Is it possible? A time-capsule back to the town where so much happened.
   Back to those digs in Trinity Place, where the church opposite would wake me every Sunday morning with its bells clanging in my hungover head, skull full of the boulders of Tanybwlch storm beach shifting back and fore behind my throbbing eyeballs.
   Back to the short walk every teatime to the nearby caff, just a few of us from the digs. Lads from the north of England mostly and one I recall especially.
   He was learning Welsh and spoke the language with a broad Yorkshire accent. In the cafe, he'd ask for - ' Cwpaned o de, os gwelwch yn dda!' to our great mirth.
   He was certainly a 'character'. Any unusual food at the digs ( and most seemed strange to him) and he'd ask us dead-pan, things like - 'Can leeks kill you then?'
   Looking back, he put us all to shame with his desire to learn the language. He soon moved out to Pantycelyn and joined the many protests of Cymdeithas yr Iaith. The last thing I heard about him, he'd been arrested and was up in Court despite his tentative grasp of Cymraeg.
   Yet.......the time-capsule is one song. The song I invariably put on that cafe's juke-box every time.

   A few weeks ago on a Saturday evening with nothing on television, my wife and I indulged in pure nostalgia by watching the 'Best of Top of the Pops'.
   There, amongst the predictable Glam and Soul offerings, was Rod Stewart and The Faces. Neither of us were fans of his, but I was gripped by his hamming performance of 'Maggie May'. John Peel had joined him in the studio to 'play' mandolin (miming very unconvincingly) and send up the whole show.
   Peel, of course, was a fan of Stewart and while I always liked certain songs, his finest and most lasting is undoubtedly the one he sang before any fame came along, namely Python Lee Jackson's 'In A Broken Dream'.
   I downloaded it expecting to be disillusioned. Time would surely have eroded its impact and made it a statement of the 70s, battered and faded.
   But no, it was as fresh as ever. Stewart's rough-hewn voice like Consti's rock-face, the guitar soaring high like a red kite over Heol Nanteos and the organ solo like waves smashing against the prom and stone jetty.
    The song still has everything. It evokes that sad elation so fundamental to great rock songs : at one moment it's defiant with 'Don't push your love too far', while at another it's self-pitying , 'I sit here in my lonely room'.
   It has a real sense of mystery : it is somehow never finished, like the monument on Pen Dinas or Aber's half-pier.
   It's about a writer who has lost out in love ( 'Paper cries, tellin' lies'), and the way he sings 'Drinkin' wine, feelin' fine' we just can't believe him.
   Because the moods of the song change so radically it would not work as a poem, yet as lyrics it transcends even a tendency to cliche.
   This song, more than any other, represents my undergraduate years at Aberystwyth. I could empathize with the writer and his struggle 'to find a sign'.
   Yet is it vital to me now simply because it makes my memories vivid, or could it still be relevant?
   Like all the best songs it combines powerful emotions, unique vocals, mind-winging instrumentals and thought-provoking lyrics. Above all, the title and refrain is so suggestive. It seems to crystallize those times when the idealism of the hippies was beginning to look jaded.
   'In a broken dream' symbolizes our times as well. For many (though not, it must be emphasized, in the Valleys) there has been boom and optimism which is falling apart.
   We're living in days of broken dreams and, like the character in the song, we move between very different responses and sometimes, we want to just give up - 'I don't care if I ever know'.
   There are few songs which can bridge past and present like this one and, though it calls me home, it speaks equally eloquently about today.



                                Calling Me Home



‘Raaaaaaaah – Boh!’
‘Raaaaaaaah -  Boh!’
calling me back,
calling me home.

At first I’d thought
it was a stray footie chant
reaching from the building site
through a slit-open window.

Then I was on the estate
contouring Pen Dinas
as horse and cart
clattered round collecting.

I was a child again
running behind the gypsy man,
with his clutter of metal
rattling like tins of Meccano.

I translate the years:
the tinkers, the didicoys
all around our village,
another Heol, another hillside.

Call of an extinct bird
as the white van pulls in –
‘Any junk?’ asks the man,
dragging a discarded drier.

‘Raaaaaaaah- Boh!’
‘Raaaaaaaah – Boh!’
a sad scat, a blues wail,
wind-bird blowing me home.

 


Comments

09/28/2013 02:58

Interesting read.

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