July 29, 2012

Things Behind the Sun

He began singing “Thoughts of Mary Jane,” and you could hear the sound of the buttons on his jacket hitting the guitar, the sound of the chair creaking, and midway through, just as it seemed like he was getting warmed up and settling into the performance, he changed directions, changed songs. No one could tell if he’d forgotten the chords or lost the words or simply grown bored and decided to move on. He settled into a rolling guitar figure, beautiful and stuttered and strangely uplifting, and he began singing the opening lines to a new song, new to me at least:

Do you curse where you come from?
Do you swear in the night?

And then he would look away, even further away, and begin the pattern once again and continue the same words until they sprawled into a chant, slurred and strange and hypnotic:

Do you curse where you come from?
Do you swear in the night?

The words seemed a challenge, a prayer and a whispered threat all at once, a quiet British voodoo sung to an unseen moon and an all-too-present dark:

Do you curse where you come from?
Do you swear in the night?

You couldn’t watch. But you couldn’t look away. And then it was over. I don’t remember if there was any applause, but I know that there were no celebratory drinks, there was no after party; the audience simply drifted off into their own version of the night.


  1. Frank Patrick on July 29th, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Wow! Wow! First time in a long time I’ve been sent to a piece of writing that wasn’t within the targets of my usual web-trawling and that grabbed me the way this did. The thing that drove me nuts is with all the name-dropping from the music of my youth, it’s only this piece and recent references on NPR’s All Songs Considered that has brought Nick Drake into my consciousness. Why do I not know of him? The world is conspiring to get me to look into him. Thanks, Clusterflock, for pointing me to the piece. Fiction or non-fiction, it was a great read. Let’s see if I’ll owe you a thanks for sending me to Nick Drake as well.

  2. Lucy Foley on August 4th, 2012 at 1:45 am

    Hey Frank,

    My favourite Nick Drake songs are Riverman and Time has Told me. I love the yearning of Nick Drake, his playful and incredibly awkward English gentlemanness, his inherent loveliness really. He’s fucking heartbreaking. I love Nick Drake.

    I know what you mean about discovering people so much later being completely weird. I just discovered Ian Anderson and Tull this past January which blew my mind for a couple of months.

  3. Sheila Ryan on August 6th, 2012 at 3:44 am

    Lucy (and Frank — and others): Here’s Robyn Hitchcock. I Saw Nick Drake.