Good Souls Better Angels by Lucinda Williams


I had a very pleasant chat with my old friend Ben yesterday. I’ve forgiven him for charging me 5p for dropping a catch in 1973 and we have a lot in common – high quality sport, music, politics, beer and curry. Actually, he supports Wolves so I’m not sure about the first one of those but anyway, he complimented me on this blog and said that he was impressed with my memory. That was nice to hear. I have no idea whether or not I have a good memory. I just spent five minutes looking at Graeme Souness, talking on the television, and trying to remember his name. Clearly this blog has been full of memories and the emotional connection made between music and things that have happened to me or emotions that I have felt. How accurate are those memories? How many falsehoods have I written?

One of the things that I have found difficult over the past 92 days is to try and turn my memories into interesting stories. Larry Adler, the great harmonica player, once said that raconteur is a French word for liar. This brings to mind the apocryphal story that George Bush once said that the problem with the French is that there was no French word for entrepreneur. Or the story that John Lennon, prior to meeting Yoko Ono, once said that avantgarde was the French word for bullshit. These are good stories but I’ve lied about the first one; I made it up just to make a point. Larry Adler didn’t say that raconteur is a French word for liar; he was introduced on a radio programme as a raconteur and he just said that raconteur is a another word for liar. Not French. That’s still a good line but mine is better. Mine just happens not to be true.

I have a problem with people lying to me. Over the years, various students have decided that the short term, easy way out of a difficult situation is to tell a lie. Presumably, I have no idea how many lies I’ve been told; I simply know that on some occasions, a student has admitted lying – about an illness, about not being able to complete homework or, in the case of Gavin Lowe, about stealing £50 out of my wallet. My very good friend, Keith Burton, lied to me about paying me back the £3000 I thought I had loaned him when it turned out to be a gift. The Headteacher at Chancellor’s School had a very good method of obfuscation. Although at one point he had told me that I only needed 2 members of staff to supervise a Summer Holiday to Switzerland, when he later realised he had made a mistake he said “I have no recollection of that conversation”. It’s a good line and impossible to argue with. If he had said “I didn’t say that” I could have argued with him but by saying he had no recollection of agreeing something, it was impossible to object.

Memory and the truth may not go hand in hand. There was a very good series on Sky Atlantic called “The Affair” starring Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. In many of the episodes, the first half would be preceded by the word “Noah”. A series of events would be shown from the perspective of Dominic West’s character. The second half of the episode would be preceded by “Alison” and the same events would be shown from the perspective of Ruth Wilson’s character. Cleverly, the things that people said would be similar but the meaning behind them would be entirely different. How many times have Roo and I argued over what one of us have said and the other person’s recollection of it. Is one of us lying? Or are our memories slightly faulty? Or are we employing exaggeration to become raconteurs?

Our elected representatives lie. Tony Blair, the best Prime Minister Britain has had in my lifetime was accused of lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. An investigation concluded that he didn’t lie but he did exaggerate. Boris Johnson was sacked form his job at the Times after he fabricated a quote from his godfather about Edward II. He was sacked from his two jobs in Michael Howard’s government (party vice-chairman and shadow arts minister) after assuring Howard that tabloid reports of his affair with Spectator columnist Petronella Wyatt were false and an “inverted pyramid of piffle” when in fact they were true. Boris Johnson is a liar.

So no surprise who is the biggest liar of all. There’s a whole Wikipedia page given over to Donald Trump’s lies. I don’t know where to start to give examples of this man’s deceit so I’m not going to. Suffice to say that I don’t think this is faulty memory, nor do I think this is just exaggeration. I think it’s deliberate manipulation of the truth to further his own ends. But these are just my opinions.

Lucinda Williams has made 15 records over the last 41 years. Richard and I went to see a fantastic concert she gave last year when she performed the whole of her majestic record “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road”. She prefaced each song with a story about the song and a brief description of the characters in the song. I still believe that every word she said was true.

On her new record, there is a song called “Man Without A Soul”. Some of the words are “You bring nothing good to this world beyond a web of cheating and stealing. You hide behind your wall of lies, but it’s coming down”. The concept of the song was given to her by her husband and manager, Tom Overby. She herself has said about this song “I didn’t know if I liked the idea of a man without a soul. Everybody’s got a soul. But Tom said this is a whole different situation and that idea is just an expression of how bad it’s gotten.” It is never explicitly stated that this song is about the current President of the U.S.A.

Hal Horowitz in American Songwriter wrote about this record that “by the end of the hour, you’ll be wiped out. This is a devastatingly in your face, take no prisoners presentation from Williams and her band that will leave most serious listeners shattered and perhaps shaking. Few albums connect with this much pure emotional fury, let alone those from artists well into their 60s.” It is certainly a very good record but, there again, almost all of her records are full of great songs, singing and playing.

Poor memory, exaggeration or explicit lying. We all present the past in different ways. My blogs over the past three months have only rarely been deliberately false but I would bet good money that at times I have exaggerated a point to make a story more interesting. And despite, what Ben says, my memory is definitely faulty. There’s someone watching TV at the moment that would agree with that. What’s her name?

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

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