Tag Archives: music

What would Paul do?


I’m currently experiencing a peculiar period of flux in my life. I’m well aware that devoting a blog post to what is essentially a spot of navel-gazing might feel, and indeed be, a touch self-indulgent but I hope the end result will be acceptable to the majority and not be judged too harshly. It comes with a free poem, if that swings it?

As with any significant change in circumstances, there is an accompanying emotional maze to navigate. To say I have veered from euphoria to despair and back, via guilt, with an unexpected pit-stop at shame and an uncomfortably lengthy comfort break at overwhelming anxiety is to miss an opportunity to shoehorn in the hackneyed phrase “emotional rollercoaster.” It may be trite, but it is true.

And, as with just about any quandary, the sensible course of action is to take some advice on how best to proceed. But from who? Friends? All fantastic and all offering their own valid perspectives. But all with completely different suggestions and opinions, which is not entirely helpful. Family? Err, pass (although obvs love you all). What is needed is someone sufficiently removed from a situation to be able to offer the necessary impartiality and clarity.

Really, as on so many other occasions, I find the best thing to do is to stick on some music and wait to feel better. When it comes to solving dilemmas there are always one man’s words I’d choose above any other. Not just a great musician but an outstanding poet, Paul Simon is my go-to guy. He’s been there. He’s done it all. Granted, he may not always have the route fully mapped out, but, like a dog-eared and coffee-stained A-Z, I trust him to get us there eventually. Are his suggestions helpful? Not always. But will I feel better for listening? Absolutely. The following poem was written with this in mind, and even though the tone might suggest he doesn’t always have the answers, in truth just asking the questions is what really matters. So, whether the advice is what I really want to hear or not, I ask myself: What would Paul do?

Paul Simon Says*

To navigate these intricate pathways
And walk sure-footed along life’s maze
Is a challenge that tests all but a few.
So I sought out a guide, brought him along for the ride
Hoping his words would steer me true.  

Paul Simon says learn to fall before you fly
But how many stumbles before my wings stretch wide
And lift me to the higher ground?

Paul Simon says we share ceilings and floors
But has no wise words for me about unlocking doors
In these walls that surround.

Paul Simon says wear diamonds on your shoes
But jewel-strewn heels will surely bruise
And trainers are comfier when you’re homeward bound.

Paul Simon says we can rewrite the end
But life splintered in fragments is so hard to mend
And denying the obvious is easier, I’ve found. 

*Written for the Lipschtick poetry oracle project

The gift of the unspoken. Or, pass the C60, please…


Last time I rambled about writing as a form of therapy, but another of my favourite methods of communication is music. I’m talking specifically here about that great institution and important stepping stone in any relationship – the mix tape. For those of you too young to remember these, the basic idea was that you went through your cassette collection to find a few songs that expressed your feelings whilst simultaneously making you sound cool and attractive, spent hours painstakingly pressing play and record to transfer them all onto one blank tape, then gave it to your intended in the hope they would find you irresistible. Sometimes it even worked.

I have received a few of these in my time and recently used one as the basis for a piece I performed at Word Up!, which is always a quite excellent night out at The Forum. The tape in question is very old* so some of the younger audience members didn’t quite get all the cultural (and I use the word loosely) references but it obviously struck a chord with a fair few. In this fast-paced download age the idea of spending hours on such a project is doubtless anathema too, but for those of a certain age, the mix tape will always hold a place in our hearts.

*It was much appreciated at the time but I can best repay the giver’s generosity by preserving his dignity and reputation and never speaking his name 😉

The mix tape, a crucial weapon in the war of love.
You can say all you want without opening your mouth – it’s genius.
The effort it takes to press play, record, pause
And spend hours finding songs to further your cause – it’s precious.
As a gift, it’s unique but you must get it right
As the recipient listens in the long lonely night
To the tracks you have so carefully chosen.
It’s a labour of love but one fraught with danger as
You, the architect and re-arranger
Want so much to make a good impression.

I bear this in mind as you hand it to me
That treasured gift of a little C60;
We both know this rite of passage is key.
We’ve chatted, held hands, snogged in the back row but now
It’s time to see if our love will grow.
So I’m all anticipation
As I pull out my Walkman, excitedly press Play
Then lie back to hear the words you wanted to say.

Amy Grant – Baby Baby, is the opening track,
And it’s clear from the off yours is a well-thought out attack.
It’s saccharine, sickly but ever so sweet
As she sings of forest walks and birds that tweet –
I’ll suppress my nausea and appreciate the sentiment.
But I’m not a huge fan of Christian pop
So onto the next song I briskly hop.

More Than Words, a great song by Extreme –
This is much better, far more my scene.
Although I can’t help feeling it’s cheating a bit.
They say they can’t find the words, so they write a song,
And you haven’t done the same, just pinched it from them
But it’s one that I love, so I guess we’ll move on.
Enigma next, with their sultry sounds
The Principles of Lust they address.
Via ethereal wailing and hypnotic beat
In an attempt, I assume, to turn up the heat.
And so far, this tape is a success
But then the next track throws a sudden curve ball.

Seriously. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin?
So-called NAD music is something that you really rate
And Happy is the track of theirs I least hate,
So that’s something. But really, what world do you live in?
I’m touched that you want me to like what you like but
As love songs go it can take a hike.

Side two is where things get a little more intense
I sense from the rather more directly overt tracks. 
SaltNPepa, Let’s Talk About Sex –
Because both of us know that that’s what’s next.
Neither of us have before so we’ll each be the first
And the beauty of this is you can bring it up in verse
And not actually have to say the embarrassing words at all.
Let’s talk about it, by not talking about it.
Yes, lets.

KLF next, 3am Eternal
And I have to say, I don’t really know what this one’s doing here.
The tune’s not great and there’s very few lyrics,
Barring the repetitious and infernal one line, of course.
I’m afraid the intended message is not clear.
The same cannot be said for the two that follow.
Cream, by Prince, then a paeon to self-pleasure from the Divinyls.
I like both tunes but it’s all getting quite rude
And whilst they say that music is love’s food
This somewhat mixed buffet is becoming quite hard to swallow.
And it’s something of a relief the next song’s the final.

So here it comes, the killer track; the one where you state your case so clear.
You know I love a good power ballad and too right, it’s Bonnie’s husky tones I hear.
Ms Tyler sings of the powder keg and spark
As she bewails the total eclipse of her heart
And it’s perfect. This song’s hitting the mark;
Aside from the rather gloomy undertones, of course.
But as an outpouring of emotions, it could be worse, and I’m loving it.

Until I remember the video.
Which to be honest, creeps me right out.
A woman of a certain age, in a school full of boys
Who, rather than turn and run from the noise
Crowd round as she calls them Bright Eyes.
Which sets my thoughts on a terrible train
About rabbits dying in that sad film, Watership Down.
Then all I can think of is mixamytosis
And frankly if that’s this relationship’s prognosis,
We are clearly doomed.