Lana Del Rey and I have a lot in common.
This morning I wrote about sibling rivalry because that was on my mind when I woke up. I centred it on some random thoughts about “Be Here Now“. In less than 12 hours, that page has had more views than any post I’ve made in the last couple of months. Quite what people in Switzerland, Singapore, Columbia and Ecuador made of my ramblings about my sister along with some facts about Oasis that I copied from Wikipedia, I’m not sure. I hope they enjoyed it but I fear they may have been looking for some new insights about their favourite band, in which case they were inevitably disappointed. In the end, it doesn’t matter, because it’s all about me. This blog is all about me, me, me. I very much appreciate it when I get any views or likes or comments but the reason I do it is to express myself, not because I’m anticipating fame, fortune, celebrity, popularity or glory. After “publishing” this morning and after a good chat with Peter, all my frustration, jealousy and bottled-up feelings had been dissipated. It’s good to talk.
Clearly, the Samaritans exist to allow people to heal through talking. Although my assumption, before I started volunteering, was that every call would be from a suicidal caller, the reality is that the vast majority of calls are from people who need someone to listen to them. Sadly, many people that I speak to on the phone don’t have anyone who they can talk to. I feel blessed that I can spout off on any subject, however dull, to my friends and, especially, to Roo. This blog is also a good way for me to get my thoughts in order while listening to some fantastic music.
However, anyone dipping into one of these posts will be confused about a number of things. Why is he going on about Samaritans? What are these references to The Moody Blues? Is Paddy an American self-help guru? What is a Roo? I don’t feel a need to explain all of these things every time. I just explode with a lot of guff and hope that, if anyone is reading this, it’s not a waste of their time.
So, me and Lana Del Rey. What do we have in common? Well, we are 99.9% the same. Lana Del Rey and I share 99.9% of our DNA with each other. As does every human being with every other human being. She may be beautiful, female, incredibly creative, exceedingly rich and live in the U.S.A. but she is human, just as I am. She needs to express herself too, just as I do. And that’s exactly what she’s done on the third of her latter day albums which are all brilliant, even if they are quite difficult to comprehend. “Norman Fucking Rockwell” was a revelation for me as, until then, I assumed that she was a vacuous pop star but songs like “California” and “Venice Beach” showed an astounding maturity and complexity. Earlier this year, she released the equally impressive “Chemtrails Over The Country Club“, which included the ethereal beauty of “White Dress” while “Dance Till You Die” name checked several 70’s female singer songwriters.
Listening to “Blue Banisters”, it’s clear that the album sounds beautiful. She does have a remarkable voice and she appears equally comfortable ranting like John Lennon on “Dealer” or whispering like Michele Stodart on “Text Book”. The sound is great and it’s a lovely album to have on and not really listening to it. However, digging deeper requires some contemplation of the lyrics. The booklet that comes with the album only contains the lyrics to the first four songs, so I’ve gone onto “genius.com”. This is an interesting site because it allows people to add their interpretation of what the lyrics refer to. Here’s some information that I have gleaned about the title track, “”Blue Banisters”.
The opening verse is “There’s a picture on the wall of me on a John Deere. Jenny handed me a beer and said, “How the hell did you get there?” Oh, Oklahoma.”
- It transpires that Jenny is a friend of Lana Del Rey’s called Jenny Stith who was pictured on the front cover of “Chemtrails Over The Country Club”.
- Sean Larkin, who was Lana Del Rey’s boyfriend until recently, was from Oklahoma. This could also explain the reference to a John Deere tractor.
The third verse is “Jenny jumped into the pool. She was swimmin’ with Nikki Lane. She said, “Most men don’t want a woman with a legacy, it’s of age”. She said ‘You can’t be a muse and be happy, too. You can’t blacken the pages with Russian poetry and be happy’ and that scared me ’cause I met a man who said he’d come back every May, just to help me if I’d paint my banisters blue.”
- Nikki Lane is a singer who sung on a song called “Breaking Up Slowly” on “Chemtrails Over The Country Club”.
- Lana Del Rey’s first album, “Born To Die” had many tracks inspired by the Russian poet, Vladimir Nabokov.
- In 2015, Emma Tillman appeared with Lana Del Rey in a video for her song, “Freak”. Emma Tillman is married to Father John Misty and in 2017, Lana Del Rey wrote a song called “Coachella – Woodstock In My Mind” in which she sings about watching Father John Misty whilst standing at the side of the stage with Emma Tillman. One of the lines in one of Father John Misty’s “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow” refers to a woman who “blackens the page like a Russian romantic“.
- Lana Del Rey composed a song called “Get Free” on her 2017 album, “Lust For Life”. One of the lines is “I wanna move out of the black and into the blue“. The title track from “Norman Fucking Rockwell” contains the line “Your head in your hands as you colour me blue“. “Venice Beach” from the same album has the lines “Paint me happy in blue“. It appears that Lana Del Rey associates the colour blue with being happy.
A later verse goes like this. “Now when weather turns to May, all my sisters come to paint my banisters green. My blue banisters grey. Tex and Mex are in the Bay, Chucky’s makin’ birthday cake. Chickens runnin’, bare feet, there’s a baby on the way and now my blue banisters are green and grey”.
- In this part of the song, her man has not returned and the changing colours of the banisters symbolise the loss.
- Tex and Mex are Lana Del Rey’s dogs, pictured on the front cover.
- Chucky is Lana Del Rey’s sister Chuck Grant who was pregnant when the song was written. She has taken many of the photos used in the artwork on recent albums.
And I thought I was wilfully obscure! None of these references are obvious to me when I listen to the songs. In truth, I admire the focus and lack of compromise on display here. Rather than compose simple songs which are easily understood by everyone, Lana Del Rey has continued to write deeply personal songs that only partly reveal her true state of mind and these revelations are only uncovered with a lot of digging.
I could try and “review” the whole album but Rachel Aroesti has done a much better job of it than I ever could in today’s Guardian.