A blast from the musical past

I didn’t see it coming. Like a thunderbolt, that exultant first line lyric and guitar lick blasted out from the car radio, seized my audio pleasure centres, and for the next three and a half minutes wouldn’t let go. I cranked up the volume, only realising minutes later that it was so loud I couldn’t even hear that the car indicator was still going.

We were on our way to Bridlington, Anna and I. We pulled up at a small garage, just in time to take my hands off the steering wheel and launch into an exuberant air guitar solo. Then, almost as soon as it had started, the nineties pop behemoth wound up. I sat back and bathed in the ecstasy. Anna was dumbstruck. The garage attendant looked concerned. 

To identify this track that launched me into such a frenzied performance is, in terms of kudos, the equivalent of wearing belted jeans pulled up above the waist – or styling floppy hair, outside of the 90s. It is indeed the one and only ‘The One and Only’ – by Chesney Hawkes.

 There, I’ve said it. Put your head in your hands if you will. Refuse ever to speak to me again. I don’t care. It may indeed have cheese levels to rival certain regions of France, but I bloomin’ love this song and, to throw in some Emmental, ‘you can’t take that away from me’. I feel toward the Ches a bit how I feel about the child actor from The Shining. That boy was in only one film, and never acted again. But it doesn’t matter. It was ‘The Shining’! Likewise, Chesney, ‘mister one hit wonder’ himself – but it was ‘The One and Only’! Worth ten average hits if you ask me (which you may never again after this). What’s more, this equivalent of an audio caffeine burst has triggered an unanticipated trail of discovery. Until a week ago, I knew next to nothing about either song or artist. Now it’d be harder to list what l I don’t know.

It was penned by Nik Kershaw – who bought two houses from the earnings. Chesney crashed and burned a bit afterwards – which is why many of us never really heard from him again – but became a cult hit at student unions, and is still a working musician, putting on zoom gigs, and living happily with his family in LA. Seems a nice bloke in interviews. Supportive of mental health initiatives.

I’ve seen one or two of the original performances on YouTube.

A young Chesney owning the stage, curling his lip and drawing screams from his teenage fan base, like a blonde Elvis. This was thirty years ago. There were no mobile phones or anything! I was in my first year at uni. Chesney was jetting around Europe, girls were camping outside his home, while I was grappling with Flaubert, essay deadlines and fragile self-confidence.

It’s all sparked some thoughts. About the wonder of a pop tune that becomes a hit, the strange alchemy that allows a particular sequence and timing of musical notes to trace a path which burrows its way into your head and stays there. That sent a song flying up the charts to occupy the top spot for five whole weeks.

Also about youth, aspiration, aging and the passing of time. There’s something poignant here. Though still a working musician, in mainstream popular imagination Chesney is frozen in time as the ‘beautiful boy’ who a long time ago belted out a megahit, then like a brief firework faded from view. It is, in my view, primarily faith that allows a more enduring ‘youthfulness’ to dwell and grow in the spirit. As Paul said, ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day’. A theme I may revisit. Suffice to say for now that I believe it allows you to walk with another dimension of ‘dignity and pride’.

Post Easter poem

It’s not very long (unless I’ve got this wrong)
Since Easter, that marks resurrection
Which (let’s not be blind) to the scientific mind
As a theory, seems far from perfection
To hold in your head someone rose from the dead
Stretches credulity at best
Some are inclined to think we should find
Ways to put this idea to the test.
The problem right here, to be perfectly clear
Is it’s not something easily repeated
But to turn round and say that it’s bunkum, go away
Is no way for the thing to be treated
For a moment just think (it might make you blink)
We once thought (cos we’re standing still)
The idea this place, is now barrelling through space
Would have made the average punter quite ill
But when someone suggested (it was sorely contested)
That we hurtle full pelt round the sun
This novel solution sparked a revolution
In our views (that must have been fun).
In a similar way, I ask in our day
When the notion of God is derided
And pushed to the brink, maybe time to rethink
Some ideas that we long ago decided
I don’t mean to plod, but just think, if God
Like the sun is what life goes around
Then the thing that seems weird, that some bloke with a beard
Came to life, might just get off the ground.

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

Audio:

Easter weekend poems

Good Friday

Good Friday: its meaning has tended to fade
In our world been forsaken, neglected, mislaid
We have some inkling of Jesus, he died
For ‘the faithful’, their faith now a fast ebbing tide
What if we found though, and fresh understood
That Jesus, like none else, was radiant and good
That somehow he soaked up our rage, sin and pain
To lead us to God; could it move us again?

Holy Saturday

Sometimes in life we must stay still and wait
Unsure what’s coming, we sit, ruminate
Life can then feel like a prison, a tomb
For purpose and pleasure, we find little room
Where do we turn when our comfort is gone
How do we cope, when of hope there is none
Like a faint gleam when we’re low and forlorn
We can be sure, swift approaches the dawn

Easter Sunday

Resurrection remains an intriguing idea
In popular culture, its resonance clear
The records are tantalising, strange and oblique
In tracing a thing so surprising, unique
Gospel accounts hint and beckon, invite
To see what’s beyond that which lies in plain sight
The bold thrilling promise remains: if we choose
To connect to this life, it both fills and renews

Image by analogicus from Pixabay

Audio:

Easter poem

What a strange year for the world to endure
For the trauma, the loss, there’s no quick easy cure
Sadness and loneliness, trouble and grief
Enough to test anyone’s faith – and belief
Something to think on this Easter weekend
In the midst of a trial that’s not yet at an end
Something to muse on, to dig deep and ponder
This traditional season of life, hope – and wonder
Something that burns deep inside me this hour
Is a hunger, a thirst now for resurrection power
There may be a ‘road map’ to guide us through trial
But where to find hope – that lasts more than a while?
I long, yes I do, that every bruised battered heart
That struggles and thirsts, could find a drop, yes a part
A portion, a helping of this marvellous thing
That like liquid gold fills the soul, makes it sing
That doesn’t just endure for a short fleeting night
But like the sun soars through the spring morning bright

Image by Raheel Shakeel from Pixabay

Audio:

Lent longings

What I wonder, here’s the question, will we find in that word ‘Lent’
Is it old and worn and tattered now, and is its meaning spent?
What I wonder can we plunder from this practice, ancient, strange
Is there still treasure in age of leisure, are its riches out of range?
Give up chocolate, fags, the booze, we harbour notions slightly quaint
Do it at all? We’re free to choose, but it still has a pull, though faint
In our times, these troubled climes, perhaps a chance to heed the call
Because it’s not just old, gone cold, but it’s fierce, demands our all…
Nowadays you might think “Oh, ok, I’ll give up something sweet”
Where brave souls once encountered thirst, and worse, like desert heat
Either way the call of Lent still beckons, reckons with each heart
Asking, will I make space, for grace, face my fears, take part
Maybe in that place I’ll find something wondrous waits for me
A sight, a sound, and cords unbound, fresh living, wild and free.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Audio:

Lockdown Love (short version)

This Valentines, we’re all locked down – that’s guaranteed to make love frown
Steals its thunder, pushes it under, makes it blunder, takes its crown
And instead of a love-heart and flowers and take your loved one out
You’ll be lucky if your Beth or Bart just showers n doesn’t pout
If he just cooks, or she just books a takeaway tonight
At least content to look the part – not run for it in fright.

Love’s important, makes the world go round, and we want to express
It kinda neatly, not too sweetly, and keep calm, you know, not stress
But we still worry, frown and fret, and get all tense and anxious, yet
If we could just relax a bit, that’d be by far a better bet.

Love’s intense, can be immense, gets you-off the fence, spare no expense
You feel you’re flying, I’m not lying, gets you swooning, laughing, crying
You’ll scale a wall, feel ten feet tall, and ask “It’s late, can I still call?”
And agonise, fall down then rise – and then forget about it all.

I believe it – take or leave it – that the world vibrates with love
It’s all around, and it abounds, it’s deep within, without, above
As I learn to let it burn down in my heart and in my veins
I find I’m falling more in love with its melodious strains
This love divine, I let it shine in me, it fills and it redeems
Has power to transform human love, so  – with glory – it gleams.    

For BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Bradford & other stations…

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Audio:

Lockdown Love

February fourteenth, Valentines, red hearts, romance – you know the signs
The ads and fads (a lot quite bad), the schmaltz and cheesy lines
They say that love is blind, it’s in the heart and in the mind
But every February we find, the usual tropes revert to kind
We’ll take any chance to shine – with just a sweet romantic line…

This year we’re all locked down – that’s guaranteed to make love frown
Steals its thunder, pushes it under, makes it blunder, takes its crown
And instead of a love-heart and flowers and take your loved one out
You’ll be lucky if your Beth or Bart just showers n doesn’t pout
If one just cooks, or the other books a fancy takeaway tonight
At least content to look the part – not run for it in fright.

The day of love, when push comes to shove, is actually always fraught
Because we’re human, we get in a stew man, and it’s easy to get caught
In all the pressure, expectation, and some bad sleep deprivation
In houses up and down the land, and all across the nation
Love’s important, makes the world go round, and we want to express
It kinda neatly, not too sweetly, and keep calm, you know, not stress
But we still worry, frown and fret, and get all tense and anxious, yet
If we could just relax a bit, that’d be by far a better bet.

This is me now, don’t you see now, I’m just talkin’ as one fella
I’m no Valentine-o fanboy, I’m no ‘day of romance’ seller
If I was I’d leave now cos I’ve no ambition to be toast
I’ll just say hey, you know, we all want to be loved by someone most
It’s so intense, you know, immense, gets you-off the fence, spare no expense
You feel you’re flying, I’m not lying, gets you swooning, laughing, crying
You’ll scale a wall, feel ten feet tall, and ask “It’s late, can I still call?”
And agonise, fall down then rise – and then forget about it all.

What makes this one day special is the secrecy of course
To be the admirer of Luke or Lyra, speak in code, you know, like morse
And there’s something we adore, we want it more, the mystery
Of wondering ‘who loves me?’; I don’t mean brotherly or sisterly
When you send a card, and be a love bard, you get a magic thrill, a shiver
Like running down a bank and jumping starkers in a river
And if you find you’ve got that kind of place in someone’s heart
There ain’t no poet that can quite express the feeling, there’s no art. 

(pause).
But the thing that most excites me, daily smites me, makes me quiver
Is to think these tributaries of love flow to a bigger river
The mystery of love at Valentines – it leads us on
And shows us something deep about the heart of things, no con
I believe it – take or leave it – that the world vibrates with love
It’s all around, and it abounds, it’s deep within, without, above
As I learn to let it burn down in my heart and in my veins
I find I’m falling more in love with its melodious strains
This love divine, I let it shine in me, it fills and it redeems
Has power to transform human love, so  – with glory – it gleams.    

For BBC Radio Leeds & other stations…

Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

Audio:

Audio

Benediction prayer poem

Father God, you see and hold our past, our present, and our future.
We lay them now at your feet.

We bring to you our past… that bittersweet mix.
Memories to hold, though some leave us cold.
Of all we have tasted, nothing is wasted, 
The good, let us keep; the rest, let it sleep.
What didn’t go to plan, like tracks in the sand,
As tide fills the bay, may it be washed away.

We bring to you our present…
The psalmist longed to dwell where you dwell,
Father we do as well.
We bring you our brokenness, our pain, our fragility
Confess that our hope does not depend on our ability,
As secret spring sap starts to vivify the tree
May your Holy Spirit now fill and flow in me,
Our cold and damaged parts and those afflicted by life’s storms,
Like Narnian statues, be revived! – by Aslan’s breath that warms.

Father we bring to you our future… the way that lies ahead,
Each smooth or rocky road, every path that we may tread,
Like that ancient star of Bethlehem, your light before us gleams
The place of desert drought you make a place of streams,
In you we find our faintness fades, on wings like eagles we rise
Fresh fortified for joy – and trial – that now before us lies. 

For BBC Local Radio Sunday Service, 24th January 2021

Audio

Image by Himsan from Pixabay