There Goes a Tenner

Today is Bloomsday, an annual celebration of the work of James Joyce. June 16th is the date on which the action of his most famous novel takes place. Like many Irish people and lovers of literature, I’ve never actually read Ulysses. However, I’m a big fan of Joyce’s collection of short stories named after the his native city and also A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Perhaps one day I’ll find some time to tackle it. In the meantime, here are half a dozen songs with a connection to Joyce and Ulysses. Kate Bush has been in the news recently as she has finally received permission from the Joyce estate to quote part of Molly Bloom’s closing soliloquy from Ulysses in one of her songs. In 1989, Bush wanted to use Joyce’s words on the title track and lead single from The Sensual World. She was refused back then, but was successful this time with a reworking of the song now called Flower of the Mountain. The Sensual World is one of selection of songs from The Sensual World and its 1993 successor, The Red Shoes, that she has re-recorded for a project called Director’s Cut. I wonder if the decision by Joyce’s estate to allow Bush to use the original text had anything to do with the fact that the copyright is about to run out on Joyce’s work. Personally, I don’t hear much difference between the two versions, so I’ve included both Flower of the Mountain and a cover of The Sensual World by Susan Voelz

Of course, Bush had her first success with her four-minute take on Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It is, in my view, one of the best musical adaptations of a literary work along with Jefferson Airplane‘s version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. White Rabbit appeared on Surrealistic Pillow, the band’s first album of 1967, and was the only song on the collection written by lead singer Grace Slick. She wrote two more on November 1967’s After Bathing At Baxter’s. The track rejoyce is one of those and this song uses Joycean stream of consciousness to pay tribute to the writer. New York City based Black 47 pay a different kind of tribute to the man from Dublin on their 2000 album Trouble in the Land. This comical ditty tells the (presumably) fictional tale of its narrator’s impulsive decision to take a train from France to Switzerland with the intention of engaging in a sexual encounter with a member of the opposite sex on Joyce’s grave in the Fluntern Cemetery in Zurich. The singer claims that he only wants to gain some inspiration, though the Swiss police don’t see it that way. The band is named after the worst year of the Irish famine in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was also around this time that another comic song emerged that proved to be the inspiration for Joyce’s final novel. Finnegan’s Wake concerns the death of Tim Finnegan and the amazing recuperative powers of Irish whiskey. Liam Clancy introduces a fine rendition from The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem from their 1984 Reunion album. The final song is also taken from a 1984 album, Double Nickels on the Dime by Californian post-punks, Minutemen. It is named for today’s date, but is it about Bloomsday? Well, I guess you’ll just have to listen to it to find out

Flower Of The Mountain – Kate Bush

The Sensual World (Kate Bush cover) – Susan Voelz

Rejoyce – Jefferson Airplane

I Got Laid On James Joyce’s Grave – Black 47

Finnegan’s Wake – The Clancy Bros & Tommy Makem

June 16th – Minutemen


One thought on “There Goes a Tenner

  1. Grace Slick puts chills down my spine every time I listen to ‘rejoyce’
    Especially the line “with his head all buried down at the foot of his bed”

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