Sometime last week I thought I heard this, snatches of it, drifting through the background buzz in a supermarket. Turned out it wasn’t, but it just reminded me of how much I loved this song.
I saw Eddi Reader perform twice over the same weekend some… dozen years ago, first in the Ross on Wye festival, then at Greenbelt. I knew very little about her except that she had been a vocalist in Fairground Attraction (and I knew little enough about them) and also that Al Pitt had seen her guest appearance in Songs of Praise and thought she might be a Christian ‘because she was waving her arm about.’
She performed this song in both concerts –a Boo Herwerdine composition, and in some ways perhaps lyrically slight, but stretched out in performance to a full five minutes. Despite the thinness, there are several things about this song which appeal consciously to me (and of course the overall appeal will always be bigger than the sum of its parts). First, there is the idea that it’s about a vignette (of a struggling young mum?) quickly glimpsed from a bus –and imaginatively reconstructed. As an eavesdropper myself, and a curious wonderer about other people’s lives which we just get merely flashed glimpses of, this was bound to appeal to me.
Secondly, how could one fail to respond to the enigmatic quality of ‘she saw Tuesdays and forgetfulness/and a little money saved.’ I did wonder for a while if this were a misheard lyric, a – what do you call them? -mondegreen? -but no, Tuesdays and forgetfulness it is: and that’s intriguing enough without definition.
And finally I love songs –and poems –which talk about finding things within things. – There is a traditional folk rhyme like that, isn’t there –Keys of the kingdom? Or some such… But the idea appeals to something primal I think. There is for instance Kathleen Raine’s wonderful poem ‘Spell of Creation’ –Within the seed there lies…’( –and I well recall the thrill of seeing that poem interpreted by dance at an Edinburgh fringe event one year.)
But lot of songs have done it too, I think. Coming immediately to mind is that Tom Waites song ‘Take it with me’; and didn’t John Martyn do something similar in ‘Man in the station’? I think we love the childish magic of finding that one complete thing can exist within another –perhaps that same childish delight with which we used to write our full addresses: ‘… The earth, the solar system… Etc.’ When we were about eight years old. Perhaps the same delight as Russian dolls. (I wish I’d bought the set we saw on a Bulgarian holiday with the face of Lenin… And there was that Angela Merkel set…) But this is the sequence here in Boo’s great song:‘There’s a door/In a wall/In a house/ In a street/ In a town..where no-one knows her name…’ – there’s the song’s sadness I suppose: the result of all these one-thing-inside-anothers is just faceless urban anonymity,
And yes, the lassie can sing; and yes, she does wave her hands in the air as she sings, and when I hear this great song, I remember those summer festival performances with great fondness.