Sunday, September 20, 2009
These days, my life, my anxieties, my hopes, my whole scene, could be summed up, or put in place, or undermined by its own essence, with any number of vaguely agricultural get-up-and-go aphorisms. The early bird gets the worm. You reap what you sow. The sun also rises. Make hay while the sun shines. Ecclesiastes. Etc. It's either birds, worms, seeds, sun or hay. Throw in a little "Muck is the mother of the mealbag" and you've got it covered. Shit be elemental.
But talk of shit and talk of sun and talk of hay always makes me think back to the characters I spent time with on farms. Ernst Larson, Buck, Kenny. Dudes who whose proximity to the life force seemed to place them farther from actual civilization. Hoisting grease guns, getting augers and hoppers and silos all lined up. Birthing calves. Weening. Putting up fence. Standing in fucking frigid and fetid water with rats scurrying around, trying to hack into a frozen pile of silage. More than anything, bailing hay. It was hellish. Infernal. All itchy and rashy on your arms, shirt soaked with sweat. Blowing beats of sweat off your nose. Bailing twine tearing through your fingers. These guys seemed powered by some kind of mute masochistic energy. They'd work until their hands, lungs, muscles, backs, brains and skin were just shot. Then they'd get up and do it again. They wanted to see you pass out from heat stroke so they could laugh at your college-boy ass.
I remember Kenny sneering and offering what to him was the harshest put-town he could make of the wealthy wanna-be farm-boy son of the wealthy businessman owner of the farm. "The sun's not his blood," he said.
There's a lot to be learned from putting up hay, aside from the lessons of the punishing labor required. You really do have to act when conditions are right. It's a shit load of work at a time when everyone else is vacationing, but you're stacking away loads of stored-up energy. You've got to cut it, you got to let it dry, rake it, bail it. It's like the feeling of stacking cord wood while the weather is still hot in September. You're so in touch with the seasons and the cycles that you practically want to just stop speaking altogether. The sun is your blood.
We've been big fans of Gerry Rafferty here. I'm not sure if the sun was his blood. But there was definitely something other than blood in there. That might be why he wound up at a London hospital being treated for liver problems last year. And then the story of his escape to Tuscany showed that the Scottish singer had a lot of sense. Maybe he'd stored up some energy years before and was getting the last laugh, living off his labors from earlier days.
This tune, "Jose," is off of Stealers Wheel's greatest hits. I love the fact that these guys were produced by Lieber and Stoller, doesn't make any sense, but I love it. This tune is in fact written by Joe Egan, the other half of the band. I'm officially on the lookout for Egan's 1979 solo debut, Back on the Road, if anyone spies any moldy vinyl by that name.
"Jose" is great for a number of reasons. It starts out with about three red herring instrumental blues-zombie parts, none of which actually make sense as lead-ins to the actual tune. And the song is really about how it's time to turn the hay. There's some hard-learned Scottish focus in there. Your life is a mess, but you got to get up and get to it.
"Jose" - Stealers Wheel