Lulubird, Shoot the Doorbell Off My Head

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Here are the lyrics to a really great of Montreal song off their heavily beatlesque 2001 album Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies.

Penelope
By Kevin Barnes

Penelope, shoot the apple off my head
I need to go to the store to get some sleep.
Because I’ve run out of sleep.

The row boat came so David stopped arguing
with a mime and waved his arms like wheat.
But when he tried to speak the Prince of Plum fell through the
roof of his mouth and handed David an envelope

Inside was a letter that read ‘Sir, you were given this
envelope by mistake please disregard it’

Nicolynn, shoot the candle off my head
I need to go to the store to get some beets.
To rub all over my feet.

Andy’s joke reminded Gerard that his
sloth balloon was owned by Turkish moths.
Gerard’s Lebanese boss had sent him out on business
giving his word that he would keep it looked in the safe

But it was all deceit ’cause once he had the sloth balloon
he traded it to the moths for a lithograph of “Lady Lamenting On A Lawn Chair”.

What interested Balabanoba was building complicated French machines
designed to better enjoy the Duchess, and she him.
He helps her in the stirrups then he straps himself in
They spend their days in heights of ecstasy. But wait —
Why then does she look so sad?
Why is her countenance so glum?
Does she tire of mechanical hands
or is she pining for the fair Prince of Plum?

Lulubird shoot the doorbell off my head
I need to go to the store to get some treats.
For Goethe, Becket and Keats.

The characters of the “Gay Parade” formed a boys choir
with Static and the Red King.
But whenever they sing all postal workers
simultaneously whisper to themselves the word “calendar”.
Calendar

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Carl Michael Bellman’s Butterfly

i-1bfa9d22b47287c4ba35779cbac5bd2f-z_bellman_bellman.jpgOne of the brightest stars of Swedish literature is Carl Michael Bellman (1740-1795). Much of his work is a kind of humorous beat poetry set to music, chronicling the lives of Stockholm drunkards and whores. Central themes are boozing, sex and death.

“You think the grave’s too deep?
Well then, have a drink
Then have another two and another three
That way you’ll die happier”

“A girl in the green grass and wine in green glasses
I feast on both, both gather me to their bosom
Let’s have some more resin on the violin bow!”

But Bellman wasn’t strictly speaking part of the underworld he wrote about. He was more of a bourgeois onlooker, periodically a court favourite, and counted the era’s top artists and intellectuals among his friends. One of Bellman’s most well-known and beloved songs is a piece of fawning praise to King Gustaf III, eulogising his great park and summer palace at Haga north of Stockholm. It was written in 1790-91 in an unsuccessful attempt to get Bellman’s wife Lovisa a job as overseer of the Haga household, and then modified and dedicated to the poet’s landlord whom he owed for rent. Pretty much everyone in Sweden can sing Fjäriln vingad syns på Haga, but some of the words are archaic and the syntax is convoluted, so few really understand the sense of the lyrics anymore. Here’s a literal translation I’ve made.

At Haga, the butterfly can be seen making its green home amid misty frost and down, its bed in a flower. Every little marshland creature, just awakened by the sun’s warmth, is inspired by the western wind to festive revelry.

Haga, in your bosom are seen sprouting grass and the yellow plaza. The proud swan raises its neck, rocking in your streamlets. From afar in the open spaces of the forest are heard incessant echoes: sometimes the hammering of granite, sometimes axes in birch and fir trees. [Referring to the king’s construction projects in the area.]

See, the Brunnsviken inlet’s little mermaids raise their golden horns, and water cascades higher even than Solna church steeple. On a neat road under vaulted trees the horse frolics and the wheel throws dust into the air, while the farmer smiles fondly toward Haga.

What a divine pleasure to be greeted by one’s beloved under the eye of such a mild monarch in a park as lovely as this! Everyone cries with gratitude whenever his eye falls upon them. Even the most bad-tempered person is happy when touched and charmed by that gaze.

For lyrical translations of Bellman into English, see Paul Britten Austin’s Fredman’s Epistles and Songs. Here are the Swedish lyrics for Fjäriln vingad including the little-known original job-seeking version. Haga hasn’t changed much in the past 200 years, and the whole park is open to the public. Highly recommended!

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Book Review: Barlow, Sharp Teeth

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Dear Reader,
Would you like to read about werewolf communes?
The beasties live quietly in southern California
Doing dirty work for the drugs trade
Sharing pack mentality, each with a queen bitch
Riding their vans to the desert’s edge, changing
Into quadruped form and running long nights
Through the sagebrush, panting and exhilarated
Would you like to read about werewolf communes?

Could you chew and digest, Dear Reader,
Could you stomach three hundred pages
Of free verse narrative?
So finely done that you will often forget
That this is no ordinary novel
Page-turner poetry
Fit for loud performance
At camp fires and art festivals

The lycanthropes are among us
One may be snoozing on your sofa
Waiting for you to go to work
So he can turn a man and slip out
To take out a minor meth operation
Or raid a rival pack’s compound

Toby Barlow is the author
Of the remarkable Sharp Teeth
Would you like to read about werewolf communes?
The beasties live quietly in southern California
I did
I read it
I savoured it
And let me tell you truly
Dear Reader
I’m pretty sure it has just whet my appetite


Barlow, Toby. 2007. Sharp Teeth. London: Random House. 313 pp. ISBN 978-0-434-01767-6.


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If It Was Green, Then I’ll Replace It

i-518f596ffdfc00b81ed3b54ba81d92ce-Eddie3.jpgHere’s a translation of one of my first brushes with absurdism, Swedish rocker Eddie Meduza’s 70s song “Va den grön så får du en ny” (original lyrics here with ugly popups).

If It Was Green, Then I’ll Replace It
By Eddie Meduza

I’d bought myself a vacuum flask
In a store down in Målilla
It was real pretty until I poured coffee into it
But then it broke into pieces

So I called Mr. Chin
He’s the man with the store
(You see, he’s got a really big chin)
And I told him, my flask is busted
Do they come with a guarantee?

Yeah, said Mr. Chin, gravelly and really slowly
He was speaking really slowly and gravelly
Son, if it was red, then you’re out of luck
But if it was green, then I’ll replace it
(You see, he only ever replaced green goods)

Then I told Mr. Chin
I grieve greatly and am forlorn (as they say)
The vacuum flask was green like a summer lawn
It was such a poetic thing to say that he started to cry

In a choking voice he told me, I’m gonna give you two new flasks
I’ve got a couple sitting around the store room
That they’ve paid me insurance money for
And both of them are green

You can’t get a replacement for red vacuum flasks but green ones will get replaced, replaced, replaced if you like if you buy them from Mr. Chin in Målilla that is.

Chinese Pop Lyrics

i-eb1e4c0f61953fa6ace63edbaedbb709-fayewong.jpgI am almost completely unable to enjoy Chinese pop music. In fact, I can barely stand listening to it: I find it saccharine-yet-bland and silly and clichéd. But there’s one aspect of it that’s kind of fun, though I can only appreciate it with the help of an interpreter. Chinese musicians record cover versions of a lot of Western pop hits, and the lyrics they write are amazing. When compared to the originals, that is.

Here are snippets of two late-70s song lyrics, translated by my wife from Chinese to Swedish and by myself from Swedish to English.

The birds are singing and cawing
Telling me to hurry home
The sun is going down soon
And the shepherd-boy should get on home
The kind and loving parents
Are waiting for me to come home

Recognise that? No? It’s Boney M’s “Gotta Go Home”! Coked-up Caribbean expats in a studio in Germany!

Headin’ for the islands
We’re ready man and packed to go
When we hit those islands
There’s gonna be a big hello
Diggin’ all the sunshine
It’s easy not to say goodbye

Headin’ for the islands
Hey yeah, we’re really flyin’ high
Gotta go home, home, home

Here’s another one. This one’s easy.

Her name was Lola
Everybody loved her
She was smart and good-looking
And her hair was long
Streaming in the wind like the leaves of a willow tree
She’s always cheerful
My fondest dream is to hear Lola sing that love song
And when she dances, she is enchanting

Not quite what Barry Manilow sang on “Copacabana”:

Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl
With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there
She would merengue and do the cha-cha
And while she tried to be a star
Tony always tended bar
Across the crowded floor, they worked from 8 til 4
They were young and they had each other
Who could ask for more?

The Chinese version of “Kookaburra sits in an old gum tree” is apparently about an effing hair dresser. And Faye Wong has recorded a version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. *shudder*

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La Grange

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For about a week, the relentless riff from ZZ Top’s 1973 hit song “La Grange” has been playing in my head. Such a great, great song, not least the powerful and exact drumming. And the vocals are really funny, with the singer sounding like a right old lecher.

So I got the album, Tres Hombres, and read up a little on ZZ Top. Like the Stones, they’re the kind of great band you never think to get any records from, because they’re all over rock radio anyway.

I was kind of stunned to find that the trio’s members were 23, 24 and 24 in 1973. They must have looked pretty incongruous, three fresh-faced white Texas kids sounding like grizzled blues veterans from the wrong side of the tracks.

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