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Nemo. Nobody. No one.

April 1, 2014

Louis Armstrong. Love him or… well there’s no alternative, is there?

Ok, I’m going to share some stuff today that nobody knows. But then, as 999 said; That’s the way it goes. Last week was Dad’s birthday. Fiona’s, too, for that matter, which is just as important. The point just now is that Dad died three months ago.

I didn’t get very emotional at the time; indeed, there haven’t been more than one or two moist-eyed moments since. All in all I have been pretty composed the whole time. Last week, however, it got under my skin, and I was totally unprepared for it. So I wondered why, and I think it’s this: it’s the good things that get to me. That Fiona and her Grandad share a birthday has always been something great. Her determination to go on having that celebration – still a joint one – with the rest of us, is also something great, and it moved me more than I expected.

Something else they shared, as do much of the family, is a love of the classics. Dad could talk for hours about the great Roman and Greek themes, and when they coincided with his greatest passion – opera – he was a man transported. He and Mum took me when I was quite young – but I am not sure exactly how young – to a performance of Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria. I found it quite heavy going at the time; now I find it lyrical, fluid and – as in this excerpt – beautifully melancholy. Anne Sofie von Otter singing Di misera regina tells it like it is.

Monteverdi’s opera tells the last part of the story of the Odyssey. For a full musical version of the story we can cycle forward about 350 years. Ulysses: the Concert starring Ted Neeley (most famous, apparently, for Jesus Christ Superstar) is a rock opera which somehow never made it to the level of familiarity that Tommy or Evita did. Perhaps this number – Polyphemuswill explain why. “Polyphemus, you’re the meanest sonofoabitch I ever knew.” has to rank among the worst lyrics ever written. Let’s purge ourselves quickly by listening to Franz Ferdinand’s 2009 song Ulysses.

(A quick digression: Franz Ferdinand’s latter-day reinvigoration is extremely welcome. We went to see them on tour a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the lovely lady at Snigskitchen, and so much did we enjoy it that we will be going again. Mrs simonsometimessays and I will be spending our wedding anniversary evening with thousands of other fans, half of whom have asked the other half to Take me Out.)

Back to Polyphemus the giant Cyclops.

Ever=prepared: Polyphemus had only one eye, but spaces for two more.

Polyphemus, by Tischbein. Ever-prepared, the cyclops had only one eye, but space for two more.

If you remember, Odysseus tricked him by (1) getting him tipsy, (2) telling him his name was Nobody (roughly speaking), (3) poking his one eye out with a big hot stick, and (4) telling the rest of the giants that “Nobody” had done this to him, whereupon they assumed he was under a divine curse and went away without helping him. It’s a cheap trick to play on a poor monster, but on the other hand he had been eating Odysseus’s shipmates two at a time so something had to be done, even if it took Nobody to do it.

Here’s a curious coincidence: not only was Nobody the wilful wounder of giants, he was also a submariner: Captain Nemo (clever, eh?). And from there it is a hop, a step and a long jump over irritating animated fish to a classic Nightwish track: Nemo.

Nemo. FOUND HIM! Alphonse de Neuville and Edouard Riou

Alphonse de Neuville and Edouard Riou

Nightwish are a strange band, and were even stranger when they began.  They stand a little apart from other bands, with an individual brand of rocked-up power ballad and a sort of Scandinavian mysticism which pervades both the music and the video. It made me think immediately of Björk, and I could see musical and visual links to Hyperballad. Tarja Turnunen, one of the founders of Nightwish and their lead vocalist until her unceremonious sacking, has an operatic quality to her voice which seems to fall slap bang in the middle between Björk and Kiri te Kanawa.

I am reminded of the departure of Briana Corrigan from the Beautiful South in the early/mid 90s. It isn’t very similar at all to that of Tarja Turnunen from Nightwish, so I don’t quite know why I thought of it. Corrigan was not fired, but rather left, having become increasingly “uneasy” with Paul Heaton’s lyrics. This in particular – 36D  – has been viewed as mysogenistic and misdirected. As with a number of their tracks, the irony may have been just too heavily disguised. I tread carefully here, however, because the issues it raises concern a form of oppression which I, along with half the world’s population, do not have to suffer.

In an ideal world I would have liked to leave you now with a beautiful classical piece to round off this post. But that has eluded me. Instead, I have something of a curiosity for you. It’s a brief song from the Gilbert and Sullivan one that Nobody hears about, possibly because it’s about No Place. Here is Mr Goldbury’s song Some Seven Men from Utopia, Limited.

Well I’m rambling now, more than usual, so perhaps I should wrap up. Perhaps Nobody cares. Perhaps Nobody has noticed. Perhaps there ain’t nobody here…

but us chickens


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  1. And long may you ramble. Nobody minds. Another great post, sir.

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