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.


For an instant,
opening the door
to the wood stove
and releasing
a plume of smoke,
the scent brought
an image to mind.
Wisps of smoke from
the blunt end of a
hot iron
pressing into pine
prepared for just this,
trying to conjure
an impression
of a dip into the
wide world outside the door.

Here we go again…

[These musing follow on the heels of an Iowa legislative initiative [with the grand-sounding moniker of “Students First Act”] to further school choice in a legislative session in which members of the majority party have been railroaded into support of a law that has been debated annually for several years. Even members of the majority party have doubts about the wisdom of furthering school choice in Iowa, but our governor is calling in the membership chips.]

I don’t have the chops to argue school policy at the level of the Iowa state legislature. I don’t have the lobbyists at my disposal who are busily bending the ears of those who are ostensibly representing us at the Iowa Capitol. I’ve not sat in on any of their proceedings.
I can tell you this. Our representatives do not have staff persons at the meetings of our school boards, locally. They are not here talking to students in our schools. They are not here talking to our teachers during breaks in their day.
They are getting their information twice-(or more)-removed from ground zero, the classrooms in which our students are taught.
In light of the dollars our state funnels into education, and, as a taxpayer, I have to say there is a big gap here between those making policy and those who have to carry out those grand ideas.
We schooled our kids at home (with the help of some classes at our local public high school, I must add), and our kids have long left the house to follow their lights. But, my experience with public schools and with the kids who have attended public schools continues to fuel my interests. I attend public meetings relating to education. In those public meetings (emphasis on public), I’ve heard school kids from primary through secondary levels tell about their experiences. I hear reports from principals and teachers, who relate the triumphs and travails of their work.
There have been some interesting discussions, especially as the COVID pandemic hit. In another, the board room was packed as a student related the presence of racism in the school.
The minds of our kids are like sponges. When they are interested, it’s a big job finding enough material to feed those interests. In school, interested kids are encouraged to think, write, create and speak to communicate those interests. Our teachers (public and private) are professionals who delight (or should) in providing the basics to fuel those interests while encouraging students to broaden themselves.
Where am I going with this? You are busy with yet another season of “education reform.” It seems to me that this perpetual diversion never stops. It does more to advance political careers than it to advance the state of education.
For example, proponents and opponents of “school choice” are beavering away, right now, on a bill that would expand state funding to families who want to send kids to private schools.
It will benefit a few more parents in lower-income brackets in the first year, if the bill is enacted. Three years down the road, it has the promise of benefiting parents state-wide who want to support private schools…
…that is, if the state legislature continues to fund the program. The economics of the program under discussion have not been fully vetted.
In prior years, there has been vociferous debate about whether the dollars spent on state education have been effective. If we taxpayers don’t hear that, again, with this proposal, something is off kilter.
It’s easy to forget that state policy begins by funding favorite programs, but when state income falls short, the continuation of those programs falls back to the local tax base.
Promises and making policy are easy, especially if the persons making the promises and policy are not in the trenches. So, pardon me, if you see my eyes roll, with this latest proposed legislation.
In the spirit of compromise, I offered this: If state legislators are feeling flush and are bound and determined to assist private education, designate a one-time, substantial contribution individually to each qualified private state school in Iowa. Attach whatever qualifiers legislators wish to impose, but emphasize that the money is to be invested wisely in a program to offer scholarships to local families who wish to have their kids attend private schools.
That method will reduce the criticism, somewhat, of diverting state dollars from public to private education.
But I can’t help but see programs such as these chip away at the need for robust public education.
Oh, and while legislators are at it, they can an least make an effort to approach a cost-of-living increase to public education. Teachers, administrators and support staff are the backbone of any education initiative. Parents are essential, as well, not to mention kids who are eager to learn.
Encouraging our kids to read, think, write, create and speak at the backbone of a well-functioning republic. That’s the underpinnings I’m looking for in an educational system. I hope our representatives are good examples of those who read, who think critically, who can write, create and speak their own minds outside of the confines of their parties. If they are not, I wonder how effectively they can guide the educational process.