Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Ian and Sylvia

January ’08 – I have years where I love Ian & Sylvia, interspersed with years where I find them simply too twee and tame. The past couple of years have been Ian & Sylvia years. Maybe when my life is wearing aprons, knitting blankets, cooking from recipe books and having five-hour-long cups of tea with mature-aged neighbours, then listening to Ian & Sylvia (on top of all that) would be pushing myself dangerously close to an overdose. But in years where my Vacola Preserving Outfit is shoved to the back of the cupboard and piled up with plastic bags of plastic bags, Ian’s dignified, school-teacher appearance and Sylvia’s demure poses, and their polite, proper voices no longer (quite the contrary!) make me want to puke. I once had a tape of American sixties folk songs; Mississippi John Hurt’s ‘Candyman’ was on it (I used to think that song was creepy) and so was the Tyson/Fricke classic ‘YOU WERE ON MY MIND’. Last Saturday, I played all four sides of an Ian & Sylvia Best Of (I hope that doesn’t reveal too much about my Saturday), and the very last song ended up being ‘Y.W.O.M.M.’. I thought, “I should learn that.” I already knew the words, and it sounded simple, like a standard 3-chorder plus a little optional extra something (e.g. an F#m thrown in among the Es, As and B7s). But I learnt it mainly because it is one of those handy songs that perfectly captures a thought-cycle that most people will experience at some point in their lives, and it’s better to sing and play it aloud, and possibly even pair up with someone who can add an Ian or Sylvia harmony, than to have it trapped, voiceless, in your brain, where it circulates tiresomely. And it’s somehow morale-boosting to apply a light and pretty melody to lines like “Woke [well, it’s “got”, but I prefer “woke”] up this morning/ You were on my mind/ Got some aches and got some pains and/ Got some wounds to bind.” Or, “Went to the corner/ Just to ease my pain/ I got drunk and I got sick and/ I came home again.” There! Only one more verse to learn and you’ve got the whole song.

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