen Jones Bandcamp page !!!
The materialistic version.
Artist; Baby Bird (Later Babybird)
Release date; May 1995 or December 1995 ?
Published By – Chrysalis Music
Distributed By – Vital (2)
Made By – Nimbus
Written-By, Producer, Performer – S. Jones*
"Made In Continental England (I Don't Think)"