Dirty old river, must you keep rolling

“As long as I gaze on, Waterloo Sunset, I am in paradise.” – The Kinks, Waterloo Sunset

After talking about Streets of London just two days ago, I began remembering a trip I took to London in 2007. The trip cost me a friendship, but clearly not one that was worth having. So in retrospect, I gained the memory of a broken friendship to the tune of The Kink’s Waterloo Sunset, in exchange for a poor friendship… let’s call it a win. Although a close one, he was a good friend for a while.

“People so busy, make me feel dizzy, taxi light shines so bright”

He was my age, but his girlfriend was 2 years younger. She came to study at the same university as us when she turned 18, a nice girl. They made for a horrible couple, but they were nice people. For a year all three of us were at the same university at the same time, so I became friends with her as well. He even called me up during a semester he was abroad because she was going through a stage of depression and wanted to see if I knew of anybody who could help. Like I said, we were good friends.

But I am so lazy, don’t want to wander, I stay at home at night”

2007 came along. I was finishing university, he was already working and she had just left to study in London her third year of college. I didn’t have too many classes and had flexibility to travel every now and then, so one day we were talking and agreed that I’d go visit her. All fine and dandy. I book the flight, get ready for the trip and get a call from her the day before saying that perhaps it’s better if I don’t stay with her because my buddy, the “he”, thinks it’s not a good idea. Lovely…

But Terry and Julie, cross over the river, where they feel safe and sound”

So having been fucked over by not one, but two of my friends (because let’s face it, when your partner’s being a dick, sometimes it’s best to tell them “stop being a dick, he’s just sleeping on the couch”), I called up a good friend I had in Bournemouth. I asked him if I could catch a bus and stay with him for a few days instead. On a day’s notice he said “sure, no problem” and I spent a few days visiting Bournemouth and getting plastered with his friends. That actually was lovely.

“Millions of people, swarming like flies ’round, Waterloo underground”

– 7 years later: I don’t know what’s become of him. I get the occasional email from her. They’re not together… and I just spoke to my buddy from Bournemouth last week even though we’re an ocean apart.

– My thoughts today: I was happy with the girlfriend I had at the time. They both knew that. All I wanted was a couch to crash. To visit a friend. And to visit London. After that, salvaging that friendship would have been a waste of time. I think.

“But Terry and Julie, cross over the river, where they feel safe and sound”

The funny thing is my friend, the “she” this time, felt so bad she insisted on getting together in London before I left for Bournemouth. I agreed, so I went to pick her up at her apartment. Which was conveniently located, at Waterloo Station.

“Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night “

What have I got?

If I were given the chance to see any female artist perform live, living or dead, I wouldn’t hesitate at all, Nina Simone. It would have been great to see Janis Joplin, I would’ve loved to see Joan Baez in her prime, seeing Patty Smith again would be cool… but above all Nina Simone. It’s the mixture of talent with attitude that I think would’ve made seeing her perform in person (preferably in a small venue) an incredible experience.

“Ain’t got no love, ain’t got no name”

She’s not somebody I remember listening to when I was growing up, I just kind of stumbled onto her on my own after hearing her songs in movies and television shows. A commonly referenced movie scene is at the end of Before Sunset when Julie Delpy does an imitation of her for Ethan Hawke and plays the song Just in Time. Most Nina Simone fans know this scene, and I’m sure most share my take that it’s the best scene in the movie, hands down. I also recall hearing the song Sinnerman (one of my favorites) in an episode of Scrubs. From there I went on to buy a few of her albums and she’s became one of my favorite artists. She’s one of the greats, no doubt about it.

“I got my mouth, I got my smile. I got my tongue, I got my chin. I got my neck, I got my boobs”

I like almost all of her songs, many aren’t even hers, but she was so talented she could take pretty much any song and just run with in. She’s covered Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne… George Harrison’s Here Comes the SunMr. Bojangles (which Dylan popularized, but is not his). You have to be a beast to cover these songs and get away with it, but then again her talent was special, saying she was a beast might not even begin to do her justice.

I’ve got life, I’ve got my freedom

So Nina Simone is someone I’ve listen to regularly and who I never get bored of. She’s great for setting the mood in a room with other people and works just as well to listen to alone. I always say that only a handful or artists are really good companions for when you want to lie down listen to music and drink by yourself… Nina Simone is the founder and honorary lifetime president of that club. Ain’t Got No, I Got Life is one of the reasons why…

“And I’m gonna keep it”

 

When so many love you, is it the same?

Hello cowgirl in the sand. Is this place at your command?” – Neil Young, Cowgirl in the Sand           

After my first contact with Neil Young I wasn’t too impressed. If I recall correctly a friend had recommended I listen to some of his more intense rock songs like Rockin’ in the Free World and Like a Hurricane. They were alright, but I had already discovered Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and I was a lot more focused on lyrics than any guitar solo. The songs weren’t doing it for me and Neil Young sort of got crossed off the list. I was a fucking fool.

One random weekend about 7 or 8 years ago I was talking music with my uncle and he mentioned Neil Young. Basically, I expressed my initial opinion from the paragraph above and he went on to express my final conclusion from the paragraph above, that I was a fucking fool.

“Can I stay here for a while? Can I see your sweet, sweet smile?”

My uncle put the album Harvest in my hand and told me to get back to him on that. I listened to it with a chip on my shoulder wanting to prove that my initial perception of Young had been right, but a fucking fool is hardly right. By the time I reached Heart of Gold (4th track) I was already convinced that Young was a stud and that the album was something special. I’ve since listened to it hundreds of time, recommended it to anybody who would listen and even made a few copies of it to give to girls, with surprisingly good feedback…

“Hello ruby in the dust, has your band begun to rust?

Harvest has everything to be considered one of the best albums of all time: the artist is in his prime, it has great lyrics and there’s not a single bad song in it. It’s also short enough, about 40 min, to leave you wanting more. However, since discovering Harvest I’ve explored Neil Young quite a bit and there’s one song which I love, to the point that it had to be the first song of his I include in this blog, Cowgirl in the Sand (Live At Massey Hall 1971 version).

“Hello woman of my dreams. This is not the way it seems”

I’m sure… well, almost sure. Alright… I want to think that I haven’t used this song to tell more than one girl that it reminds me of her. In fact I want to think that I have never said it to a single one. That would have been like cheating, the song is that good. I honestly don’t think I have, but I can’t guarantee. Whenever I listen to the song I like the mood that Young creates, but I really like the way he shifts the focus on the woman, sorry, the cowgirl. He sings about her, whoever she is. So what I like about the song is that it’s mystical enough that I’ve felt comfortable listening to it in many different situations. Whether it’s been intimately with a girl, reflecting on a relationship, pursuing a crush, dealing with a break-up… the song just fits well. Or at least it allows for interpretations that fit well, which I guess is the point, right?

So before I ramble on, if you haven’t listened to this song, or this version, here it is courtesy of a fucking fool.

“After all the sin we’ve had, I was hopin’ that we’d turn back”