From the Trench

“…In the deep green grasses
And the blood stained woods
They never dreamed of surrendering
They fell where they stood

Stars fell over Alabama
I saw each star
You’re walking in dreams
Whoever you are

Chilled are the skies
Keen is the frost
The ground’s froze hard
And the morning is lost

Bob Dylan
Cross The Green Mountain (Fragment)

 

Bob Dylan photographed by Richard Avedon. Central Park, New York, 1965

 
 

COME UP FROM THE FIELDS FATHER

“Come up from the fields father, here’s a letter from our Pete,

And come to the front door mother, here’s a letter from thy dear son.

Lo, ’tis autumn,

Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,

Cool and sweeten Ohio’s villages with leaves fluttering in the moderate wind,

Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis’d vines,

(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?

Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)

Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and with wondrous clouds,

Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm prospers well.

Down in the fields all prospers well,

But now from the fields come father, come at the daughter’s call,

And come to the entry mother, to the front door come right away.

Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps trembling,

She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap.

Open the envelope quickly,

O this is not our son’s writing, yet his name is sign’d,

O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken mother’s soul!

All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main words only,

Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital,

At present low, but will soon be better.

Ah now the single figure to me,

Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and farms,

Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,

By the jamb of a door leans.

Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks through her sobs,

The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay’d,)

See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.

Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be better, that brave and simple soul,)

While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,

The only son is dead.

But the mother needs to be better,

She with thin form presently drest in black,

By day her meals untouch’d, then at night fitfully sleeping, often waking,

In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing,

O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and withdraw,

To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.”

Walt Whitman 

 

Bob Dylan is considered to be one the great musician songwriters in music of all time and has been noted to cite Walt Whitman as one of many influences that inspire him to create his unique brand of folk rock music. Bob Dylan wrote a song called Cross the Green Mountain for the soundtrack for Gods and Generals (Ronald F. Maxwell, 2003), a movie about the Civil War, which was also a re-occurring theme in many of Whitman’s poems. The song is directly influenced by the poem Come Up from the Fields Father written by Walt Whitman in 1900 and was apart of the final rendition of the Leaves of Grass.

In the song Cross the Green Mountain Dylan lyrics are mostly about the Civil War in the general sense and also is about the assignation of Abraham Lincoln. Come Through the Field, Father also, touches base on the same topics. There is one verse in particular in Dylan’s song which he writes, “a letter to mother came today gunshot wound to the breast is what it did say but he’ll be better soon, he’s in a hospital bed but he’ll never be better he’s already dead.” Dylan in this verse is writing about Lincoln’s death and is very comparable to Whitman’s portrayal of the event in Come Up from the Fields, Father in which that poem reads, “O a strange hand writes for our dear so O stricken mother’s soul! All swims before her eyes flashes with black she catches the main words only; Sentences broke gun shot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital, At present low, but will soon be better. See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better. Alas, poor boy, he will never be better, nor maybe needs to be better, that brave and simple soul; While they stand at home at the door, he is dead already.” It is quite evident influence this piece of poetry had on Dylan’s verse and the song as a whole.

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More Than Them

 
 

The band that would become Travis was formed by brothers Chris and Geoff Martyn. Andy Dunlop, a school friend at Lenzie Academy, was drafted in on guitar, along with Andy Dunlop on drums, although the latter was replaced soon after by Neil Primrose. The line-up was completed by a female vocalist, Catherine Maxwell, and the band’s name became Glass Onion, after The Beatles song of the same name. Parting company with their singer in the spring of 1991, they auditioned for a new vocalist. Having met each other through Primrose pouring him a pint, an untrained art student, Fran Healy, then joined after being invited to audition by Primrose. Healy joined the band on the day he enrolled at The Glasgow School of Art, in the autumn of 1991. Two years later, with the option of music holding more appeal, Healy dropped out of art school, and inspired by song writers such as Joni Mitchell, assumed songwriting responsibilities. With brothers Chris and Geoff Martyn on bass and keyboards, in 1993, the fivesome released a privately made CD, The Glass Onion EP, featuring the tracks Dream On, The Day Before, Free Soul and Whenever She Comes Round. 500 copies of the EP were made and were recently valued at £1000 each. Other songs they recorded but were left off are She’s So Strange and Not About to Change.

The band named themselves after the Harry Dean Stanton character Travis Henderson from the film Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984).

Travis have twice been awarded best band at the BRIT Awards, and are often credited for having paved the way for bands such as Coldplay and Keane (Coldplay’s Chris Martin has called himself “a poor man’s Fran Healy”, while saying that Travis “invented” Coldplay “and lots of others”).

The band won a talent contest organised by the Music in Scotland Trust, who promised £2,000 so that Travis could deal-hunt at a new music seminar in New York. Two weeks before they were due to leave, however, the prize was instead given to the Music in Scotland Trust Directory. When sent a copy of the directory, the band noticed that it seemed to feature every single band in Scotland—except for them.
The band showed promise but had yet to evolve into a decent line-up capable of fulfilling it and spent several years treading water. According to their publisher Charlie Pinder: “They were a band that everyone in the A&R community knew about and would go and see every now and then. But they weren’t very good. They had quite good songs; Fran always did write good songs.” While on a visit to Scotland, American engineer and producer Niko Bolas, a long-time Neil Young and Rolling Stones associate, tuned into a Travis session on Radio Scotland, and heard something in the band’s music which instantly made him travel to Perth to see them. Healy: “He told us we were shit, took us in the studio for four days, and taught us how to play properly, like a band. He was ballsy, rude, and New York pushy. He didn’t believe my lyrics and told me to write what I believed in and not tell lies. He was Mary Poppins, he sorted us out.” The band recorded a five-song demo, which included the song All I Want to Do Is Rock.

With the sudden death of his grandfather, a grief-stricken Healy shut himself away, refusing to talk to anyone. Emerging a week later, and with a clear vision of where he now wanted Travis and their music to go, Healy dispensed with the band’s management and publicity agent. Having been repeatedly knocked back by the British record industry, the band couldn’t afford to stay around the country for another few years and so decided to move to New York, feeling that the U.S. might be more suited to their style of music. However, before leaving Healy told the band that they should send the demo to Charlie Pinder of Sony Music Publishing, who they had known for a few years and regularly sent songs to, saying: “If he’s not into it, then we’ll go.” Pinder was immediately impressed by the song All I Want to Do is Rock, which he felt was a dramatic change for the band: “It was harder, more exciting, sexy; all things that they never really were. They turned a corner.” After performing a secret gig for Pinder and his boss at Sony, Blair McDonald, they were signed to Sony Music Publishing. The immediate impact of what was a very secret deal was that the line-up was changed – keyboard player Geoff Martyn was removed, and the bassist, Geoff’s brother Chris, was replaced with Healy’s best friend Dougie Payne – and the band was moved to London, where they were given a rehearsal room and a house

Produced by Steve Lillywhite of U2 fame, Travis’ first studio album, 1997’s Good Feeling, is a rockier, more upbeat record than the band’s others to date. Recorded at the legendary Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, the place where Travis favourite The Band recorded, the album contained singles such as All I Want to Do Is Rock, U16 Girls, the Beatle’esque Tied to the 90s, Happy and More Than Us.