vanity, anxiety, insanity

I felt I needed to write a zeitgeist song. 2016 was a difficult year to summarise in less than three minutes, but I did my best…

It wasn’t so much the political ascendancies, the braying of the media, the ubiquitous lack of transparency and humane intelligence, so much as the shameless manner of it that stoked this particular itch.  Meanwhile, the unchecked atrocities across the globe, the systematic dismantling of our welfare state… the feeling that, for the first time in my half century, the world was definitely sliding backwards from enlightenment into mindlessness…

With too much to articulate, in the end I didn’t try too hard, just let the song emerge from the bubbling stew of history, music and angst whirling in the windmills of my mind, and the flotsam and jetsam appeared on the surface of the scum… all I had to do was pick the fruit and convince the rest of the band…

‘Fruit…’ well that led me to Billie Holliday, Emmett Till & Hattie Carroll… thence to connect the shit then with the shit now, especially with the recent obscenities in Paris…

Musically, the riff emerged as a distillation of The Ruts and The Dead Kennedys, the urgency, the jagged edge of a serrated knife sawing away at my political apathy. Discordant snatches of guitar solos over the top came next, ending with multilayered chaos to suggest the apocalypse of riot police, sirens, fear, anguish, meltdown.

Lyrics took longer. So hard to pare it down for the song, to not preach, to say just enough for the listener to meet me halfway with conjured thoughts of their own. The chorus wrote itself: simple, stark, pithy.

A smidgen of Public Enemy arrived subliminally; and, as a little lyrical indulgence to myself and the connoisseurs out there, seven words borrowed from two songsmith gurus: Paul Weller and Dave Faulkner.



Vanity, Anxiety, Insanity

Oh Lord, down in Mississippi, where the amnesiacs roam

Hot damn, diggin’ it in Paris, clubbing’ to the beat of the metronome

Liberte, égalité, fraternité…

Like wow, what happened to the piggies, see how they strut and stride

Wipeout, you can get it if you wanna, Babylon’s burnin’ come along for the ride

Hattie Carroll and Emmett Till, I sang the songs, I sing them still

Strange fruit, tells the truth, right the wrong, die like King Kong

Vanity, anxiety, insanity… vanity, anxiety, insanity…

Oh Lord, down in Mississippi, don’t go down in Mississippi

We’re all down in Mississippi to fight the power, to fight the power…

Vanity, anxiety, insanity…

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