10 September 2005
Melancholy and riveter's sons

I've felt very melancholy all day today. My mood is no doubt related to the weather; it's been very grey, raining continuously. It's the kind of day where the sun never seems to actually rise, but instead it looks like dusk all day long.

I remember reading ages ago about smell--how it's the most primitive and the slowest of all our senses. the only one with unmyelinated nerve endings. The olfactory system is directly connected to the
amygdala, the part of the brain dealing with emotion and memory, smell is also the sense most tied with memory. Meaning that occasionally a "faint fragrance brings a memory of a long-lost moment in time crashing back to the forefront of the mind". Smells are also emotive. They trigger feelings; the comforting scent of home-baked chocolate chip cookies or of fresh coffee--hence the popularity of scented candles, aromatherapy and perfumes.

I think music has the same effect. There are some songs that are so intricately tied to memory that upon hearing them I am immediately transported back to some important moment, or even a whole period of my life. I know I'm not alone in this. Check out the recent surge of
blog entries floating around out there listing the top 100 songs from the year you graduated high school. Several even say something along the lines of "I am also putting the songs I don't actually like (because they are crap), but would still listen to for nostalgic purposes in italics."

I think everyone has songs that mean something special to them. Songs have that power. And it isn't just nostalgia; some songs are "mood songs", just listening to them can evoke strong feelings, again and again. (I know I'm not the only one here...) One musician I love,
Sting, has a very high proportion of songs that can make me cry, or smile, just listening to them.

Driving in my car today exactly that happened to me. I put on one of my favorite Sting cds, and
Island of Souls came on. It's a very haunting song; it opens with Northumbrian pipes and maintains an air of quiet futility throughout. This one always makes me cry. He wrote it shortly after his father died, and some have said that it's actually an autobiographical song--his dad was definitely working class, a coal miner, I think. Sting has a wonderful way with words, he uses imagery and metapor to great effect; I adore his writing style. This song isn't nearly as gripping without the music, but I thought I'd share the lyrics:

Billy was born within sight of the shipyard
First son of a riveter's son
And Billy was raised as the ship grew a shadow
Her great hull would blot out the light of the sun
And six days a week he would watch his poor father
A working man live like a slave
He'd drink every night, and he'd dream of a future,
Of money he never would save
Billy would cry when he thought of the future

Soon came a day when the bottle was broken
They launched the great ship out to sea
He felt he'd been left on a desolate shore
To a future he desperately wanted to flee

What else was there for a ship-builder's son
A new ship to be built, new work to be done
One day he dreamed of the ship in the world
It would carry his father and he
To a place they would never be found
To a place far away from this town

Trapped in the cage of the skeleton ship
All the workmen suspended like flies
Caught in the flare of acetylene light
A working man works till the industry dies

And Billy would cry when he thought of the future
Then what they call an industrial accident
Crushed those it couldn't forgive
They brought Billy's father back home in an ambulance
A brass watch, a cheque, maybe three weeks to live

What else was there for a riveter's son?
A new ship to be built, new work to be done
That night he dreamed of the ship in the world
It would carry his father and he
To a place they could never be found
To a place far away from this town,
A Newcastle ship with no coals
They would sail to the island of souls

Enough for now (if you don't like this entry, blame the meds!)

posted by Julie at 4:06 PM 1 comments


Blogger Lora said...

That's one of my favorite Sting songs are you aware that he wrote that song for/about his father shortly after he died. He was working out some of the guilty he had over the sacrifices that his father had made that he had had never really appreciated.

Sun Sep 11, 06:59:00 AM GMT+1  

Post a Comment

<< Home