Sunday, 5 April 2020


It's funny, the paths we follow. Or are led down. Or that lead us. I'm never really sure. A friend put this song in my head as I read his email Friday morning. Then it stayed in there all day, and although it was far from unwelcome, I had to do something to shift it.

I had other plans for Friday evening. They mainly involved getting slowly drunk and watching trash on Netflix. For me, a Friday night where I have the liberty to do this is still enough of a novelty that it's something of a treat. Albeit a treat that is quickly threatening to wear thin.

Instead I struggled over working out the picked patterns of some otherwise easy chords, and the timing of some beautiful lyrics. The way I usually manage to play and sing at the same time is a kind of automation. I don't keep good time (according to our bassist) but my hand does strike a pattern and my voice follows automatically, leaving me to focus on the words, delivery and overall performance.

This song, or the original at least, is different. The poetry of the lyrics very much lead the timing and delivery of the melody. And so the guitar follows the voice, and the tune follows the lyric. It makes for an achingly beautiful delivery; I suspect it's actually the soul of the song. At least for me. [Edit 06/04: I've just fixed this paragraph to say what I actually meant to say, and not the opposite, as I'd originally written]

Observing this was a tiny revelation, so different as it is to how I normally work. I tried to cover it faithfully, but in my own version, I don't think I quite catch it. So I do my usual, and find a (I hope, acceptable) compromise, and carry on regardless.

Many, many years ago, long before the convenience of the Internet and song lyrics on tap, I learnt Don McLean's American Pie. It's got more verses to it than Sir Patrick Spens; on which note, having never heard of this song before I looked up the lyrics on Google and covered Fred Wedlock's "The Folker" the other day, I'm now currently listening to Fairport Convention's version on YouTube as I write. And I'm astounded to discover there actually is no 42nd verse.

And a little disappointed. In Fairport Convention for not finding a 42nd verse. Not Fred. If he says there should be a 42nd for him to forget, I believe him.

Anyway. The fact that I know by heart all the verses to American Pie has been a staple party trick of my campfire set since my late teens. And it's a song with almost as much grabbing power as Mr Brightside. A different kind of grab to be fair, more sing along than dance along, but it grabs the crowd just the same.

The funny thing is though, it was never my favourite Don McLean song. The one I should've learnt, all those many years ago, was Vincent.

So, some twenty-nine years later, thanks to a friend, last night I fixed that.

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