Something Like Breathing

You're looking at the blog page for markgamon.com. I've dropped in and out of blogging for fifteen-odd years. Just lately I've found it more attractive than Facebook's closed loop or Twitter's transmit-only. Here, there's more room to breathe. And it's a great place to drop occasional pieces about music and songwriting. Not that I'm an expert...

Search
  • Mark Gamon

Let’s start the year with something positive.


I’ve been distracted this past year. Work. Family. House move. Virus avoidance. Consequently, it’s not been a great year for discovering new music, compounded by not being able to go to gigs.


So forgive me if I don’t have a bulging list of new releases to recommend. I’ve just the one, in fact.


I nearly missed it, to be honest. Came out in October. Maybe I was otherwise engaged at the time. Work. Family. House move. Virus avoidance. You know the sort of thing.


So when a dear friend gave me a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s Letter To You I was slow to drop it into the CD player. Didn’t actually get round to it until we went for a drive a couple of days ago. We were only going to Tesco for groceries but we ended up getting lost in the North Herts countryside to give the album time to finish.


It’s his best for years. Decades, maybe. Interestingly, some of the finest songs on here were written back in the 70s before he was signed, but forgotten about till he ran them past today’s E Street Band. Recorded as live, to devastating effect.


This is the band I fell in love with way back in the 1970s, when I walked my first daughter round the room to get her to sleep to the sound of Jungleland. This is the band I feel in love with in that apartment in Brookline, Mass, when I first heard Greetings from Asbury Park and couldn’t stop playing it, my head dizzy with lyrics tumbling over each other, packed with characters that were simultaneous familiar and mysterious. This is the band that gave me the glorious interweaving piano and organ and the slow, heartbroken release of Point Blank.


It’s all here. The finest band it’s been my privilege to have seen, fronted by music’s most intelligent writer and spellbinding performer. He’s described it as a sad album (and I defy anyone to listen to the opening track without un peu de tristesse) but it’s also everything rock and roll should be: unifying, life-affirming, cathartic, defiant.


Tears of joy. And the drums: oh god, the DRUMS.

3 views0 comments
  • Mark Gamon


It’s April 14th. Ruination Day.

I like a bit of mystery in a song. That’s why I go back, over and over again, to Gillian Welch’s Time (The Revelator). It came out 19 years ago, and it still hits me like Casey Jones’ hammer.

Especially the strange pairing at the heart of the album: April the 14th Part I and Ruination Day Part II. Two separated facets of the same story that connect like a meditation on disaster. A punk band from Idaho, out of gas with a van full of trash. The Titanic, struck by an iceberg. Okies fleeing the Black Sunday dust storm. And the Great Emancipator, taking a bullet in the back of his head.

They don’t immediately join up, these disasters. It’s only when you get to the second of the pair, three tracks later, where the rhythm becomes more ponderous, and everyone involved is five hundred miles from home, that you realise they loop: the first song opens with the same verse that closes the second.

And for a generation of admirers April 14th will always be a harbinger of ruination. It’s funny how a song (or two) can do that…

‘When the iceberg hit Oh, they must have known God moves on the water Like Casey Jones...’

23 views0 comments
  • Mark Gamon

Updated: Apr 14, 2020


Somewhat in praise of television, this. I thought it was glorious, give or take a couple of voices, when it first came out. 1997. Time flies.


It flies even further back to Lou Reed’s original. 1972. What was I doing then? Nothing I can write about here, I suspect. Both versions are perfect, as they should be.


Then, just recently, I had occasion to learn the song. Here are the chords, in concert pitch:


Intro: F Bbm x2

Verse: Bbm Eb Ab C# F# Ebm F x2

Chorus: Bb Eb Dm Eb Eb/D Eb/C Bb F Gm F Eb Gm F Eb

Inst: Gm F Eb

Coda: Dm Ab Eb Bb Dm Ab Eb Bb Dm


I know the jazzers would whizz through that but I get palpitations just thinking about it.


Then I did what any acoustic sensible guitar player does: stick on a capo. Take your pick where, according to desired pitch. Lou’s version (and the BBC one) is Capo 1.


Intro: E Am x2

Verse: Am D G C F Dm E x2

Chorus: A D Cm D A E F#m E D F#m E D

Inst: F#m E D

Coda: C#m G D A C#m G D


And suddenly you’re playing the song using all the usual suspects, give or take. Isn’t that nice?


I’m no virtuoso, but there’s one thing I’ve learnt about playing guitar: find the easy way. Lou did.


Somewhat in praise of capos too, then.

13 views1 comment