Monday, 13 September 2010

When Harpo played her harp.

cycm_rad11, originally uploaded by Course You Can Malcolm. Thanks to Russ.
It feels trite and slightly pretentious to post the lyrics to a song in response to an artistic experience but fuck it, you only live once and it's Jonathan Richman and he's never been one to compromise.

Saturday, Course You Can Malcolm, pre-match at Gigg Lane. You all know the drill by now. I've banged on about it enough; pre-match gig, bottled Holt's, earnest but dull band banging away with only their backline for amplification, tater hash, the sound of men. Always the sound of men. Except it all got swept away this weekend in a tide of female quietness; a wash of calm. To explain; the generic sound of Course You Can Malcolm is that 'rarrgh!' you hear when you open a pub door and everybody is trying to be heard over everybody else. A male chaos that overwhelms and blurts out to the world outside that it's over-warm, dark and smells of farts in here. Come in if you dare.

It threatened to overwhelm Rebecca Joy Sharp, Harpo and her harp, but a hand on the shoulder and a couple of quiet words calmed things, only the crash from the odd empty bottle of Thunderholt hitting the recycling bin momentarily broke the spell. Hand on the shoulder and a couple of quiet words stood at the entrance at the top of the stairs and made sure that anybody coming in was aware that the sound of men was on hold for twenty-two minutes.

She started with an instrumental and you could have heard a pin drop. It was a humbling, sobering experience. Okay, I'd had a couple of bottles of beer and the tendency for sentiment had been awakened, but it was a moving experience to hear such a fragile, beautiful sound in the beige-bricked corner of a football ground. She was, she said, determined to hold to the twenty-two minutes (a requirement for Course You Can Malcolm's main acts - one minute for each player on the pitch) as she'd never done that before, so she pre-ambled before starting her first song proper, on which she revealed her 'schtick', the delivery of meandering spoken-word lyrics in a gentle Glasgow accent. It was all very Belle and Sebastian, so when that band were name-dropped in the first song it all fell into place.

Twenty-two minutes was perfect. I have a very short attention-span and have, on many occasions, advocated half-an-hour as the ideal set length for any band. Context was also all; anywhere else and hand on the shoulder and a couple of quiet words wouldn't have happened and the drip, drip of conversation would have, inevitably, intruded.

Well when Harpo played his harp, it was a mystery
All the laughing stopped back to the balcony
Chico, Chico, sure to please
Now let's watch him shoot the keys
When Harpo would play his harp, all was still

When Harpo played his harp, it was a dream, it was
Well if someone else can do it, how come nobody does?
Groucho, Groucho, fast as light
Some talk like him but not quite
When Harpo would play his harp, all was still, still

Well Harpo Harpo
This is the angels and
where did you get that sound so fine?
Harpo Harpo
We gotta hear it
One more time

Harpo Harpo
We're in the galaxies and
where did you get that sound so fine?
Harpo Harpo
We gotta hear it
One more time

Do you remember what he would do sometimes before he played?
Well he'd look up to the sky and he'd look the angels' way
Harpo Harpo, when you start
Tears of joy inside my heart
Harpo would play his harp and all was still.

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