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Mike Walters
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Clive in the Spectator
« : 12.04.05 at 14:36 »
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There's a poem of Clive's in the current edition of the Spectator - a rather fine love poem.  It's also interesting because it's written in a playful, witty manner - wordplay, smart rhyming, cultural references ['alcohol/Chabrol/parasol/moll/folderol', anyone...?] - that recalls his song lyrics as much as his poetry.  Raises the old issue of the difference between a poem and a lyric - this is almost Cole Porter (and, I presume, in part a deliberate homage to 'You're the Top') but the rhythm doesn't seem that of a song.  Though, of course, Pete would be the one to prove me wrong...
 
Mike
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Pete Atkin
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Re: Clive in the Spectator
« Reply #1: 13.04.05 at 09:31 »
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Well spotted, Mike -- that this particular poem is close to being a song, I mean.  Clive thought the same thing when he'd written it.  And, with a couple of possible cuts and jiggles, it could well be . . .
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Mike Walters
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Re: Clive in the Spectator
« Reply #2: 14.04.05 at 12:04 »
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Well, I sincerely hope Pete does prove me wrong - I'd be fascinated to see what he'd do with this.  I was re-reading it (it's a lovely piece of work) and musing on what initially made it feel not quite like a lyric - actually, there's probably not a lot.  There's one stanza which is perhaps more personal and slightly more converstional in tone and rhythm than one would normally find in CJ's lyrics (given that he and Pete aren't prone to idee-entity crisis rock), but the rest would probably work, though I couldn't begin to imagine the melody.  
 
Takes us back to the brief Rocking Vicar-inspired discussion about how difficult or otherwise Clive's lyrics are to set to music.  Speaking with all the authority of one who's never likely to be asked to set anyone's words to music, I'm sure Ian Chippett is right that the lyrics don't tend to provide a metrical challenge - Clive's skill in prosody (with Pete's in melody) is such that even the 'memory' examples Ian cites are relatively mild, compared with, say, Paul Weller's 'the bitterest PILL I ever HAD to swallow' to think of just one example that's lodged uneasily in my head.  
 
I imagine that one challenge with setting Clive's lyrics is allowing sufficient space to convey the density of the  ideas and images (I'm thinking of the 'Mythical America' or 'Eye of the Universe' category here, rather than, say, 'The Flowers and the Wine, but it would also be an issue with this new poem).  More than that, though, I imagine many of the lyrics are challenging in terms of tone and mood, given that they commonly tackle topics  otherwise untouched in popular music.   'Canoe' seems to me the masterpiece in this respect -  I think a lesser composer would have produced a much more portentous meolody/arrangement.  Pete creates something which is initially almost Brian Wilsonesque, but which is still capable of carrying the epic qualites of the lyric.  Something similar (but much more harrowing) happens with the extraordinary setting of 'Hill of Little Shoes', which somehow manages neither to trivialise the lyric nor, as I suspect most composers would have done, to resort to summoning up the ghost of Kurt Weill.  
 
Anyway, here's to 'Anniversary Serenade' on the next CD.
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avner greenberg
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Re: Clive in the Spectator
« Reply #3: 16.04.05 at 10:56 »
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Thanks for the alert Mike. Is this accessible online? I registered for the Spectator and still can't find it.
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Avner Greenberg
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