Pete Atkin sings
National Steel

by Clive James and Pete Atkin,
from Secret Drinker

[Much more at]


Shining in the window a guitar that wasn't wood
It was looking like a silver coin from when they still were good
The man who kept the music shop was pleased to let me play
Although the price was twenty times what I could ever pay

          Pick it up and feel the weight and weigh the feel
          That thing is an authentic National Steel

A lacy grille across the front and etchings on the back
But the welding sealed a box not even Bukka White could crack
I tuned it to an open chord, picked up the nickel slide
And bottlenecked a blues that sounded cold yet seemed to glide

          The National Steel weaves a singing shroud
          Just as sure as men in winter breathe a cloud

Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Boy Fuller and Blind Blake
Son House or any name you care to take
And from many a sad railroad, mine or mill
Lonnie Johnson's bitter tears are in there still

          Be certain, said the man, of who you are
          There are dead men still alive in that guitar

Back there the next morning half demented by desire
For that storybook assemblage of heavy plate and wire
I sold half the things I valued but I'll never count the cost
While I can pick a note like broken bracken in the frost

          And I hear those fabled names becoming real
          Every time I feel the weight or weigh the feel
          Of the vanished years inside my National Steel