Sunday, 22 April 2012

apolla: (Lynott)

Today I decided that I was going to post something I really love. Not sure what, I headed to my iTunes to check out my 'Top 25 Most Played' list.

Some/quite a lot of what's on the list is there because they're songs I performed myself at one gig or another so listened to them a lot to rehearse/practice. Some of what's on there is because it's the Usual Suspects, those spectacularly talented people whose music grabbed me so hard once that I had to listen to them all the time. All the time.

The number one song on the list is there for both reasons. But I'm not going to post that. I'm going to post the number two song.



"Don't Believe a Word" - Thin Lizzy - Top of the Pops.

To me, this is absolutely the most perfect rock song about being a rock star. It's incredibly short - the album version clocks in at 2:19 - but says everything about the myths, legends and sad reality behind the leather trousers.

Philip Lynott was a truly fantastic, brilliant lyricist. Poet, if you will, in the grand tradition of many a Dubliner like himself. He was really great with rhymes in particular - he built an entire song, "Rocky" around only a handful of rhymes and managed to tell a life story with them.

He wasn't perfect. This is the man who wrote "Tonight there's going to be a jailbreak somewhere in this town", to which we all replied "Would that be at the jail then, Philo?"

Philo was and remains one of my favourite people in the history of the universe, never mind anything else. I don't say this imagining he was always a particularly nice or good guy. He's my hero in spite of and sometimes because of his weaknesses and failings as well as his greatness and strengths.

One of the things he was particularly good at was telling the truth while he lied and lying while telling the truth. In the song "With Love" he sings "But this Casanova's roving days are over... more or less". And he was right. This is a man who could write a song called "Opium Trail", which seems to have a pretty good understanding of what Teh Drugz do to you... only for them to kill him ten years later. 1979's "Got To Give It Up" (no relation to the Gaye track) reflects a similar contradiction. No, not contradiction: simply a breathtaking ability to lie to oneself about oneself.

"Don't Believe A Word" on the other hand, is absolute honesty: that there might always be another girl he's singing to, that he's almost certainly lying. Given that he wrote an earlier song called "Still In Love With You", it's pretty audacious.

And there's rock music in a nutshell. Not just for girls listening to pop crushes, for all of us. The Rock Star is a myth. His wife Caroline said that "Philip was a rock star when he was cleaning his teeth" but that doesn't make it less of an act, it just makes it more constant an act. We know of plenty of rock stars who are all rock-all the time but that doesn't make it true.

They're all lying to us one way or the other. Whoever said they had to tell the truth anyway? Songs should illuminate something about the human condition if they're to be worth anything, but it doesn't follow that the composer had to experience it themselves. Sometimes they do, but it doesn't follow that they're always telling the truth.

But because the music is good - when it is good - we believe it. We silly, naive children. We want to believe. It's understandable, but that doesn't make it true and wishing doesn't make it so.

If wishing made it so, Philip Lynott would be alive and making awesome records with a similarly-animated Rory Gallagher on guitar and Jim Morrison singing. And Moon would be on drums. I'd... make the tea, or something. Anything to be in that room. If wishing made it so...

"Don't Believe A Word" has a great riff, but the ultimate beauty of it to me is the way Philo lays it out clearly: he probably isn't singing to Her/You/Me, he's probably lying to Her/You/Me but it doesn't matter because the song is awesome, because he feels regret about it, because the lyrics are beautiful in that very Lizzy bittersweet way.

That's the reality, the deal we make: we all know it's not real but it's OK to lie to us as long as you're rocking our socks off.

The danger is when we start believing in it, and that goes for the stars as much as the audience: how many of them fell apart because they started to believe in their own magical powers and immortality?

Don't believe me if I tell you, especially if I tell you I'm in love with you.

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