Saturday, 21 April 2018

Steely Dan...... better late than never......

I bought my first Steely Dan album in 1975. A friend at the time, whose musical taste I trusted, told me about it, said it was being released two days later, and unreservedly recommended it. So based on his recommendation, having never even heard of Steely Dan, I bought the album two days later (a Saturday as I recall), went home, and gave it a spin, as we said in those days.

The album was Katy Lied, and the opening track, Black Friday, a rocker, didn't exactly bowl me over. The second track, however, entitled  Bad Sneakers, with its jazz flavour and unusual lyric, was quite unlike anything I had ever heard before in a pop song. I had absolutely no idea what the song was about, and I still don't, which didn't bother me one little bit. But it struck a cord with me, as did the next track, Rose Darling, with a more accessible lyric about sexual infidelity, or at least the intention of such.

The high point of the album, however, was the track Doctor Wu, with an alto sax solo by Phil Woods. Woods' was a highly accomplished jazz musician, and among his many achievements was a sublime solo on Spoonful, featured on the Gil Evans album of 1964: The Individualism of Gil Evans.

I bought every previous and subsequent album by Steely Dan. Of particular mention is the 1980 release Gaucho, with vocalist Donald Fagen in fine voice, especially on the opening track Babylon Sisters.  

Also on Gaucho is the track Time out of Mind. 'Time out o' mind' is a colloqual expression referring to a time immemorial, and dates from around the middle of the sixteenth century. It was even used by Shakespeare in two of his plays:

Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
Made by a joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies coachmakers...
- Romeo and Juliet

Sir, I have been an unlawful bawd time out of mind....
- Measure for Measure

Finally, this blog has been on the road for over 6 years, and in all that time it has sadly been lacking a post on Steely Dan, an oversight which we are now correcting. Better late than never.....

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Le pont Mirabeau, Paris - the bridge of Guillaume Apollinaire

Pont Mirabeau by Paul Signac
The Pont Mirabeau across the Seine on the west side of Paris, has been the inspiration of many artists, among them the painter Paul Signac, and the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. 

Apollinaire's poem, Le Pont Mirabeau, was first published in February 1912, and was inspired by the departure of his muse Marie Laurencin, and is 'the sad song of that long, broken affair'. 

The poetic fusion of the images, together with the idea of the fluid movement of the verses, make the poem perfectly harmonious by its simplicity and its purity. 

[First verse below]

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
          Et nos amours
     Faut-il qu'il m'en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine

          Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
          Les jours s'en vont je demeure

The Muse inspiring the Poet
(Marie Laurencin and Apollinaire)
Painting by Douanier Rousseau (1909)

The bridge was constructed between 1893 and 1896 and is now designated a monument of historic interest.