Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Silly billies:" (Fuller, Joyce, King)

A newly volunteered guitar tape from my songwriting partner and coproducer, Matt Fuller in his little Hollywood bungalow, renews my courage to extract song lyrics, verbatim, from James Joyce's Ulysses.

This choice bit is one paragraph from the novel.

"Silly billies:"

Silly billies:
mob of young cubs
yelling their guts out.

Vinegar hill.
The Butter exchange band.

Few years' time
half of them are magistrates
and civil servants.

War comes on:
into the army helterskelter:
same fellows

used to whether on
the scaffold high.

So much to say here.

First of all, it sounds like a Twitter post on a punk gig. Even comes complete with a bandname, The Butter Exchange Band. (Here is a band of that name playing St. Patrick's Day 2009 in Courtmacsherry.)

Since I quite like the band name we use for band songs on Poetry Scores records - Three Fried Men - this suggests itself as a maybe name for the Joyce record. Three Fried Men: The Butter Exchange Band; Rock Songs from James Joyce's 'Ulysses'.

And, as any sentient being will have noticed, this bit has a phrase that already has been adopted for a rock song title, just the title of one of the most fateful rock song of all: "helterskelter".

Can't blame Manson on The Beatles, nor on the Dublin bard, but also can't help but point out that the man whose guitar part will anchor the song I make from this scrap of Joyce, my man Matt Fuller, lives a short walk from El Coyote, where one set of Manson victims ate their last meals that fateful summer night in 1969.

Can you believe there is more rock history to unpack from this?

"Whether on the scaffold high" is a line from "God Save Ireland," an Irish rebel song:

Whether on the scaffold high
Or the battlefield we die,
Oh, what
matter when for Erin dear we fall!
So, yeah, we've got to get a little Dublin rock in here, a little "This song is not a rebel song ...", a little very early and urgent U2.

By the by, I'm intending to leave the colon in the song title - "Silly billies:" as opposed to "Silly billies." - A colon has the syntactic effect of urgency, of suggesting something is about to come next - a feeling that fits this urgent little stab of action in the mind and streets of Dublin, ca. June 16, 1904.


Butter Exchange Band sign from some tourism site.


Also in this series

"Happy Happy" (Fuller, Joyce, King)
"A sugarsticky girl" (Joyce, King, A Better Guitar Player Than Me)
"Everybody eating everyone else" (Joyce, King, You)
"Blood not mine" (Joyce, King, Your Name Here
"Sell your soul for that" (Joyce, King, Your Name Here)
"Over the motley slush" (Joyce, King, Whoever Helps Me)
"My childhood bends" (Joyce, King)"
"Don't you play the giddy ox with me!" (Joyce, King)

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