Yes, I know this is where I usually post a Short Song. (That’s my definition of “usually” by the way, I could just have easily have written the phrase “when I can be arsed”.)
And no, I didn’t forget to post today’s song on Sunday morning, where Country tunes usually reside round these parts.
No, this is a song which I’ve loved for many years, and whilst musically it sits in the Sunday morning slot, lyrically it can only really be posted here, on a Tuesday morning.
Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning, the opening track from Cowboy Junkies’ third album, 1990’s The Caution Horses, is a beautiful, sad, but ultimately empowering story of a woman who is, at first glace, getting used to a return to single-dom.
She lists the things she used to blame her ex for, but which still keep happening even though they’ve gone (“Guess you forgot to close the blinds last night. Oh, that’s right. It was me.”), the things she misses (…the smell of black coffee in the morning, the sound of water splashing all over the bathroom, the kiss that you would give me even though I was sleeping, but I kind of like the feel of this extra few feet in my bed…”), and the things she now feels free to do which she couldn’t before (“…Maybe tonight it’s a movie, with plenty of room for elbows and knees, a bag of popcorn all to myself. Black and white, with a strong female lead. And if I don’t like it: no debate, I’ll leave.”)
At the song’s bridge, we find our strong female lead floundering (“Here comes that feeling that I’d forgotten, how strange these streets feel when you’re alone on them: each pair of eyes just filled with suggestion. So I lower my head, make a beeline for home, seething inside”) before, safely ensconced back at home, she reflects once more – we get a repetition of the blinds being left open, the extra space in her bed.
It is, as described so far, the opposite of ABBA’s finest moment, The Day Before You Came. In that song, Agnetha describes the mundanity of her life on, as the song title pretty much gives away, the day before she met a significant somebody for the first time. But the reason I think that record is so brilliant, is because you’re never quite sure whether the person she met (and who presumably is no longer part of her life, hence the reflection) has been a good or a bad part of her life, nothing is given away. Yet the song is so melancholic – so anti-ABBA, if you like – that you can’t help thinking that she actually rues the day she met the titular You.
I wasn’t going to post this, because it most definitely does not sit in a Sunday morning Country slot even if it has been moved to a Tuesday, but I think if I’m going to make the comparison you should be able to hear them both without having to go off searching:
Incidentally, in what way is that an appropriate sleeve for that record? The Day Before You Came is an unexpectedly mournful slice of early-80s electronica, which is in no way appropriately represented by badly cut-and-pasted smiling headshots and a pink disco light.
I’m reminded of a section from my favourite ever episode of the much-missed Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish, which aired on the TV channel Dave for a few years. Dave (the channel) is more renowned for showing repeats than making original content, but when it does stray into the realms of producing new content, it has had some success (Modern Life... being an example, along with the consistently hilarious Taskmaster, which has now been sold to Channel 4). I read today that the BBC has announced that, since they haven’t been able to make any new programmes since the Covid-19 lockdown, they’re now starting to run out of repeats to show. They should perhaps take a leaf out of Dave (the channel)’s book, and just keep pumping out old episodes of QI, Have I Got News For You and
Top Gear rather than draw attention to it. Besides, there must be heaps of old BBC dramas which haven’t had a re-airing, even on the BBC iPlayer. The Buddha of Suburbia, for example, or Tutti Frutti. Some of the old Dennis Potter’s like The Singing Detective, Pennies From Heaven or even Blackeyes. Or some of the old Hancocks, Steptoe & Sons, The Likely Lads, Monty Python for Gawd’s sake. Anything must be better than showing Peter Crouch’s Save Our Summer on Saturday night and then repeating it two days later, surely?
But back to Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish. This is probably my favourite episode of that show; the bit I’m referring to comes in at around the 07:24 mark, where he discusses inappropriate magazine covers. You might want to watch it from the start to give it some context, and if you happen to have 45 minutes to spare I’d thoroughly recommend you watch the whole episode:
But I digress.
Whilst The Day Before You Came and Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning appear to be the same song written at different ends of a relationship, The Day… keeps you guessing about what happened next, but Sun Comes Up most definitely alludes to something bad having happened, not just in the final lines where the singer reminds herself “…there are some things that can never be forgiven…”, but in a middle section where she pops out of her house to buy breakfast from Jenny’s.
“She’s got a black eye this morning, ‘Jen how’d ya get it? ‘
She says, ‘Last night, Bobby got a little bit out of hand’.”
It’s tossed away like this is a normal occurance in the lives of Jenny and Bobby, and that’s what makes it stand out: the utter mundanity of the long-term abuse that Jenny has suffered at the hands of her partner.
So when that “…there are some things that can never be forgiven…” line comes in at the end, although it hints at something dark, you kind of feel a little cheer being supressed when our strong female lead quickly reminds herself that she kinda likes the extra few feet of room she now has in her bed.
And I mention this now, in the wake of my recent ranty post about the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions because….well, my own, purely selfish, preference would be that restrictions shouldn’t be eased until we’ve beaten the virus, not when we’ve nearly beaten it. And that might seem closer at the moment than it did both globally and nationally, but we’re not there yet. South Africa now has over 100,000 infections, the highest on the continent; Brazil has passed 50,000 deaths, whilst in the United States (where two more members of President Trump’s staff who attended the campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday have tested positive for the coronavirus, which from the photos and footage I’ve seen seems to be 50% of attendees) the death toll has passed 120,000. Global cases have reached 9 million, not least because our own border checks are so pathetically insufficient that we allowed two infected UK citizens to travel to New Zealand. Truly, we are the Plague Rats of the world.
But I also acknowledged in that post that getting the balance right between starting to get back to normal and maintaining public safety is difficult,and certainly not one I’d like to be responsible for.
This dilemma is made all the tougher when you consider that during the pandemic crisis, there’s been a 20% global increase in reported domestic abuse. The UN have described it as “the shadow pandemic”. In April, it was announced that in the UK alone there had been a shocking 49% increase in calls to national domestic abuse helplines, where the abused were literally trapped at home with their abuser.
If you’re in the UK and have been or continue to be affected by domestic abuse, please reach out to somebody. And if you don’t feel able to reach out to someone you know personally, then perhaps consider some of the people you can find here: Information and Support: Domestic Abuse.
Don’t become another Jenny and Bobby.