Call Me

Blondie

“Blondie’s Back” Live Concert at The Town Hall 1999, New York City

In the 1970s Blondie had a string of hits and although the publicity made them look like a manufactured pop product, they were in fact a ‘proper’ rock band as you can see here.

This song was a big hit in the 1980s, having been written as the main theme for the film ‘American Gigolo’ in which Richard Gere plays a male prostitute who is framed for murder. ‘Call me’ is being sung from the point of view of his character, clearly an advertisement and invitation to make use of his personal services. I’d like to re-purpose the refrain of the song as a message from God to us all:

Call me on the line
Call me, call me anytime
Call me, oh my love
When you’re ready we can share the wine

These corona virus days are troubled times and this is an invitation to pray. Pray for those suffering the disease and its after-effects, pray for grieving families and friends, pray for stressed and lonely people, poor and frightened people. Pray for God to guide our leaders, pray for the medical staff and all the key workers. Pray that some good will come from this for our society, our economy and our environment. And if you’re reading this in the future when this particular crisis is over, I’m sure there will be something else to pray about – just read the news.

God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him.

I Peter 5.7

No Roots

Alice Merton

Ask me where I come from, I’ll say a different land

‘Roots’ has so many meanings – family history, the place where you grew up, the community you are in now, or the culture you were once part of – which might not be the same as your current beliefs and lifestyle.

Can you ever really go back to your roots? Your childhood friends have moved on, your parents will pass away, your home town looks small, and your own ideas about life develop while the whole the world keeps changing. Even if you had some roots once, you can’t ever really find them again.

We are all lost in the universe and the universe doesn’t care. That’s existential angst for you. Alice Moreton is singing about the way we all want those roots, and our sadness at not having them. But I think she has the answer too.

There are many stories in the Bible of people who left home, migrated, sometimes as refugees or captives. The collective yearnings (spread over centuries) are summarised in this passage, Hebrews 11.13-16 where the writer says people “agreed that they were only strangers and foreigners on this earth … but they were looking forward to a better home in heaven”.

I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground

Brighton Rock

Queen

Oh, Rock of Ages do not crumble, love is breathing still

Got to love the fairground noises! It’s karaoke time here at Hotlips House – time to strut your stuff in the kitchen while using the mop as the mike stand. In early live performances Freddy Mercury wore stage clothes made from Zandra Rhodes bedsheets (allegedly) – so you can do that too if you want the full experience.

As far as I can tell, this song has no connection with the Graham Greene novel of the same name, except they both portray a blighted romance and the funfair noises at the start hint at the Brighton Pier arcades, scene of some of the action in the book. It’s interesting to note that when the song came out in 1974, Greene was only 70 years old (he lived until 1991). I wonder if he heard it and made the connection? But I digress.

This song is a gorgeous vignette of a story – boy meets girls, love ensues, there is guilt, they part, she pines, there is betrayal. It’s a masterpiece of compressed narrative, almost like Shakespeare. In fact there is some playful use of theatrical language – “Jenny will you stay, tarry with me pray, Nothing e’er need come between us, tell me love what do you say?” And the lines “It’s so good to know there’s still a little magic in the air. I’ll weave my spell” reminds me of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where a magic juice is administered in the moonlight.

Although the song is short, its structure is operatic. The ‘narrator’ tells the story in the first two couplets, followed by a duet between the male and female characters, Jimmy and Jenny, with Freddy singing both parts using high and low register voicing. Then the ‘chorus ensemble’ rejoin with an emotional response. The long instrumental section lets us settle into our feelings, when a final dramatic reveal brings a shocking climax.

For me, the other stand-out musical feature is more subtle, in the melody. The line “Oh, Rock of Ages do not crumble, love is breathing still” seems to have some deep emotional effect on me. It’s like a gospel choir, bringing both a plea and a reassurance.

‘Rock of Ages’ is a a pun on Brighton Rock (the confectionery) but it comes from a phrase used in a famous Christian hymn to refer poetically to God, by describing the divine properties of eternal stability and permanence. In these uncertain lockdown days, this is a prayer I can offer up. Let’s sing it together. Now, where’s the mop?

Oh, Rock of Ages do not crumble, love is breathing still

Rock of Ages hymn – Wikipedia
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – play by William Shakespeare – Wikipedia
Brighton Rock – novel by Graham Greene – Wikipedia
Brighton Rock – Queen live at ‘A Night At The Odeon’ 1975 (10:54)
Brighton Rock – Queen live at Earls Court 1977 (13:32)