Poetry in song: Indie rock music lyrics

My preferences in music lie in this general direction: good lyrics, good groove, good singing, complex instrumentation, but my tastes are much more specific. The truth is, I can be kind of a musical snob. I grew up learning the trombone, a little piano, and dancing and singing on the fly whenever I could. Learning how to read and listen to music for its parts opened the door for me to enjoy music in greater variety and depth, which made me a more discerning consumer.

I don’t tend to like mainstream pop. I go more for alternative rock, indie pop, New Wave, electronica, movie and TV soundtracks, jazz, and classical, or rock that incorporates combinations of these elements. Such as No Doubt’s use of ska or Kings of Leon’s and Glass Animals’ blues-heavy alt rock. See the glossary at bottom for genre definitions.

I’m also a sucker for the occasional nostalgic 80s pop tune and musical theater production. I listened to a A Chorus Line a lot as a kid and have memorized most of the Rent soundtrack. Growing up on Olivia Newton-John, Madonna, Prince, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Billy Joel took a dramatic turn in the early 90s with my exposure to alternative bands The Cure and Depeche Mode. I always liked U2, INXS, and Duran Duran.

Then, at age 13, I became a Tori Amos fanatic, with sides of Bjork and The Sugarcubes, Indigo Girls, Sarah McLachlan, PJ Harvey, and Sheryl Crow through the next decade, much of which I’ve outgrown, though I do reminiscence. The story is similar with Fiona Apple and The Ditty Bops, and, earlier on, The Cranberries and The Sundays.

Today, some of my favorite bands include Young the Giant, Foster the People, Of Monsters and Men, Modest Mouse, Nothing But Thieves, Chvrches, The Killers, Bastille, and Cold War Kids. I went through a Florence+the Machine phase (Baroque pop), and I really like Hozier, Lorde, Jack White (The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and The White Stripes), The Black Keys, Silversun Pickups, The Kooks, Muse, Tame Impala, Metric, Snow Patrol, Joywave, Big Data, Matt & Kim, Alice Merton, Phantogram, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Two Door Cinema Club, Vampire Weekend, Saint Motel, and St. Vincent.

I still groove to the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, Interpol, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Incubus, Keane, Ra Ra Riot, Faith No More, Cake, Fitz and the Tantrums, Phoenix, Garbage, Soundgarden and Audioslave, Ben Harper, Over the Rhine, G. Love & Special Sauce, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Beck, Metric, Gorillaz, Rilo Kiley, Passion Pit, Ben Folds Five, The Smashing Pumpkins, Tove Lo, Queens of the Stone Age, Siouxsie and the Banshees (keep hearing “Turn to Stone” in my head for some reason), and The Clash when they pop up. Alternative rock, alterna-pop, punk, funk, post-punk revival, and offshoots of those.

I also love the music of James Brown, Blondie, Sam Cooke, The Police, Bob Marley, The Pretenders, Van Morrison, Otis Redding, Prince, Donna Summer, and Michael Jackson.

I don’t like most of today’s streaming radio apps. I like to choose my own playlist of specific songs, not songs derived from the artist or song I chose. But I’m also still looking for a music player app that truly understands the definition of random shuffle. Open to suggestions.

Anyway, these somewhat rigid standards translate into listening to a lot of the same music on repeat–for years. Thus, the following throwback recommendation. As a send-off to National Poetry Month 2018, I’m sharing some poetry in modern musical form. 

One of my favorite bands for great lyrics is The Shins, described as an “indie rock” band by Wikipedia. Guitar-based, keyboard-infused, and vocally and lyrically focused, The Shins strike the listener with their dynamic melodies, pop sensibilities, and pleasing harmonies. With more keen listening, their wit and ennui emerge.

I only have a couple of their albums, but the songs are very singable and packed with meaning. In dance terms, they tend to be more for swaying and head bobbing. Wincing the Night Away (2007) is my preferred Shins album between the two I own, the other being Oh, Inverted World (their first record, 2001), which I bought second. Wincing seems to me to have a more consistent and polished sound across the album.

 

The song lyrics below form a representative example of the turns of phrase, ideas, mood, and rhythms in many Shins tunes, especially on Wincing the Night Away.


“Turn on Me” by The Shins (from Wincing the Night Away, SubPop Records, 2007)

You can fake it for a while
bite your tongue and smile
like every mother does her ugly child
but it starts to leaking out
like spittle from a cloud
amassed resentment pelting ounce and pound
you entertaining any doubts

(chorus) ’cause you had to know that I was fond of you
(fond of y-o-u)
though I knew you masked your disdain
I can see the change was just too hard for us
(hard for us)
you always had to hold the reigns (sic)
but where I’m headed you just don’t know the way

so affections fade away
or do adults just learn to play
the most ridiculous repulsive games
all our favorite ruddy sons
and their double-barreled guns
you’d better hurry rabbit run run run
’cause mincing you is fun
and there’s a lot of hungry hatters in this world
set on taking it over
but brittle thorny stems
they break before they bend
and neither one of us is one of them
and the tears will never mend

(divergent chorus/bridge) ’cause you had it in for me so long ago
(boy I still don’t know)
I don’t know why and I don’t care
well hardley (sic) anymore
if you’d only seen yourself hating me
(hating me)
when I’d been so much more than fair
but then you’d have to lay those feelings bare
the one thing I know has still got you scared
yeah all that cold ire
and never once aired on a dare

(chorus) you had to know that I was fond of you
(fond of y-o-u)
so I took your licks at the time
a change like that is just so hard to do
(hard to do)
don’t let it whip-crack your life
and I’ll bow out from the fight
those old pius (sic) sisters were right
the worst part is over
now get back on that horse and ride.


Note the unique word choices, robust lines of ideas, verb tense nuances, use of repetition in words (sonically a harmonized echo) and verse rhymes (aaabbbb, dddeeeexxffff), which has this unique “oh, and one more thing” effect, and chorus variations. Yet, the chorus also holds a fairly consistent rhyming pattern, especially between the last two: chorus 1, cdxdd; chorus 2, ghgxhhhxh; chorus 3, cacaaaxa.

The tune opens with a spare, rising and falling guitar line with slight reverberation in a minor key, there’s a medium tempo with fast lyric delivery, and the song ends abruptly after the last line.

The collective effect of the words, rhymes, pace, notes, and rhythm is a message of sad but insistent coming to terms with personal differences leading to relationship’s end, seemingly with a friend rather than a lover. It plays as a kind of overture to be frank with the former friend, not to be interrupted, not expecting it to be reciprocated (though knowing the other might heal if release were allowed), in order to reveal that the speaker was more aware of their dynamics than the other probably assumed.

The second verse portrays a sort of cat-and-mouse (or rabbit-and-hatter) game between the people in this relationship, only to dismiss it as pointless role-play that doesn’t befit them. Fans of Lewis Carroll and followers of my blog may notice the Alice in Wonderland references with “rabbit” and “hatters.”

There’s all this friction, tension, wasted aggression, and drama. He “took” the “licks,” put up with the contempt and attitude of “disdain” because of love. But now he sees their fracture was inevitable and releases the other from the struggle, by leaving it himself and encouraging their moving on without clinging to the pain.

It ends with a message, more to self than to other, to get on with life now that he’s said his piece and supposedly found closure in it. He’s trying his best. However, the very need to sing the song, the “oh, and one more thing” pattern in the rhyming lines, the abruptness of the ending (before the declaration has a chance to sink in even to the one making it), and the emphatic, staccato delivery of the last line collectively suggest there will always be some part of it that at least one, if not both, of them can never get over.

As a result, the title “Turn on Me” reads in two ways: (1) Here’s what you did and I never understood why (the question haunts me), and (2) here’s what I almost dare you to do, to respond whether to explain or keep battering away at me, even though my final words say “nevermind, I’m out.”

Even without being put to music, it’s a sophisticated piece of poetry as a whole, conveying a theme not often found in mainstream pop, using incisive remarks, clever yet concise phrasing, and raw but controlled emotion. Like most poetry though, of course, it’s made to be listened to.

Among songs on the album, I also really like the more well-known singles “Australia” and “Phantom Limb.” The tunes “Girl Sailor” and “Red Rabbits,” though not popular on Amazon, are additional favorites of mine based on the lyrics and, ultimately, Wincing‘s great sound. Although I find the tune a little too stripped down musically, I do like the lyrics to “A Comet Appears,” the album’s last song.

My introduction to The Shins was through their single “New Slang”‘s prominent role in the movie Garden State with Zach Braff and Natalie Portman. That lovely single appears on the Oh, Inverted World album.

album-cover_Wincing-the-Night-Away_The-Shins_2018-Amazon

Cover of The Shins’ 2007 album Wincing the Night Away. Credit to image owner.

Notes on the text: I’ve based the lyrics above primarily on the album’s CD jacket text for the song. I forgive The Shins’ editors the CD jacket’s spelling errors, but I do mark them rather than correct them as some lyrics sites have. I’ve represented the lyrics without punctuation except for the abbreviations and contractions containing apostrophes, the hyphens, and the final period as shown in the jacket. I retain most of the line break model provided by MetroLyrics for ease of reading since the jacket has only 3 lines of text for the entire song, extending across two and a half page spreads. It’s one big run-on. To learn where each sentence really ends, buy and listen to the recording.

I restore lowercasing as shown in the jacket text and have re-broken stanzas according to my own sense of idea units and shifts in musical elements between verses and chorus. Per the original published text, I retain phrase truncation and omit question marks, though some lines are questions. I add parentheses around the echoed harmonies that MetroLyrics adds as separate lines of lyrics, as these are not in the original. I also correct several wording errors from the MetroLyrics text.


I recommend more music in these posts:


Glossary of Music Genre Terms

alternative rock, a.k.a. alternative music, alt-rock, or alternative – “a style of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1980s and became widely popular in the 1990s. . . . as distinct from mainstream rock music.” Benefiting from “the groundwork laid by the independent, DIY ethos of punk rock from the 1970s,” the term has been used at times to describe underground rock artists that are seen to be descended from punk rock (punk, new wave, and post-punk).” (Wikipedia excerpts) In short, not mainstream rock but not easily defined.

Baroque pop/rock – a fusion of rock/pop and classical music with Baroque compositional styles and use of instruments commonly associated with this movement of the classical genre, such as harpsichords (as on Tori Amos’ album Boys for Pele), strings, and, in the case of Florence+the Machine, harps (paraphrase of Wikipedia)

electronica – a variety of “styles including techno, house, ambient, jungle, and industrial dance, among others” (Wikipedia)

electropop – “a variant of synth-pop that places more emphasis on a harder, electronic sound, revived in popularity and influence since the 2000s.” (Wikipedia)

indie pop – “a genre and subculture that combines guitar pop with DIY ethic in opposition to the style and tone of mainstream pop music.” (Wikipedia)

* indie rock – a genre of alternative rock that originated in the U.S. and UK in the 1980s, originally referring to their independent record labels, evolving into a style and further evolving as different genres and subgenres ebbed and flowed in popularity. Often seen as an underground movement stemming from grunge, punk revival, and Britpop bands, some artists described using this term moved into the mainstream as well. At one point used to describe music produced on punk and post-punk labels. (paraphrase of Wikipedia) In short, once a clear genre, now muddled.

funk – “a music genre that originated in African American communities in the mid-1960s when African American musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul music, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). It de-emphasizes melody and chord progressions . . . and brings a strong rhythmic groove of a bass line played by an electric bassist and a drum part played by a drummer to the foreground.” (Wikipedia) In short, sexy, groovy awesomeness.

post-punk (originally “new musick”) – “a broad type of rock music that emerged from the punk movement of the 1970s, in which artists departed from the simplicity and traditionalism of punk rock to adopt a variety of avant-garde sensibilities. Inspired by punk’s energy and DIY ethic but determined to break from rock clichés, artists experimented diversely with sources including electronic music and black styles like dub, funk, free jazz, and disco; novel recording and production techniques; and ideas from art and politics, including critical theory, modernist art, cinema and literature. . . .” (Wikipedia). In short, punk morphed into anything they wanted.

punk rock or punk – “a rock music genre developed in the mid-1970s in the U.S., UK, and Australia rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as “proto-punk” music; punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock . . . typically produced short or fast-paced songs, with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics.” (Wikipedia). In short, angry protest rock.

Five-Phrase Fridays 2015

ICYMI: Here’s a round-up of all 19 Five-Phrase Fridays I posted in 2015. I’ll be adding the list to my blog’s Five-Phrase Fridays menu tab for reader convenience as well. Enjoy!

  1. Five-Phrase Friday (1) – hints of politics in poetry
  2. Five-Phrase Friday (2) – snippets (tippets?) of Emily Dickinson
  3. Five-Phrase Friday (3) – terms of endearment for my dog
  4. Five-Phrase Friday (4) – compound modifiers in action
  5. Five-Phrase Friday (5) – 1980s comedic cinema
  6. Five-Phrase Friday (6) – favorite Apples to Apples matchups
  7. Five-Phrase Friday (7) – funny, punny small-town slogans
  8. Five-Phrase Friday (8) – select lines from cherished poems
  9. Five-Phrase Friday (9) – Shakespeare-style insults
  10. Five-Phrase Friday (10) – Outlander‘s Frasers & Mackenzies
  11. Five-Phrase Friday (11) – Halloweenish rock band names
  12. Five-Phrase Friday (12) – phonetics of bird calls
  13. Five-Phrase Friday (13) – Emily Dickinson reprise
  14. Five-Phrase Friday (14) – portrait of a cycle of terrorism
  15. Five-Phrase Friday (15) – blessings I’m thankful for
  16. Five-Phrase Friday (16) – first and last lines from my NaNoWriMo novels
  17. Five-Phrase Friday (17) – best songs from a beloved Christmas album
  18. Five-Phrase Friday (18) – books on perfectionism (we shall overcome . . .)
  19. Five-Phrase Friday (19) – five pop culture lists of five great things

Five-Phrase Friday (19): In My Loving Arts

For the end of the year, and to make up for posting late (well, it was Christmas Day, after all), I’ve collected a year-end finale of five sets of five pop culture things I love. Usually represented in the form of a phrase, these are only samples of the many objects of my admiration. So here they are in no particular order.

I. Five titles of some of the most endearing Scottish folk songs Bear McCreary uses in the Outlander Starz TV Season One Original ScoreSheet_music_comin_thru_the_rye_duckduckgo_photostock

  1. “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye,” which supports at least three different scenes in the series
  2. “Maids, When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man” – in two different scenes and speeds: Jamie’s drunken evening and Jamie’s hangover the next morning, both in ep112 “Lallybroch”
  3. “My Bonnie Moorhen” in Jenny and Claire’s part of ep114 “The Search”
  4. “Weel May the Keel Ro” – described by composer Bear McCreary as a “fun jig” for the first part of Claire and Murtagh’s search in the same episode
  5. “Sleepy Maggie” – for the up-tempo rescue  sequence in ep116 “To Ransom a Man’s Soul”

II. Five of the novels I have most enjoyed (that I hadn’t already read)

since early 2011:

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 4/5
  2. 1984 by George Orwell – 4/5
  3. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – 4/5
  4. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (4th novel in the Outlander series) – 4/5
  5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – 5/5

III. Five favorite movies I have seen recently (I’ve got lots to catch up on, especially from 2014):

  1. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens – 5/5
  2. Still Alice – 4/5
  3. The Martian – 4/5
  4. Spy – 4/5
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy – 4/5

IV. Five of my favorite alternative music hits from 2015 – heard on SiriusXM’s AltNation:

  1. “Trip Switch” by Nothing But Thieves
  2. “Leave a Trace” by Chvrches
  3. “First” by Cold War Kids
  4. “Sedona” by Houndmouth
  5. “Now” by Joywave

V. Five of my new favorite TV shows (not necessarily new shows–in order to have a life, I’ve limited my exposure):

  1. Outlander
  2. Penny Dreadful
  3. Archer
  4. Parks and Recreation
  5. the prospect of watching Netflix shows one day, as well as Orphan Black, The Americans, and season two of Outlander

I hope you are counting your diverse blessings, too, and that they number well over 25, as mine do. I wish you all the best in 2016. Now and always, may the phrases be with you.

Five-Phrase Friday (17): Hark! The Herald

This week, I highlight five cozy little Yuletide tunes from a delightful jazz/blues Christmas album. The crossover folk band Over the Rhine released Snow Angels in 2007. Bejewelled with the smooth, smoky pipes of vocalist Karin Bergquist, my top five from the record follow. Ranging from sacred to sinful, all of the album’s tunes fit well together for a seasonal soundtrack or to warm you on a cold winter’s night.

This top-rated Over the Rhine albums on Amazon will make a great Christmas, Chanukkah (this weekend or next year), Kwanzaa, or music-lover’s gift.

So fill your mug with hot cocoa, throw in a peppermint stick, sit by the cracklin’ fire (or one of those crackling scented candles), and wrap your ears around these December-lovin’ beauties. Follow the link for a sample.

  1. “Darlin’ (Christmas Is Coming)” – gentle swingin’ into the holidays
  2. “Little Town” – a lovely variation on “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
  3. “Here It Is” – a jolly, driving-rock love testimonial
  4. “North Pole Man” – steamy blues that far outstrips “Santa, Baby”
  5. “Snow Angel” – a sweet commemorative ballad
The other great tunes on the album:
“White Horse” – a waltzing Christmas lullaby (“Hush now, baby . . .”)
“One Olive Jingle” – a jazzy “Jingle Bells” with slurry (drunken?) vowels
“All I Ever Get For Christmas is Blue” – slow, plaintive blues
“New Redemption Song” – a halting Christian folk anthem
“Goodbye Charles” – a Charlie Brown-like piano tribute to Charles Schultz
“Snowed In With You” – sensual, bluesy jazz like a tame night-club tease
“We’re Gonna Pull Through” – a slow, wistful ballad of solace

Originally from Cincinnati, where I first learned of them, the band also released an album called Ohio in 2010. Their most recent record is Blood Oranges in the Snow (2014)

Additional Over the Rhine CDs I own and enjoy:

The Trumpet Child, 2007
Films for Radio, 2001
Good Dog, Bad Dog, 2000 version

 

Happy Holidays, Baby.

Adapted Bawdy Lyrics: Outlander TV Series, Episode 114, “The Search”

Caution: This post contains old-time and foreign, though no less explicit, lyrics.

If you read my last post “Scotland’s Burns and Outlander rival Shakespeare’s bawdy” and wondered what the TV version lyrics of this naughty song were, I’ve added below what I could best discern from watching and listening. The earlier post includes a Scots terms glossary for both song versions. Also note that no details of Claire’s singing appear in the book; this content is unique to the show.

Stop_quoting_bible_Claire_drag_Murtagh_stage_TheSearch.gif

Here are Outlander Starz TV‘s adapted lyrics of traditional Scots bawdy song “The Reels o Bogie.” Arranged to the tune of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” featured in Season 1, Episode 114, “The Search,” and sung by actor Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser in drag, or as Murtagh puts it, “a Sassenach lady dressed as a laddie”:

Scene 1

[As stage fright hits her, Claire prefaces her performance with a 20th-century expletive, omitted here]

Verse 1:

Here’s to all you lads and lasses that go out this way.

Be sure to tip your coggie when you take her out to play.

The lads and lasses toy and kiss.

The lads never think what they do is amiss.

Because there’s Kent, and Keen, and there’s Aberdeen,

And there’s nane [none] as muckle as Strath-bogie-wogie.

Verse 2:

For every lad’ll wander just to have his lass,

And when they see a pintle rise, they’ll raise a glass,

And rowe about their wanton een.

They dance the reel as the troopers go over the lea.

Because there’s Kent, and Keen, and there’s Aberdeen,

And there’s nane as muckle as Strath-bogie-wogie.

A-root, a-toot, a-rooty a-doot….

Scene 2 (continuation)

[scatting]

He giggled, goggled me.

He was a banger.

He sought the prize between my thighs,

became a hanger.

[next is only a partially audible stanza as attention shifts to the crowd where Murtagh makes inquiries about Jamie Fraser]

[something] muckle chump [?]

I suppled both the ends…. [per 6th stanza of the original song (see link from previous post for details)] [something, something] boogie

[refrain repeats:]

Because there’s Kent, and Keen, and there’s Aberdeen,

But there’s nane as muckle as the Strath-bogie-wogie.

[Claire signals instrumental accompaniment to halt for her a capella finale:]

No, there’s nane as muckle as the wanton toun of Strathbogie.

Credits: song by Don Raye and Hughie Prince (1941), brought to popular culture by the Andrews Sisters; lyrics based on “The Reels o Bogie” and adapted by the writers and producers at Outlander Starz and Sony Pictures Television.

For fascinating insights into the score created for what he calls Outlander’s “trilogy” of episodes concluding with “The Search,” visit series composer Bear McCreary’s Outlander site at the following page: http://www.bearmccreary.com/#blog/blog/outlander-lallybroch-the-watch-the-search/. He emphasizes the ever-present Scottish folk elements in these episodes of the series.

To learn the meaning of these adapted lyrics and to access and learn about the original—much naughtier—song lyrics, see my earlier post: “Scotland’s Burns and Outlander rival Shakespeare’s bawdy.”

To see and hear the adapted song and lyrics in action (totally worth it), catch re-runs of the episode “The Search,” showing this week on Starz, or stream it online. Mature audiences only.


For more posts using Scots terms for body parts or trippy poems about mammals and stones (and possibly some stoned mammals), try:

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Scotland’s Burns and Outlander rival Shakespeare’s bawdy

Caution: Post contains old-time, though no less explicit, lyrics.

As a demonstration of the extent of my obsession with Outlander these days (largely what has been keeping me from blogging), here is an in-depth look at the words and music re-purposed for the most recent episode of the Starz TV adaptation.

Just as the main characters Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) of author Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series are both funnier and (he) more brutish than their TV series counterparts, the real Scottish bawdy song upon which the song used in the most recent episode, “The Search,” was based is both longer and raunchier. And yet, ramping up the humor this time, Caitriona Balfe’s and Duncan LaCroix’s (Murtagh Fraser) performances evoked guffahs galore from this avid viewer.

“It’s a bonny tune, but you need a Scottish song,” says Murtagh to Claire’s attempt to help him improve his show by singing to him her own century’s “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” I loved the screenwriters’ innovation of using the tune as the anachronistic foundation for Claire’s provocative, though reluctant, cross-dressing performance meant to summon her missing husband Jamie. Oh, the things we do for love. I would be equally interested to hear the tune of the original Scottish folk song (still looking for a recording with words). If you find that, let me know.

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser playing

Actor Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser in drag, Outlander Starz TV episode 114, “The Search.” Image credit Sony Pictures Television

Before you bugger off to the link of the song lyrics farther down the page, here’s a quick glossary of Scottish dialect and slang terms to help you enjoy their full effect. This list draws upon both the Scots Glossary at The Mudcat Cafe and the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL), as well as Wikipedia and Dictionary.com. The rest of the commentary is my interpretive opinion.

abootadv., about

baithadj, both

bogien., can mean outhouse, or boogie man, or cooking galley of a fishing boat (among other meanings), but is more likely a reference to the River Bogie (from Wikipedia): Note: Mention of Aberdeen in the tune helps to confirm this interpretation, though it’s possible there is double meaning intended in the song.

“The River Bogie (Scottish Gaelic: Balgaidh), also known as the Water of Bogie, is a river in NW Aberdeenshire in the north east of Scotland. Starting with the confluence of the Craig and Corchinan burns (57.2943°N 2.8910°W), near the parish of Auchindoir and Kearn, the River Bogie flows northeast for about 11 miles through Strathbogie (see entries for strath and Strathbogie below) to Rhynie and Huntly.” – Wikipedia

The TV episode’s rendition of the song refers to “the wanton toun (pron. toon) of Strathbogie,” and the Burns collection’s version refers to both the “reels of Bogie” and the “toun of Strathbogie.”

cluen., a ball of wool; fig., property, wealth, prize. In context, a sewing euphemism for sex: “bobbin on my wanton clue.” See entry for reel below.

coggien., diminutive of “cog,” meaning cup, vessel (according to the Scots dictionary). Also, a cog as “a gearwheel, esp a small one” or “any of the teeth or projections on the rim of a gearwheel or sprocket– from Dictionary.com’s listing of British Dictionary definitions. The association with spinning wheels matches the other metaphors in the song.

Its use in the TV version of the tune, “tip yer coggie,” suggests the male’s sexual agency. This imagery is similar to that used in the film Shakespeare in Love when Viola dressed as a man finds herself in a brothel being urged to “dip your wick” (as of a candle) into the “flame” of a prostitute’s loins. The wording in the online song lyrics, “tip her coggie,” however, suggests accessing the woman’s sex; thus, the notion of a woman’s vagina as “cup” or “vessel,” tipped to whichever parts of the male he chooses. Ahem….

daev., do

eenn., pl., eyes

langadj., adv., long

mairadj., adv., more

muckleadj., great, huge, tall; good (the word appears in the episode only)

pintlen., “a pin or bolt, especially one on which something turns, as the gudgeon of a hinge.” – Dictionary.com. Metaphor for penis. See entries for clue and reel.

reeln., “a cylinder, frame, or other device that turns on an axis and is used to wind up or pay out something.” In the song, a type of dance, associated with weaving and spinning, emphasizing this kind of pattern and movement (i.e., “dance the reel”). “Chiefly British. a spool of sewing thread; a roller or bobbin of sewing thread.” See entry for clue above. A metaphor for the sex act. Quoted definitions come from Dictionary.com.

rowev., to roll

snawn., snow

sochtv., sought

spreidv., spread

Strathbogien., “the old name of Huntly, Scotland, and the strath to the south of it” – Wikipedia

strath – n., “A strath is a large valley, typically a river valley that is wide and shallow (as opposed to a glen which is typically narrower and deep).[1]  An anglicisation of the Gaelic word srath, it is one of many that have been absorbed into common use in the English language. It is commonly used in rural Scotland to describe a wide valley, even by non-Gaelic speakers.” – Wikipedia

For the song’s purposes, the name of the town itself may also serve as a sexual metaphor, in the sense of its wideness and openness, i.e., lasciviousness or moral looseness.

thiesn., pl., thighs

tounn., town

I think the rest is reasonably discernible from context.

The atmosphere created by the sum of the lyrics is one of wild, whirling entertainment featuring drink, dance, the overt mechanisms of the sexual act, and a lust insatiable beyond “staying power.” The song relates the town of Strathbogie as a notorious den of reckless, extravagant (“wanton”) pleasure taking.

And without further delay, the Scottish bawdy folk song “The Reels of Bogie,” as retrieved online from pages 2 and 3 in the collection titled Merry Muses of Caledonia by famous Scots poet Robert Burns. Note that “The Reel of Bogie” is also claimed and played as an Irish folk song.

Actor Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser in drag singing

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser in drag singing “The Reels o Bogie,” image credit Sony Pictures Television

To read the version of the song lyrics adapted for the episode, see my other post on this topic: Adapted Bawdy Lyrics: Outlander TV Series, Episode 114, “The Search.”

To locate the whole region that was once a town in Scotland, see Strathbogie on a map in the district of Aberdeenshire.

For a comprehensive look at Scots music and cultural tradition, visit Scots Language Centre.

Catch the next and likely so-far darkest episode of Outlander on Starz this Saturday at 9pm EDT. Brace yourself, though. The omnipresence of the sex motif, so playfully explored in “The Search,” takes a turn into the disturbingly perverse in “Wentworth Prison.” #BlackJackIsBack


Later, I analyzed an original poem by Robert Burns: Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 5: Of Mice, Men and Rabbie Burns


If you’re enjoying learning some Scots, you might also like:

For more Shakespearean/Elizabethan jive:

 

 

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Writing 201: Poetry, Weekend Potluck

One of my favorite poems, of which there are dozens, is “Beethoven, Opus 111” by Amy Clampitt.

The poem appears in Clampitt’s original anthology, The Kingfisher (Knopf, 1983), and in the posthumous The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt (Knopf, 1999), which is edited with a foreword by my former poetry professor, Mary Jo Salter, 1997.

In her own “opus” of sorts, Clampitt draws thematic parallels between her father’s farm-bound efforts from her childhood and Beethoven’s compositional work on his opus from Piano Sonata No. 32. The dual spectacle of protagonist passion, fury, frenzy, obstinacy, and the journey of creation/destruction blend with a deeply personal recollection of Clampitt’s father.

Adding her mastery of rhythm, alliteration, internal rhyme, and other sonic devices to unusual word choice, varied allusions, startling use of enjambment coupled with thematic transitions, and circumnavigating phrasal refrains, Clampitt pays tribute to Beethoven’s musical form and artistry while presenting her own.

Prefaced by a quotation from Osip Mandelstam on which the poem builds, and spanning a total of 117 relatively short but densely packed lines, the piece merits reading and re-reading and reading about. In response to coming to view the work as a slice of poetic genius, I have added the poem’s first published home, The Kingfisher, to my Goodreads to-read list.

My first introduction to Clampitt and “Beethoven, Opus 111” came in college with my 4th edition copy of The Norton Anthology of Poetry, also co-edited by Salter, who used it in at least one of my poetry courses, as I recall.

Other, more well-known and beloved poems of Amy Clampitt’s featured there include “Beach Glass” and “The Sun Underfoot Among the Sundews.” As I am a bird lover, her avian poems “The Cormorant in Its Element” and “Syrinx” delight me just as much as the other two, but “Beethoven,” as usual, wins top prize–so far.