I'm sitting exhausted in front of my computer, about to get back to work after a second long day of bullshit work "advising" students on what classes to take at the large urban community college that's already latched on to suck my blood for another semester, and I had this intense craving to hear Billy Bragg's song, "Must I Paint you a Picture?," which turns out to be on one of those albums not in my collection. ("Workers' Playtime") When searching for it, I realized that not only did I not have it, but that I only had "Talking with the Taxman about Poetry" on vinyl. I must have become so familiar with this song because of college radio, the juke box at the CC club, and that one live show. yeah, don't worry, I found a copy and am listening to it in a dreamy haze right now.
Just for the sake of nostalgia, here are the lyrics for you too....
It's bad timing and me
We find a lot of things out this way
And there's you
A little black cloud in a dress
To take the precious things we have apart
To see how they work
Must be resisted for they never fit together again
If this is rain let it fall on me and drown me
If these are tears let them fall
Must I paint you a picture
About the way that I feel
You know my love for you is strong, girl
You know my love for you is real
It took a short walk and a talk
To change the rules of engagement
While you searched frantically for reverse
and then claiming
That virtue never tested is no virtue at all
And so I lost my ignorance
And now the bells across the river chime out your name
I look across to them again
All your friends said come down
It will never fly
And on that imperfect day
We threw it all away
Crisis after crisis, with such intensity
This would never happen if we lived by the sea
Most important decisions in life
Are made between two people in bed
I found that out at my expense
And when I see you
You just turn around and walk away like we never met
Oh we used to be so brave
I dreamt the world stopped turning as we climbed the hill
I dreamt impossible dreams that we were lovers still
It would make great karaoke, though I think this is one of those great melodies whose lyrics on their own seem a little adolescent. My best my memory of hearing it is from when I saw Billy Bragg w/ the Blokes at Irving Plaza at some point in the late nineties - around the time of the Clinton impeachment, because he was cracking jokes about Monica Lewinsky's dress. ("If the president wacked off on my dress, I'd save it too!") We probably marched around Macys that week shouting, "No War for Ramadan! and No War for Monica!" After the show, my friend Laura, often a model of uprightness, went wobbling and singing, "Must I Paint You a Picture??" in a bad cockney accent all the way to the Bleecker St. 6 station. That night, my friend Erin was also there with her then boyfriend, Bob, the fireman, who later died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th. Of course, today's ultra-patriotic right wing, who have claimed that tragedy for themselves, would never have imagined that any of NY's bravest were fans of a pinko-commie song writer.
Little did any of us know what was in store for us and the world in a few short years.
And with that, I'm returning to the 17th century.