Only Lyrically

Tag: grunge


Before Diwata invited me to join her and her friends up north, I was listening almost non-stop to numerous versions of Waters Of March and other songs that had ‘water’ in them. Moonrivers, Wave Of Mutilations, I Melt With Yous, Bridge Over Troubled Waters – you get the drift. These songs made up pretty much my entire December working playlist. Therefore, they were the same songs that bridged my last two journeys – the southern one and the northern one.

I don’t know – there’s something in the groove of those songs that somehow echo the laid back air of the shores, and hearing them gave me the feeling that I am ever on my way to the next place. I may be sitting here, now, but I am actually on the move. Or something like that.

When the holidays set on, for the first time, I did not play much carols. The songs I mentioned would not let go. They even invited more songs, journey songs, songs that had something to do with ‘place’ and ‘roads’ and ‘movement’ – which was what had me singing I Am The Highway for the most part of the holidays –

especially since the song sounds even more potent if you imagine it’s God speaking in the chorus. Try it: you take the verses, and let Him take the chorus – it becomes one little weird dialogue. You get to be reminded that there’s just no running away from Him.

Yeah, maybe it was meant to be a dialogue. Maybe those ‘pearls’ and ‘swine’ references were actually biblical. And didn’t the song open with an organ? Musicians have so often employed the use of an organ, which is a church instrument, to connote spirituality.

Well, actually, I don’t know what the hell those Audioslave boys intended. All I know is it made me shed geeky, guilty tears to be imagining that God was nagging me through Chris Cornell’s tough voice, “I am not your carpet ride, I am the sky!”

During the New Year, I happened to see Great Expectations again after so many years. In one of the scenes, where a heartbroken Finn walks the streets (?), a song sung by Cornell was played. It was familiar but I could not recall the title. I felt it a hassle to ask my host to open her computer just so I could Google the lyrics and find out what the title of the song was. I had to wait until the holidays were over and I got back to this desk to finally find out: Sunshower. God will finally get a break from tough-loving me through I Am The Highway, I thought – there’s a new song for comfort.

* * *

On the long road to the north, I remembered a few more road songs – A Horse With No Name by America and Everybody’s Talkin’ by Harry Nilsson.

A Horse With No Name made its real impact on me ages ago, when I heard it played in Hideous Kinky, over the montage where the character of Kate Winslett and her daughter were hitchhiking their way through Morocco to reach the Sufis – meeting strange fellow hitchhikers, stopping on the side of the road as their Moslem drivers prayed, watching the desert landscape unfold before them as they moved on.

This is the best clip I could find with the montage – you will have to wait quite long to get to the song, and the montage is even cut, but if only to give you a glimpse, here –

As for Everybody’s Talkin’, the song was originally performed by Harry Nilsson, off the film Midnight Cowboy. For the longest time, again, when I still worked back in the courthouse, one of the songs that got me through was that song. It was anthemic and it suited my needs – it spoke of not fitting in, and going away where one could belong. That time, I was always in the look-out for such songs.

I preferred playing it rather than listening to Nilsson, though. I just was not so much into its original country feel. I had never been into country. Folk I love, but not country. So, if only to keep hearing the song whenever I wished, I learned the chords and figured out how to play it without the country bouncy feel. I chose a more feminine key, and sang it. I used to sing it daily on my way to my rotten bundy clock enemy –

until Borat came out and made a travesty of it. :/

I shall never be providing a clip of that.

Actually, I loved the sick hilarity of Borat. I was achingly laughing out through the movie – until they dared play my anthem, my comfort, over some scene where Borat was cruising the New York streets for a score, to spoof Midnight Cowboy. I stopped laughing at that point.

I kept a grudge against the movie because of that Everybody’s Talkin’ desecration. Since seeing that scene, all I could remember, whenever I heard or thought about the song, is Borat. In that idiotically stretched underwear. It couldn’t be helped – soon I was asking myself whether my misery, salved by the song, can actually just be equated to the perversions of Borat. It wasn’t fair, eh?

When I got back from the north, during the short work period between my Christmas and New Year break, I sought the two songs. In the process, I came across Madeleine Peyroux’s take of Everybody’s Talkin’

and just like that, all my Borat grudge was washed away. It never occurred to me that the song could be given a jazzed up arrangement. Before I knew it, I was already checking out her discography, and found out that she also sang Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen songs. And that she wrote songs too. And that she played the guitar –

Peyroux, referred to by some as Billie Holiday on hi-fi, is highly noted for her choices of song to cover, when she covers. Fleshing out the Leonard Cohen-penned Half The Perfect World, she sings –

“On that fundamental ground

where love’s unwilled, unleashed, unbound

and half the perfect world is found”

Now if I could only write like that. I can’t be just stumbling upon lines like that, and they won’t just come to me, too.

* * *

And just as I have been carried by songs to and fro, I heard something from the bus very recently that took quite a challenge to catch –

All I knew of the song is its melody. And that it’s quite old, maybe from the late seventies. I could hum it in perfect pitch, but I could not make out much of the lyrics. Which made it virtually impossible for me to Google for its name.

I typed the words as I heard them – “sentimental” “flowing through my life again” “fourteen” “’cause there may come a time”.

Nothing came out, because as I found out later, I did not hear accurately the few that I heard. But I had to work on what I got in hand, which brought me to try various possible combinations of that set. Remove the quotes, add the plus sign between the phrases, place ‘lyrics’ upfront. Didn’t work.

I even went as far as singing those words to my fellow writers, who are all practically still kids, and were all still likely unborn when the song probably came out. They either just laughed me off or gave me the look.

I kept typing combinations, though, the song was too good for me to give up. At last, I stumbled upon a search page which had in bold most of the words that I typed. I’ve forgotten the exact combination I typed. All I can remember is that when I sang the words from the link that I found, they all perfectly fit in the melody. I got the song, finally! Next goal, to play it.

It’s one happy song. I could stay in it for a while:




Hells and Chris Cornell

When I still worked for the government, for the longest time, the only real highlight of my day was playing some music before I march off to the courthouse, wrestling my way through the morning slaves rush and racing to beat the demon bundy clock. I was way younger then, and angry about the fact that, in a way (and as a family member once shamefully pointed out) I was prostituting myself. It actually did feel like I was selling myself cheap, and so my every day felt like hell.

Everyday, I felt like leaving a hell for another hell.

It would be no surprise then if you’d hear me playing Rusty Cage loud enough to be heard in the bathroom, and possibly in the bathroom of neighbors too, every blessed day. Nobody ever complained, surprisingly. You’d think everybody else felt hellish every morning and that just maybe, they found comfort in hearing Chris Cornell echo their pent up lamentations. I found great comfort in hearing Chris Cornell growl out my lamentations.

One day – very early in November, about five or six years ago, I am absolutely sure it was a November because I could remember my dread of the traffic brought by the opening of the second semester of classes that day – a Chris Cornell song saw me not only through one of my hellish mornings but through real, life-threatening danger.

As usual, I was about to be late again for work. It was much harder getting up from bed around those times already because it was getting colder and colder. It felt much better to just stay in bed and lie in a fetal position, hiding beneath the sheets. I guess it was around that time when I first adopted the expression “gisingin n’yo na lang ako ‘pag pasko na!”

And as usual, my mother was yelling her staple “mag-resign ka na lang kung ayaw mo nang pumasok” morning mantra. She found me the job, it was understandable if she resented my growing disinterest on it. The thing is, that mantra never worked. Everytime I heard it, my bones all the more did not feel like budging.

I had to again drag myself through the routine: rise, turn on music, brush teeth, bath, wear uniform, drink warm water, turn off music, go. But that day, as I was about to turn off the radio (fixed on NU 107 most of the time), I heard the strains of a classical tune.

I instantly recognized it: Schubert’s Ave Maria. I turned up the volume, thinking, “why is this station playing a classical piece?”

Then, I heard Chris Cornell’s voice. “Chris Cornell is singing Ave Maria!” I exclaimed. Of course my mother did not care, all she wanted was that I beat the bundy clock, she had to exclaim back at me, “late ka na!”

But I couldn’t move. I crouched in front of that aged speaker. I was transfixed. I wanted to cry. I did not want the song to end. I did not feel like going anywhere. I just wanted to keep listening.

Of course the song had to end. And of course I knew I was already late. I did not care. I walked on still hearing the song in my head.

I took the endmost seat in the jeep that I rode, and slouched. I held my head, I wanted to sleep. I saw that I even did not care to fully button up the blouse of my uniform – anyway, I had an inner shirt – I looked like I just got up from bed, real pathetic, I thought.

I also noticed a young man, even smaller than me and also looking like he just got up from bed, insisting to ride our jeep despite it being fully packed already. I remember saying to myself upon seeing him, something like “mukhang holdaper ‘tong lokong ‘to”.

He was.

He rode the jeep as it stopped in front of U.S.T. He shoved his ass right in the very little space there still was between me and the passenger next to me. As we neared Isetann Recto, and as he pulled out from his back pocket what was probably the longest fan knife I ever saw in my life, he announced the hold-up.

“O, ‘wag na kayong papalag,” he said, or something like that, probably to address the men also in our jeep. I remember we had a lot of them during the ride, all dressed in office garb too. They all did as that little, pathetic looking guy said. Not one man moved.

Even before I saw the knife in all its unfurled, deadly glory, I was already shaking as I saw him reach for his back pocket. I was expecting him to point it to me, after all I was just next to him, and he got me cornered against the end railings. Instead, he pointed the knife to the two teen-aged looking girls who also rode in U.S.T. The girls were holding their cellphones out in the open. Apparently, the guy followed them. They handed their phones without resistance, then the guy ran off.

Here’s the part where I’d assert that it didn’t matter that I looked like a slouched, pathetic loser who had nothing anyway, and that it didn’t matter that those teeners foolishly held their fancy phones in the open – I believed I was spared from danger because I heard Chris Cornell sing Ave Maria, giving the song due respect as I refused to go until it was finished. I was blessed through the song, I thought.

Maybe. Yes, it was just a song. Maybe I would’ve not gotten to share the ride with the hold-upper in the first place had I just gone quickly through the god-forsaken routines and left the song. I really don’t know.

It felt as if my knees wanted to give way as I alighted from the jeep and walked all the way past the giant Manila City Hall clock, all the way to the bundy clock awaiting me. I was still in one piece alright, and the entire piece trembled. In disbelief. In awe.

Things are much better now. There still are hells, seasonal ones, for which I still need the necessary re-assurance. Lately, over the holidays, I saw Great Expectations again after a very long while, and was directed to a song I have forgotten all these years – Sunshower. It’s no hell song, though. That one deserves a new, clean sheet.