Variations on a Spotify theme…..

I found out tonight that there are over 70 versions of the Bob Dylan song ‘All along the watchtower’ on the online music service Spotify.  I sort of worry that there might soon be a ‘Watchtower radio’ channel online somewhere that plays nothing but versions of the song –  and, of course, there are songs on there with just as many if not more cover versions.

I should add that I’m quite a Spotify fan – heck, I even have a paid subscription to it – and I can’t remember the last time I popped a CD on when working – I just go to Spotify and play my choons from there.  Every now and again I search out a particular favourite of mine and see what other versions are around – there are usually a few that I’ve not heard before – and after you prune away the Karaoke versions it can be quite an interesting musical experience to listen to a few in succession.

I find it a good way of finding new artists that I might like. By listening to cover versions of music that I like in the original, it removes a variable from the complicated equation of ‘do I like this band / artist?’  If I already like the song, it comes down to what they’ve done with it. A good example of this was when I came across a cover version of Neil Young’s ‘Like a Hurricane’ done by the Dave Matthew’s Band – I liked what I heard and became a fan of the latter based on what they did to the Neil Young classic.

What was I looking for when I was searching through covers of ‘All Along the Watchtower’?  Well, fans of the TV series Battlestar Galactica will recollect that a very ‘arabesque’ influenced version of this tune had a very significant role in the series, and apart from that it was a bloody good version.  We’re getting there – a recent addition to the lists was a cover by Dominik Hauser and Tim Russ and that was pretty damn close!

And should you ever want a version of Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ as played by a string quartet, I point you here… 


Johnny Cash and me.

An early memory of mine is listening to my Uncle Idris play Johnny Cash songs on his guitar.  Particularly he did a great rendition of ‘Ring of Fire’, though without the Mexican trumpets, Mexican trumpeters being singularly rare in the town of Warsop in the 1960s. Back then, Cash was a big name, although I’m not sure that he was ‘cool’ – more mainstream.  And he became more known for his novelty songs like ‘A Boy named Sue’ and ‘One Piece at a Time’, and his TV show, than his more straight forward country / rockabilly songs.

Figuratively speaking, Johnny Cash wandered in and out of my life over the years; he showed up as a murderous singer in Columbo; I’d see his name on the credits of various TV shows and films and also became aware of his conversion to Christianity and his near constant battles with drug addiction.  I admired the guy; in attitude he reminded me of people like Neil Young – ‘not bothered what you think of me, I’m just going to do my music’ – in appearance he vaguely reminded me of some North American Indian version of my own father and uncles.

I loved his appearance in ‘The Simpsons’ episode ‘The mysterious voyage of Homer’, where, under the influence of “The Merciless Peppers of Quetzlzacatenango! Grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum” Homer undergoes a spiritually rich hallucination in which Cash play’s his spirit guide, a coyote. By now I’d grabbed a few CDs of his music, and also read his biography, particularly intrigued by his conversion to Christianity and his claim that he was still one of the biggest sinners he knew.

With the ‘American’ recordings, he became something of a cool icon – the black dress, the  sparse musical performances – especially with the cover he did of the NiN song ‘Hurt’.  Even now, it’s a song that reduces me to tears.

This was around the time that I started taking a more serious interest in my own spirituality, a process that eventually led to my being confirmed in to the Church of England a few years later.  I started looking at Cash’s back catalogue – his spiritual songs, gospel music – and also finding out more about his life.  He was definitely no angel – but he was a man who was honest with himself and others – what you saw was indeed what you got, warts and all.  ‘Hurt’ is indeed his epitaph, but I often think that the lyrics to the U2 song ‘The Wanderer’ – which Cash sang for the band – sum his journey up:

I went out there
In search of experience
To taste and to touch
And to feel as much
As a man can
Before he repents

And as he put it in his own song ‘Man in Black’:

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen’ that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin’ everywhere you go,
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything’s OK,
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.

Shortly after my own confirmation, I was asked to think about my own journey to Christ, and who influenced me on the way.  Three names popped up – my Aunty Harriet, CS Lewis, and Johnny Cash.


Last tango in Sheffield…

It’s safe to say that I do not have a body built for dance – well, unless you count the thing they do in Lederhosen that involves bumping bottoms and slapping thighs and faces as dancing. 

I have slightly flat feet, dodgy knees and no sense of coordination.  I don’t dance like my dad – it’s way worse than that!  If I were a horse I’d have been led out behind the barn and turned into ‘Fido’s Juicy Morsels’ years ago.

But….I like tango music!  I think that if I were ever granted a wish to be able to dance ONE formal dance well, it would be the Tango. 

I suppose I should blame Tom Lehrer….I think my interest started from hearing Mr Lehrer’s excellent Masochism Tango.   I mean – how can one resist a song with lyrics like:

At your command before you here I stand
My heart is in my hand – yecch 

that was written in the 1950s, pre-dating the Goth kids by four decades…. 

I think the next time I came across the Tango was performed by Gomez and Morticia Addams in ‘Addams Family Values’.  Again – excellent!

There’s a line in ‘Scent of a Woman’ (see below) where Gabrielle Anwar’s character says that she wanted to learn the dance but that her boyfriend thought that the Tango was ‘hysterical’.  I think I see where he was coming from – it is so mannered and passionate that to some people it may appear as overly emotional – hysterical – or quite amusing. 

Which brings me to my next exhibit…

I think the thing that finally got me ‘hooked’ on the music was the scene in the movie ‘Scent of a Woman’ where Al Pacino, playing a blind, retired military officer dances a tango with Gabrielle Anwar.  It’s a great scene for all sorts of reasons – take a look at it here and enjoy – and there’s a couple of good quotes in there, especially ‘Some people live a lifetime in a minute’.

The dance is a great affirmation of life and passion; a few minutes searching on YouTube will reveal quite a few videos of excellent dancing, and a similar period of time searching Spotify or any other online music resource will reveal a large amount of music, both traditional Tango and modern combinations of Tango and Electronica, like that produced by ‘The Gotan Project’.

For the purists, the Tango referred to above is the ‘Argentine Tango’ which is less formalised and structured than the ‘Ballroom Tango’.  I may not be able to dance it, but I can enjoy it!  Funnily enough, within a few days of me starting to write this piece I came across two of my friends who were expressing an interest in learning the Tango, and heard that a bar in Sheffield might be running lessons. 

Maybe I should go along to watch…

Chasing Cars

‘Chasing Cars’ is the name of a song by the band ‘Snow Patrol’.  I quite like it – I’m a sucker for sad songs and this is a fine example of the genre.  However, it has a little bit of ‘back story’.  According to Wikipedia:

“The phrase “Chasing Cars” came from [singer Gary ] Lightbody’s father, in reference to a girl Lightbody was infatuated with, “You’re like a dog chasing a car. You’ll never catch it and you just wouldn’t know what to do with it if you did.”

That phrase has stuck with me, and I have to say that over recent months I’ve been considering more and more how much time we all spend ‘chasing cars’ in our lives.  I’m currently going through one of those times in my life of what can best be described as ‘internal reflection’ (Some unkind folks might call it ‘loafing’ or ‘contemplating my navel’; I’m not listening… 🙂 ) and I guess that some of what’s going through my head right now is a product of that.

What cars do I chase?  Well, I suppose over the years I’ve been a good starter and not so good finisher; ideas are very cheap – I was saying this to a group of start-up people recently – and what counts is implementing those ideas in a form that makes them usable.  If it’s an idea for a business, build a business that’s making money; if for a novel, a written manuscript; if for a cunning invention – a working prototype.  I’ve had a few opportunities over the years that have been very close to what most folks would have called ‘big hitting success’ but that didn’t come to fruition.  On a few occasions I’ve definitely considered that, rather than being afraid of failing, I’ve previously been much more afraid of success.

For quite a few opportunity-filled years I was, looking back on it, chasing cars; had I managed to get what I was allegedly going for I’m not sure I’d have known what to do with it.  Were the same opportunities to present themselves today, I can say two things; I’d give them a rather closer going over to make sure that I really DID want to chase ’em, and then when I’d made the decision I’d get out there yapping and barking until I caught ’em.

The trick is to know WHY you’re chasing your ideas and projects; what are you wanting to get from them?  Money? Fame? Success with women / men / small dogs?  Free food and drink at your local pub?  Or do you just want to contribute to society?  Grow spiritually? Help out folks less fortunate than yourself? Get your own back on folks who upset you at school?

Don’t let yourself chase cars in your life without being reasonably sure you’ll know what to do if you manage to catch the object of your desire; I’ve been there and it’s a bloody waste of time if you’re not sure!

The end of 6 Music

So, the BBC are going to close down 6 Music – which will be a great shame as it’s one of the few stations around that play a good mix of contemporary and past music, AND also has presenters that are knowledgeable about music and that have a love and passion for it.  Which is rare in this day and age of pre-packaged poppets of either sex whose main claim to fame is that they’re currently ‘in the public eye’ because of who they’re seen with or where they’re seen.

The cuts announced by Mark Thompson to the Corporation’s 3.5 billion budget may be politically motivated or commercially motivated, depending upon who you listen to.  They may be a ‘stalking horse’ to try and coax the Government to give the BBC more money, and won’t be pushed through.  They may be designed to soften up  the public to make them willing to take higher license fees to keep services.  there are any number of possible reasons floating around the blogosphere right now, as well as the stated reason of focusing the BBC’s resources on what are called ‘core functions’.

I’m not going to get in to the other aspects of the restructuring; I’m just going to focus on 6 Music and try and bring it’s cost in to perspective.  It costs about £9 million a year to keep it running, and there are some useful comparisons of ‘cost per listener’ of the BBC’s digital stations here.  In terms of pure cost per listener, Radio 1 Xtra and the Asian Network cost considerably more.

£9 million is a little over half the cost of the original (ending in July 2010) deal with Jonathan Ross for his services to the BBC – £17 millions over 3 years.  Graham Norton has just signed a 2 year deal with the BBC for a total of £4 millions. Thompson’s salary £800,000 a year.  Take the opportunity to read around about the expenses culture at the BBC – again, you’ll find that an awful lot of license fee seems to be spent on things a long way away from the provision of programmes.

The cost of  6 Music is small fry for the BBC – it’s a bout 0.0002% of the total budget of 3 odd billion.  It’s almost a rounding error in the BBC’s scheme of things.  To cut the services will do the BBC no good at all.  It’s such a fundamental misjudgement that I am starting to wonder whether the ‘conspiracy theorists’ are right and we may soon be told by Thompson that it was all a mistake and that 6 radio will not be scrapped after all.  A lot of the listenership of 6 Music is vociferous and media-savvy; there are many alternative media sources available for people today.  The BBC’s repeated treatment of licence payers as a cash cow that need not be listened to can only go on for so long before a backlash starts, and this round of changes might just be the thing to do it.

RATM vs X-Factor – Corporate Music Win!

moneyThere’s a lovely comment in the movie ‘Con Air’ in which the character Garland Greene, a psychopath played by Steve Buscemi, watches the inmates on a prison transport plane celebrate their take over of the aircraft by having a mid-flight party to the song  ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd.  This encourages him to define irony as:

Bunch of idiots dancing on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash.

Now, for those of you who’ve spent the last few weeks slumbering in a deep, dark cave in the Outer Hebrides (or who’re outside the UK and so don’t get exposed to this sort of rubbish) there’s a TV show called ‘The X-Factor’ – a sort of ‘talent show’  for wannabe celebs – that was this year won by a young chap called Joe Mcelderry.  The tradition in recent years has been that show’s impresario Simon Cowell would take the winner under his capacious wing,  get him / her a deal with his recond company (part of Sony BMG), and, usually, grab the UK Christmas Number One Chart Spot (a place in musical history usually occupied by such rock and roll phenomena as children’s choirs and Mr Blobby.

With me so far?  Well, this year a bunch of radical, anti-corporate rock fans decided to set up a campaign to ensure that whoever won the X-factor wouldn’t be getting the Christmas Number One slot.  The group – here – decided that the tune to do the job would be Rage Against The Machine’s 90s hit ‘Killing in the name of’. 

Sounds good in principle, yes?  People power overturning the desires of a Corporate Media Monster like Simon Cowell?  Evil vanquished by the marvels of Facebook?  The chart returned to ‘real rock for real people’?

Here’s where the ironic reality check comes in.  It’s quite rich…

  1. The whole business has kept Mcelderry, X-Factor and Cowell being talked about.  This typically equates to money, promotion and PR opportunities.
  2. Both Simon Cowell and RATM are part of the Sony Behemoth.  Sony will get wealthier whatever happens.
  3. Mcelderry was given a dire song this year – the sales of the song would probably have been less had the campaign not taken place.  It might be that the campaign has actually boosted Cowell’s earnings directly as well as indirectly via the Sony connection.
  4. It’s great that £77,000 has been raised for Shelter, and RATM have promised a proportion of the profits will also go to charity.  However, another runner in the Christmas Number 1 race this year was Peter Kay’s novelty record for the BBC Children In Need, which had managed to raise £170,000 for children’s charities by December 9th without all this palaver.  Maybe….the effort could have been put behind this song?
  5. There’s a delicious irony in the choice of a song that is probably most famous for the refrain ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’ being used in a campaign where people are….told to buy the song.  And as for choosing a band who ‘rage against the machine’ whilst being on a multi-national corporate label like Sony – irony meter just hit max. 

Whilst it’s been quite an achievement to get the chart manipulated in this way – and whether folks want to hear that phrase or not, that’s what it is – if the aim was to poke Cowell, X-Factor and corporate musical pap in the eye then I’m sure that Cowell, the X-factor team and Sony BMG are smarting with discomfort all the way to the bank.

I’m just going to put Sweet Home Alabama on and have a boogie around the kitchen….

In Praise of Drummers

mattheldersThere’s an old joke amongst musicians – ‘What do you call someone who hangs around on stage with musicians?’ The punchline? ‘A drummer.’ Well, I like drummers – most of them, anyway. I think that the first drummer that I became really aware of as a personality within a band was Charlie Watts of ‘The Rolling Stones’ . To start with he always appeared older than everyone else there, and looked more like an accountant who’d accidentally found himself sitting behind the drum kit. But by gum, he could drum! And as the rest of the band age, Charlie barely seems to alter. When his colleagues find themselves in the glare of publicity, Charlie stays behind the scenes. Solid. Reliable. Literally a safe pair of hands. And that’s how I regard drummers. There are exceptions to this rule – Keith Moon being the obvious one – but let me run with this!

When I went to University, I remember the death of John Bonham being announced on the radio. It was quite a surprise to me and I think it was possibly one of the few ‘Kennedy’ moments I’d had in my life up to that point – you know, those times when you can remember where you were and what you were doing when a particular news item breaks. The opening drumming of ‘Rock and Roll’ is quite something.

I suppose the thing that bought this train of thought to mind this morning was reading a review of a gig I attended a week or so ago – The Arctic Monkeys here in Sheffield. Specific mention was made of Matt Helders, the drummer, even to the degree of comparing him to Bonham. For me Matt pins together the whole Monkeys sound. Forget the pretty boy front-man Mr Turner – he may be talented but Matt is the Man.  Solid, tight, disciplined and delivering the beat that everything else hangs from. Exactly what you want from a drummer.  Whatever else happens with the Arctics, Matt will be kepeing it ‘High Green Real’.

My other favourite contemporary(ish) drummer is Sean Moore from the Manic Street Preachers.  Sean was always the ‘forgotten Manic’ but he was absolutely critical to the sound. The drumming on ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’ is up there with the best – brilliant.

I’d also say that one of the best tests of a sound system and the acoustics in a gig venue is what it does with a good, crisp, drum set.   Is there a ringing noise just audible around the drums? Does it sound ‘mushy’? Does it break up or even start forcing feedback? If so, the chances are that the drum kit isn’t miked correctly or the sound system isn’t set up correctly; if the latter then the chances are strong that the rest of the band isn’t sounding it’s best either.

Of course, I couldn’t write about drummers without mentioning Phil Collins. And having mentioned him, I will move swiftly on…. Oh, and while I remember…no 12 minute drum solos!

Death of a celebrity

This weekend the singer Stephen Gately died at his residence in Majorca.  At the time of writing, the cause of death is unknown but suicide,  foul play and drugs abuse are not being suggested.  I was provoked in to making this post by the reaction to the death that I noticed from various friends and acquaintances who took teh death quite hard but who also commented on the ‘gallows humour’ and apparent indifference of people to the fellow’s passing.

Mr Gately was clearly well loved by friends, family and fans.  I have to say that he meant little to me – a passing aquaintance with his name on the news – but unfortunately those who live as celebs must die as celebs, and part of that is the sick jokes marking their passing.  Since the widespread uptake of email, and especially since the web, this sort of humour has followed celebrity death as quickly and inexorably as paparazzi photographers and ambulance chasing lawyers.  Before electronic media, one at least had to wait for the jokes to appear in the newspapers / magazines or be passed from people who’d heard them from a friend who in turn heard them from a guy who knew the gardener of the dead celeb.

It’s rarely anything personal – it’s a coping mechanism, perhaps some of the milder jokes even provide the 21st Century version of marking the death of someone by printing the borders of the newspapers in black.  As some of you will know I was Admin on Sheffield Forum for a couple of years.  How to handle posted ‘dead person humour’ was an ongoing problem.  I used to apply the rule of 24 – within the first 24 hours it’s not nice – after that, it happens.  It may not be nice but it’s a byproduct of being in the celebrity food chain.  When you stop swimming in the media seas, your body sinks and the local bottom dwellers come and dismember the body, so to say….

One comment made stuck with me; imagine going to bed at 33 years old and not waking up.  When I was a kid I lost a friend who died at age 11.  As a younger man I lost a friend who died at 21.  Every morning in the developing world people in their 30s don’t wake up because they’ve died in the night of malnutrition, AIDS, Malaria, Cholera.  At the risk of sounding callous, I’m afraid that death is not the preserve of the poor, the sick, the elderley and the nobodies in the world.  It’s pretty Catholic in it’s tastes and can strike out at anyone – not just people who immediately surround us, and those of our modern pantheon of celebrities that our media choose to inform us are worthy of dying publically.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not hypocritical enough to comment that I feel the death of total strangers in the developing world at all in my life – I don’t – but neither am I willing to go to serious grief over a celebrity who I didn’t know from Adam and who doesn’t even know I personally exist, except as part of a demographic.

I’m willing to admit to being sad at the deaths of three celebs in particular – John Peel, Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash.  I grew up with their music playing an important part of my life to varying degrees, so can empathise with people who’ve felt the loss of Mr Gatley as a figure in their musical upbringing – and especially those who’ve actually met the fellow.  Whilst we can all reflect on John Donne’s words about ‘ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you’  it’s worth also reflecting on whether your feelings are genuinely inspired by the death, or inspired by the media scrum surrounding the death suggesting how we should feel.

`Viva la Vida` – `All Along The Watchtower` for 2008?

The perennial question of ‘What the heck is that all about?’ with regard to the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ was kicked off last year when a haunting version of the song by Bear McCreary was used in the season finale of ‘Battlestar Galactica’.  The brooding, beat-driven, almost trancelike music provided a stunningly effective counterpoint to the unfolding action of the last 15 minutes of the episode.

The dense, occasionally apocalyptic imagery of the lyrics of the song, drawing as they do on at least two archetypes – the Trickster and the King – provide a Rorschach Test for the listener; to a great degree you can project in to the song whatever floats your subconcious boat. 

And so to Coldplay, and Viva La Vida.  I wasn’t a great Coldplay fan – I actually admitted to my wife that I got them mixed up with Radiohead.  For me, hipness is simply where my legs pivot. 🙂  But I caught a snatch of the song on an iTunes advert and thought – that sounds interesting….if weird….  One swift trip to HMV later – sorry guys, I’m not techie enough to manage this downloading tomfoolery – I like polycarbonate! – and I had a good listen to the album…which I enjoyed greatly.

And so to this song…it clearly seems to have triggered a lot of thought and analysis in people.  There are a number of versions of the lyrics on the lyric sites online – most of them (to my 47 year old ears) seem reasonably accurate.  Google is your friend here…anyway:

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can’t explain
Once you go there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Again – a lot of imagery of which a great deal is religious and obviously historical.  A few theories propounded on the Internet have suggested that it’s an allegorical reference to the Bush Whitehouse, or the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon.

My immediate thoughts on this song were that it was pretty much something to do with Roman period Jerusalem (nothing complicated there!), and I started contemplating events that would fit.  Now, as regular readers will have realised, I’m very interested in Pontius Pilate (see my short review of ‘The Master and Margarita’), and after a few minutes thinking I got quite convinced that the song was referring to Pilate.

I felt rather smug at this point, did a Google and found this link – – which indicated that a chap from London had come to the same conclusion a couple of weeks previously. Anyway – in addition to the comments that are made in the link, here are a few more thoughts.

One thing about Pilate is that he’s a very anonymous person in historical terms; there’s a great deal of speculation and mythology around him, and so my analysis here draws on that.

“Viva la Vida” – a VERY loose translation might be ‘Live Forever’, reflecting one version of the myth that states that Pilate, like the Wandering Jew, was damned to live forever as punishment for his act of cowardice.

“Roman Cavalry…” – Pilate was a member of the Equestrian class of Roman Society – a sort of lower rank Patrician – and in his duties in Jerusalem he would have commanded only a few hundred troops – probably light cavalry and auxilliaries, akin to a police force.  Bulgakov, in his novel, certainly took the view that Pilate would have had light horsemen available to him that were deployed at the Crucifixion.

“See fear in my enemies eyes…” – Pilate’s military career isn’t clear; it’s likely he spent at least some time as a soldier.  Again, in fiction Pilate is regarded as having been a military officer.

“Rolled the dice…” – this may refer to the Biblical reference where soldiers played dice at the crucifixion for Christ’s belongings.  However, I think it’s more likely that it refers to the game of ‘Basileus’ – a dice game something like Ludo which was popular amongst the troops AND was played by the troops in Jerusalem – there is evidence in the form of a game board cut in to stone in the vicinity of the palace.  The aim of the game was to become king, and the winner might easily be dressed as a mock king as part of the game – this could refer to the ritual humiliation of Christ at his hearing with Pilate as described in Matthew 27.

“held the key…” – Pilate did indeed hold the key to what happened to Christ; Bulgakov hints in his novel that Pilate was tempted to try and free Christ and have him accompany him to his own home. 

“Seas rose at my command”… OK…a bit of a stretch but…Pilate carried out civil engineering projects in his reign, one of which was a viaduct project to improve the water supply of Jerusalem by carrying water from elsewhere.  Another possible hint is again part of the eternal fate of Pilate according to myth – that after his death the waters and land of the Earth would not hold his body – the seas could be regarded as having risen and rejected him.

“castles built on pillars of salt and sand” – someone with a viewpoint of eternity would regard the things that were important during his life to be ephemeral in the great scheme of things.  Again, another Biblical reference here is to the Sermon on the Mount.

“puppet on a lonely string” – Pilate was a Governing official of limited real power – not quite a puppet, but restrained in his ability to do his job by the Empire and local Jerusalem politics.  However, it could also be read as him being a puppet of fate; the Crucifixion is the defining moment in Christianity – Pilate’s actions might therefore be regarded as pre-ordained and out of his control.  A true puppet of destiny.

So….my personal interpretation!

I wonder if discussions will be taking place about it in 40 years time like with ‘All Along The Watchtower’?


Jeff Healey – Like a Hurricane

Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey died this week, losing a battle against cancer.  I have to say that he’s a musician that I’ve heard occasionally and really enjoyed.  He was younger than me when he died – something that always brings me up short.

Tonight on the Bob Harris show ( Jeff’s version of Neil Young’s ‘Like a Hurricane’ – quite a brilliant version of a classic song.  Thanks Jeff!

I have a definite weakness for this particular Neil Young song. (  It goes back to my student days when I was introduced to Neil Young by a housemate, who referred to the heavy electric version on ‘Live Rust’ as ‘Like a Steamroller’ – a phrase that I remember and occasionally use to this day, almost 30 years later.

Like a Hurricane is definitely one of my favourite love songs – I think I’ve found a new favourite version tonight!