Poetry in the form of song lyrics can sometimes hit the spot when it comes to seeing things as they really are.
A few years ago, whilst in Vancouver, I went to a gig by a band called Destroyer. The name makes them sound like some hardcore death metal outfit, but they are not like that at all. The band is basically a musician called Dan Bejar and his output over the years has covered a variety of styles, often with interesting lyrical content.
So I was pleased to hear a new track by him on 6Music about a month ago. It’s called Tinseltown Swimming in Blood. It’s a track that suddenly seems horribly prescient in the light of the mass murder in Las Vegas. The expression ‘Tinseltown’ was originally coined to describe Hollywood, but it has shaded out beyond that over the years and it captures the nature of a place like Las Vegas.
The title of the song is a nod to an earlier piece by the Scottish band The Blue Nile, who did a beautiful song called Tinseltown in the Rain in 1984 (it’s about Glasgow).
The two songs soundtracked some feelings and thoughts about the unspeakable crime in Las Vegas, which is simply the latest event in the slaughter of the innocents that is condoned by American culture and law. The gun control issue in the USA is not some bizarre phenomenon in a tiny nation, it is a form of terror embedded within the most powerful state in the world. The cultural influence and spread of all things American has been a global fact-of-life for over a century.
Writing and making art are two ways in which I have fun, and they are also two ways in which I try to preserve sanity in the midst of bad stuff.
The title of my hybrid poem references another song lyric, Dylan’s A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall.
Tinseltown In the Hard Rain
Bullets gush from a window-on-high
stair-rods of death-metal firestorm
bolting into bone
never-ending cataracts of anger
alienation and brute intention
here we are, caught up in this big rhythm
tinseltown in the rain
oh men and women
here we are caught up in this big rhythm
this constant fountain-jet
of lead and tempered steel
of coppered nickel spray drops
though perhaps not that last word
for it will be worse tomorrow
what comes round is going round again
now let me tell you about the dream:
I had no feeling, I had no past
I was the arctic, I was the vast
spaces without reprieve
tinseltown swimming in blood
The first set of italics are ©Bell & Buchanan, 1984 and the second set are ©Bejar, 2017.