Hold Your Head Up

This old chestnut (featuring the mighty Hammond organ) by Argent carries an encouragement, albeit understated, to anyone fighting for a cause. (Okay. Myabe it’s an encouragement to get up and dance. Let’s reinterpret.)

Too bad the Hammond isn’t as portable as an acoustic guitar. Its voice deserves to be heard more than it is. The organ’s presence in rock and roll (and gospel) carries real weight.

And if they stare,
Just let them burn their eyes on you moving.
And if they shout,
Don’t let it change a thing that you’re doing.

Said Judas to Mary

During the weeks of Easter, fellowships everywhere delve into the mysteries of the weeks before Jesus’ death and prior to the celebrations of the resurrection.
Sydney Carter composed verses in the early 1960s that delved into the mystery of Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet with a rich ointment, an act loaded with significance. A woman dared to thank and consecrate Jesus with the offering of oil worth a year’s wages for a laborer, poured on Jesus’ feet, no less. Brother Lazarus had been brought forth from a tomb by Jesus, but there was more in the act than just Mary’s thanks. The act was a preview of Jesus’ own washing of the feet of his disciples and a portent of Jesus’ death to come. Jesus was to walk to a death to carried with it the promise of new life.
The event and images it stirs remains memorable in the last days of Jesus’ ministry. Particularly powerful was Jesus’ message of the importance of the poor, a message often overlooked when puzzling over Mary’s act.
One of the more stirring of the week’s songs is this tune, and I was able to scrounge up three performances, one a choral arrangement, another a quiet, contemplative 1972 guitar-and-voice presentation, the other a powerful solo presented at Christ the King Catholic Church in 2015.

“The poor of the world are my body,” he said,
“to the end of the world they shall be.
The bread and the blanket you give to the poor,
you’ll know you have given to me,
he said,” You’ll know you have given to me.”


Standing at my window,
Rooms right angles behind,
Waving curves and faint green beckon.

Home’s corners at my back,
A new spring arabesques.

I hope to see last year’s toad,
The blooms of daffodil and tulip,
And touch the energy of a new season.


William Scott Bruford, Jon Anderson, Steve James Howe, Rick Wakeman, Alec Johnson and Maxwell Dominic Bacon wrote a song reflecting on the dawn of the nuclear age for Britain and its announcement to aboriginal peoples in Western Australia.
It’s from the album Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe released in 1989.

I chanced upon it while going through some of my CDs and was delighted to once again here a batch of progressive rock brought by members of the group Yes. Brought back fond memories of a concert long ago, Anderson, ever the elf, leaping about stage and lifting an impossible tenor in song after song, Bruford driving an otherworldly drum beat, Howe bringing leads from a guitar that prickles the spine and Wakeman showcasing what electronic keyboards can bring to a tune.

Here’s the background of the tune: In 1954 the British Government, to become the third nuclear power, in order to maintain the balance of power between East and West, exploded their first atom bomb at Woomera, in Western Australia. They failed to contact all of the aborigine peoples at the time. The aboriginal people still call this “the day of the cloud.”

Jon Anderson’s voice rises clear of the rest of the sound, a clear bell carrying the message.

This place ain’t big enough for red and white.
This place ain’t big enough for stars and stripes.
This place… this place…
This place is theirs, by their birthright.

This human tide, give it some.
We can break the ties
Of recent changes.
Know the ones who
Hold the key.
Singing out the congregation.
We are them and they are we.


I hear this uproarious tune now and again from the little speakers in my office, summoned by an algorithm after one of my fellow workmates gets the digital assistant going. I remember what a lot of fun folks had when Tubthumping (from Chumbawamba’s album Tubthumper) arced across the radio waves when atop the charts.
Tubthumping was released in 1997. It’s, by far, in my estimation, one of the best candidates for a singalong in a favorite bar or pub. Get folks together. Have a brew and let it rip. Celebrate the resilience… Let’s pick a stronger word… resistance of the everyday working person.

Don’t hear much about the group these days, but there may be a reason. According to the 2022 MEL Magazine story by Magdalene Taylor, “They got in, spread their message and got out.”

Members of Chumbawamba weren’t shy about their political views. From “Tubtexts,” in notes about Tubthumping by the band:

It is essential to be drunk all the time. That’s all: there’s no other problem. If you do not want to feel the appalling weight of Time which breaks your shoulders and bends you to the ground, get drunk, and drunk again. What with? Wine, poetry, or being good, please yourself. But get drunk. And if now and then, on the steps of a palace, on the green grass of a ditch, in the glum loneliness of your room, you come to, your drunken state abated or dissolved, ask the wind, ask the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, ask all that runs away, all that groans, all that wheels, all that sings, all that speaks, what time it is; and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, will tell you: ‘It is time to get drunk!’ If you do not want to be the martyred slaves of Time, get drunk, always get drunk! With wine, with poetry or with being good. As you please.” Charles Baudelaire, 1866

“I’m a human being and I’ve got thoughts and secrets and bloody life inside me that he doesn’t know is there, and he’ll never know what’s there because he’s stupid. I suppose you’ll laugh at this, me saying the governer’s a stupid bastard when I know hardly how to write and he can read and write and add-up like a professor. But what I say is true right enough. He’s stupid, and I’m not, because I can see further into the likes of him than he can see into the likes of me. Admitted, we’re both cunning, but I’m more cunning and I’ll win in the end even if I die in gaol at eighty-two, because I’ll have more fun and fire out of my life than he’ll ever got out of his.” Alan Sillitoe, from ‘Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner’, 1959

Resistance was everywhere in the lyrics:

I get knocked down,
But I get up again.
You’re never gonna keep me down.
I get knocked down,
But I get up again.
You’re never gonna keep me down.

And, from another song on the album, a hint about the ruckus in a bar or pub (ruckusing?):

This is Tearoom England.
They’ll kick your face in
So politely.
This is Tearoom England.
They’ll kick your face in
Oh, so nicely.

Modern Day Pharisee

Every once in a while, Christian music reaches back to its roots, the life of Jesus. The roots of reggae proved powerful as a population of artists realized the power of the gospel and music and brought an enduring music into being. Christafari leader Mark Mohr, came to belief through Rastafarian life. The resulting band broke into the Christian mainstream in tthe 1990s. This tune from the early album Valley of Decision, brings to mind the gospel’s warnings of the life religious, complete with a biting spoken coda.

They’re a brood of vipers.
They would pluck you off one by one,
just like a sniper.
They lash out their tongue
like a lethal weapon.
They don’t deal with a relationship (with God),
just religion.



Here, observances
won’t happen.
Snow and wind
paint the earth.
this morning,
cleaning the wood burner,
though no sprinkle,
no forehead mark,
but smudges on hands
and pants
and fine soot
marked me.

clash and rage.
a chapel gathering
drew students
and visitors,
a sign
that fire
still burns.

The wind can still mark.

Long, Long Ago

On the verge of 2021, the choir at the Church of the Advent in Boston performed a wonderful song to usher in the new year. The hymn was written by John Buxton in 1940 while a prisoner of war at Oflag VII C at Laufen Castle in Bavaria. It was published in a collection titled Such Liberty in 1944. The music was composed in 1950 by Herbert Howells for the Lady Margaret Singers of Cambridge.

Long, long ago, Oh! so long ago
Christ was born to heal the world’s woe.
For he should be the Saviour,
making wars to cease,
who gives joy to all men
and brings to them peace.


My small candle, its flare
Joins others as we, aware,
Express our faith as… There!
Light lasts longer, less rare,
Lures hope in what creation bears.

Will that promise of light
Fling fire into our souls, so to
Banish the gloom of war’s doom,
Offer shelter in the welter of tent cities,
Secure the battered release and peace,
Unchain and rearrange race hate.

Will our candles light others,
until their flames, fused in brilliance,
rival the warmth of spring’s sun?

A Few Honest Words

A decade ago, Ben Sollee, bowing, plucking, singing cello artist, was toting an instrument on a bicycle, partly because it was part of his messages, partly because it was just so sensible. Sollee’s music may be quiet, but it carries a muscle of its own. In these performances, Sollee performed in studio and at the Lincoln Memorial. The performance at the Lincoln Memorial was noted by NPR’s First Listen and the independent outfit Mason Jar.

If you’re going to lead my country,
If you’re gonna say it’s free.
I’m gonna need a little honesty,
Just a few honest words.
It shouldn’t be that hard.
Just a few honest words is all I need.