song experiment

I’ve been down with the flu most of this week, and this has given me a unique opportunity for imaginative activity (dreamtime, surrealist practice). Not much else you can do when muscles are weary and you keep coughing/sneezing.

So in between naps, I lay on the sofa and closed my eyes. I imagined I was doing a gig and asked the audience for three words – a person, a place and a thing. The answers came back ‘Helen’, ‘Spar’, and ‘bottle’. I have no idea who Helen is, but I can picture her.

Then I imagined myself singing. A story unfolded, complete with mental images of this strange person and her own fantasies, played against words and a melody. I rather liked the story and the song structure so just ran through it mentally again just now. Ha! I got a nice ending this time, and want to write it down while I can still remember it.

Keep in mind that the composition process to this point has been entirely silent. I have now polished the lyrics and formalised the melody and dance movements. It needs the right venue…I nearly performed it tonight at the AberLive open mic but held back because my throat is still not quite right and I don’t have my normal voice completely back yet.

Helen and Fred

By Mary Jacob, November 2010

Helen went down to the corner Spar.
She slipped a bottle under her coat.
Then she sat down beneath the railway bridge
for a good long drink and a smoke.

She looked up at the trestle overhead
as a train came trundling by.
She heard clickety clack, clickety clack,
clickety clackety clickety clackety click clack clack.

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath,
and then slipped into a dream.
She saw herself dancing with Fred Astaire,
up on the silver screen.

She wore glittery tights and a spangly hat,
and ruby-red stack-heel shoes
They went tippety tap kick, tippety tap kick,
tippety tappety tippety tappety tap tap kick.

She opened her eyes, the shadows grew long.
It had been quite a while since the train had gone.
She picked herself up and hobbled down the street
with her tattered coat and her swollen feet.

But I heard a boy say to his friend as she passed
‘What’s that sound, is that a tippety tap?’
Tippety tappety tippety tappety tap tap kick.
Her coat hem fluttered as she went past.


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