Friday, November 14, 2014

DB's Song of the Day (day 318): "YOU AND OBLIVION" (1996) Robyn Hitchcock

All of the colours ran out / ‘Round mid-November-o

It’s true I’ve already posted about a song from Robyn Hitchcock’s Moss Elixir. It remains one of my favorites by him, so that’s reason enough for me. But it’s mainly that today’s song is unavoidable for me, this time of year.

Hitchcock’s guitar has such a full, rich sound. Harpsichord-like, with that open strum. And the tune has a medieval or Renaissance air too. Like Hitchcock is channeling all those bards gone to ground, inditing poesy about fields of mellow fruitfulness or Goldengrove unleaving. The song, for me, hangs on a few amazing lines that Hitch pulls out of his bag of tricks—“do you remember-o?”

Let’s go for the crux: “This is the month of the dead / Leaves on your Ouija board / Carry them round in your head / They’ve got free room and board, yeah.”  Damn freeloading dead folk. All these effing ghosts are living on our dime, y’know. And they are with us, always.

Something about you / You and oblivion. Yeah, something about that. Like, let’s remind ourselves yearly that we’re oblivion bound. Unless, as Hamlet saith, a man builds churches, for then his memory might last a little longer.

Morbid? Perhaps, but the song isn’t. It’s wry, winking at inevitable loss and disaster: “Right when the death train got your ma / Right when the death train got my pa.” And get 'em it will—if it hasn’t already. “Let slip your hand on the platform / Said “I must be going,” yeah / See you, seeeeeee you.” And that’s it, y’know. More of that “people disappear everyday. Every time they leave the room.” Or get on the train. Or into the car. Or the plane. Or.

“I can remember your locks / And your virginity.” So lovely. “Locks” can be hair or something that takes a key, but, either way, it takes us back doesn’t it? For me, there’s a little girl with coruscating locks running about in the corridors of my mind. And she descends from a little girl with coruscating locks that I descend from, who I never met, in that incarnation. Yep. We were all virgins once. We’ll all be virginal again, cleansed of life. “Off to infinity.”

And what is “oblivion” anyway? It’s the dead space. Where all is forgotten. As if it never was.

But just so we don’t forget this is a Robyn Hitchcock song, there’s also, amidst the courtly joust with death, the throwaway lines both absurd and apt: “Sitting alone by the tombs / Under the obelisk / Mixing up powders with brooms / You should’ve got a whisk.” Whisk, whisk, whisk, went the broom on the obelisk. A memorial for the dead and a homely kitchen device. So that when you cannot stop for death, he'll kindly stop for you. Shoveling snow? Zap. Waxing the car? Zap. Getting that piano up to the attic if it's the last thing you do?

Seeking your personal grail / Just like your mother’s one. Now there’s a rich idea. The “you” here is in search of, y’know, something to hang onto, something solid, like a personal grail, just as her mother did. Or the “you” is seeking that harboring place, just like his mother's womb. There’s an almost off-hand fatalism to the song, as we realize that we’re forever indebted to the ghosts who got us here, while they were here. If that’s not reason enough to remember them in this month of remembrance, then what is?

We was a-scuttle about

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