Seven songs for Spring

I’ve been quite a reticent blogger until recently, but seem to have got it more or less worked out now, although I’m not as sociable as a good blogger should be. Nonetheless, I seem to have arrived in the ‘sphere, by being tagged for a meme by someone I consider a fairly big league blogger, Roland of But I Am A Liberal. The instructions are this:

“List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.”

Well, here we go. Not very spring-like, I know.

1. Leonard Cohen “The Partisan”
Here’s two versions from YouTube – poor quality live, with Spanish subtitles, or good quality from the record, with cool slide show. Here’s the story of the song, originally “La complainte du partisan”, written in London during 1943, by Emmanuel D’Astier de la Vigerie (called “Bernard” in the French Resistance, a Stalinist til 1956, then an anti-Stalinist) and Anna Marly. (Here‘s Marly’s version.)

2. The Pogues “Lorca’s Novena”

YouTube here, last.fm here, homepage here.

Ignacio lay dying in the sand
A single red rose clutched in a dying hand
The women wept to see their hero die
And the big black birds gathered in the sky

Mother of all our joys, mother of all our sorrows
Intercede with him tonight
For all of our tomorrows

The years went by and then the killers came
And took the men and marched them up the hill of pain
And Lorca the faggot poet they left till last
Blew his brains out with a pistol up his arse

Mother of all our joys….

The killers came to mutilate the dead
But ran away in terror to search the town instead
But Lorca’s corpse, as he had prophesied, just walked away
And the only sound was the women in the chapel praying

Mother of all our joys….

I was tempted to pick “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn”,  some of the backstory here.

3. Victor Jara “Luchin”

See also two other songs I love: Arlo Guthrie’s “Victor Jara” (words by the late Adrian Mitchell), and Calexico’s “Victor Jara’s Hands”. [Download mps of last from HaHa Music, Captains Dead, Tonegents.]

4. Manu Chao “Desaparecido”

Last.fm/YouTube; homepage.

I carry on me a pain and sorrow,
that doesn’t let me breathe,
I carry on me a final sentence,
That’s always pushing me along

They call me the disappearer
when they come I’ve already gone,
Flying I come, flying I go
Quickly, quickly on a lost course.

5. Gotan Project “Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)”

YouTube/Last.fm; MySpace. Everyone knows this I guess. It’s a bit too ubiquitous, on loads of TV ads, but it’s still great.

6. Woody Guthrie “Hard Travellin'”

I wanted to pick something by Woody, as I’ve been listening to him a lot recently. Browsing through YouTube, I found a slightly lame Klezmatics version of “Mermaid Avenue”, some live footage of “Ranger’s Command” from 1945, and “All You Fascist’s Are Bound To Lose” with Sonny Terry from a (WWII-era?) radio show. However, “Hard Travellin'” is the Woody song I first fell in love with, many years ago.

7. The Durutti Column “Homage To Catalonea

Lovely summery Spanish guitar from my favourite post-punk proto-glitch outfit. On album Vini Reilly. Included in a great playlist here.

I’m tagging: Renegade Eye, Fat Man on a Keyboard, Terry Glavin, Francis Sedgemore, Hak Mao, History is Made at Night and (why not?) Nick Cohen.

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Contradictions

‘Frank Ryan brought you whiskey in a brothel in Madrid
And you decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids…’

From The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn by The Pogues

That’s how Principia Dialectica kick off their tribute to Bob Doyle, the last of the Irish to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, who died on Valentine’s Day. Will Rubbish and Shiraz Socialist have also paid tribute.

Eamonn McDonagh notes that Frank Ryan was a man who spent the last four years of his life actively collaborating with Nazi Germany. Terry Glavin adds: “Aye. The same way Christy Moore ruined a perfectly good song.” He’s referring to “Viva La Quinta Brigada“:

Ten years before I saw the light of morning
A comradeship of heroes was laid.
From every corner of the world came sailing
The Fifteenth International Brigade.
They came to stand beside the Spanish people.
To try and stem the rising Fascist tide
Franco’s allies were the powerful and wealthy,
Frank Ryan’s men came from the other side.
Even the olives were bleeding
As the battle for Madrid it thundered on.
Truth and love against the force af evil,
Brotherhood against the Fascist clan.

Apparently, it was written while he was in Spain, reading from a book by Michael O’Riordan, The Connolly Column.

There is no doubt that Bob Doyle was a heroic man, but it is also worth thinking about the fact that he carried his Stalinism to his grave, and that the International Brigades helped crush the Spanish revolution and were responsible for the deaths of many non-Stalinist anti-fascists. As Bob commented, on the passing of Moe Fishman, another veteran of the Brigades,

As a child, the “International Brigade” conjured up the noblest form of heroism. As I got older, and developed politically, I came to see the ignoble side of the International Brigade, its use by Moscow to destroy dissident forms of anti-fascism in Spain. I realised things were not as black and white as fascism versus anti-fascism. So the passing of people like Fishman touches me in another way too: the tragedy of noble impulses used so wrongly.