Songs of Love and Death

by Tim Hopwood with Joe Van Der Linden

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1.
We all have a dark star in some corner of our hearts. A little star so dark, no light escapes its grasp. We all carry scars from the hands we've been dealt. Scars we know so well, and scars we've never felt. She loved me for my dark star she said I never tried to hide. I loved her for her dark star and all the tears she cried. And even though it's over now and we've gone our separate ways, We hold each other's dark stars the remainder of our days. Fought against my dark star, fought it tooth and nail, With artificial light from some imaginary Grail. Little dark star sucked up all that light. Little dark star spat me out into the night. You can wrap it all in white, you can cover it with snow, Your little dark star will only grow and grow. You can soak it through with Jesus' blood to make it go away, Your little dark star will come back at you some day. So careful with your dark star and the people who will claim To take it all away for you or deny its very name. You don't have to name it or put it out for all to see But denying your little dark star will never make you free.
2.
I once met a man in a bar, he said to me, “My son, Love is a bit like a temperamental old gun. Just when you think it won’t ever fire no more, It’ll roar back to life and blow your foot through the floor.” I once met a man on a road, he said to me, “My friend, Love is a bit like a wound that won’t ever mend.” As he walked away I realised he probably was right, For the trail that he left behind him was a terrible sight. Then a white-coated man in a lab said “Get a load of this: Love is nothing but a neurochemical bliss.” I pondered his words as I purchased a vyv-man-kan To drown the memory of the way your hair catches the sun. Don’t know what to do with these words that I wrote for you. I guess I’ll try and bury them. What else is there to do? Or throw them all in a box and drive to the sea, And maybe then I’ll forget about you and me.
3.
Tell me what’s that smoke rising on the edge of town? Tell me what’s all this stuff that’s washed up on the beach? Is that the smoke from the fires of the people we’ve beaten down? Is all that remains this flotsam, of the people we couldn’t reach? Sometimes I feel like a dog chained up in a tiny little concrete yard, Or a lion sleeping in the shade unaware of a distant telescopic sight, Or a rainforest monkey paraded on some Parisian boulevard, Or a jackal busy chewing its leg off from the snare that’s holding him tight. Tell me what’s that sound from underneath my floor? Tell me what’s that smell drifting down my street? Is that the sound my grandad heard just before the First World War? Is that the smell of burning flesh and a million marching feet? Some days I feel a cold wind whistling through my bones, And other times my veins feel like they’re filled with solid air. At night I dream I’m in a strange room full of obsolete telephones, Or standing in the middle of a hurricane with a thousand-yard stare.
4.
Somewhere on this road A house shuts out the night. It resembles any other house In a certain kind of light. In this house there was a gathering Of uniformed men. In this house the plans were made Of how and where and when. In this room there was blood spilled, And marks upon the wall. In this room the deals were made That compromised the soul. And in this box lies buried Photographs and files. In this box are the melodies Of the pain behind the smiles. An unexpected guest Has travelled through the night. He came upon the house He had memorised the site. He climbed a flight of stairs He opened up a door. It was there as they’d assured him, This box upon the floor. Everything grew quiet, And there are those who swear: It was then that all the children Fell into despair.
5.
Do you remember when all of us Called out your name? Our hearts were on fire, nothing could Stand in our way. I climbed on a rooftop and waited For you to appear. Until the end of my life I will always Remember that day. But this is so far from where we wanted to be. This river keeps flowing but it never reaches the sea. Now here in the twilight your body grows Tired and frail. The world has its way now, what did we Think we could change? But in the silent cold depths of our memories You remain strong. Speaking words that sound Increasingly strange. Because this is so far from where we wanted to be. This river keeps flowing but it never reaches the sea. Do you remember when all of us Called out your name? Our hearts were on fire, nothing could Stand in our way. I climbed on a rooftop and waited For you to appear. Until the end of my life I will always Remember that day.
6.
They buried his heart at Wounded Knee Emptied his dreams into the Missouri They buried his heart at Wounded Knee Carved an ancient curse into a Redwood tree They buried his heart at Wounded Knee Chorus: The strangers came from across the seas An angry god and missionary zeal In their fetid ships all full of disease They brought their guns and germs and steel Thy buried their hopes at Wounded Knee Dug a nice big hole for their naivety They buried their hopes at Wounded Knee Cast what remained on an angry sea They buried their hopes at Wounded Knee Chorus Maybe those ships they’ll come again I don’t know from where and I don’t know when Maybe those ships they’ll come again I don’t know who’ll be on the receiving end Maybe those ships they’ll come again
7.
They gathered in a little church To say their final prayers. They asked the lord to intervene. They believed that he cares. But the killers came in undeterred Through the church-house doors, And still today you can see the blood Of children on the floors. And now you sit there telling me Your god hears your prayers. He understands your petty needs, He loves you and he cares. He must be awfully pleased with you When you say your grace. Does he smile down indulgently As you stuff your First-World-Face? They gathered in a little church To pray for their lives. They asked the lord to intervene And save them from the knives. But the Lord’s Ways are mysterious And on that particular night, He simply turned his face away, Or perhaps he just took fright. And now you sit there telling me Your god can intervene. But every time these deeds occur He’s nowhere to be seen. Because all of your mundane requests They keep him occupied, They distract him from the famines, The wars, the genocide. And now you sit there telling me That I don’t understand. But every time I see a preacher man I see blood on his right hand. For all the good within your faith Can never compensate For all these years of killing, For all these seeds of hate.
8.
We were oil and water We were salt and snow I looked into your eyes At the time how could I know? You were for me a mirror Or maybe more like a pool I looked into your water And I became a fool I’ll never mix my drinks again I’ll never drink and drive And if there’s muddy water I’ll be careful where I dive. We made stormy weather There was a hurricane It blew down every door Shattered every window pane. We jipode on cement We made a house of sand Now we face the sun And the weather of this land. I’ll never venture out in a storm I’ll protect myself from the sun I’ll never trust no weather-girl After all you’ve said and done. We were oil and water We were salt and snow I looked into your eyes At the time how could I know?
9.
This unbearable heat, It’s been there many years. The water has run dry And I got no more tears. But your smile was like a shower On a dry and dusty land. It washed away the traces Of my sorrows in the sand. And your voice was like the wind, Gentle on my skin. In your eyes I saw the fires Of the storms you keep within. I would stand out in your rain 'Cos I’ve felt your touch that burns. But these roads remain untravelled And these lessons left unlearned. But I know you’ll never write And I know you’ll never call. There’s a broken old continent between us, There’s a sea, there’s a world. And I suppose that’s as it should be, We are simply too far apart. You’ll never understand the sorrow of this land, And the hole that it’s made in my heart. No, you’ll never understand the sorrow of this land, And the hole that it’s made in my heart.
10.
04:07
When you left town I knew there’d be Some price we’d have to pay. Somewhere inside there’d be a scar, I’d find it there some day. You went away and left bits of yourself Scattered through these rooms, I’ve swept the place so many times I’ve worn out all these brooms. And so we go leaving bits of ourselves All around the place, In amongst the autumn leaves Or in a dusty old suitcase. Some we bury carefully Underneath the floor, Or simply toss into the back Of an old kitchen drawer. On every street in this old town You’ll find a little piece of me. There’s bits of me next to every dam And under almost every tree. There’s bits of me in our old house And in the garden that we grew, And in the dust behind the fridge I found A little piece of me and you. Perhaps one day there’ll come a time When it all bleeds into one: All of our storms And the whole of the sun. And then the pieces of ourselves That we’ve left out in the rain Would all flow together, And obliterate the pain.
11.
07:18

about

1. Little Dark Star. Words and music: Tim. 2009
This one sort of lay around without ever being performed until we recorded it.

2. The Ballade of the Broken-hearted Bar-fly. Words and music: Tim. 2008
I think I wrote about 15 songs before I wrote a love song. I thought that was quite impressive. Then I learned that REM made 6 albums before they succumbed. Translation: fyf-man-kan: a five litre box-wine.

3. Thousand Yard Stare. Words and music: Tim. 2007
Most of these songs were written during the 5 years or so I spent working as a photographer for the Sunday Times. This was written after a few days spent recovering from covering the xenophobic riots and killings in Port Elizabeth, which were a precursor to the big ones on the Reef in 2010.

4. The Pied Piper of Vlakplaas. Words and music: Tim. 2006
Having come from a fine-arts background, I never really understood why it was acceptable for visual artists to deal with things like the TRC in their work, but not musicians, and why musicians can write love-songs but you never see a love-installation. That last one is maybe a good thing, but who made these rules anyway? This was inspired by not just what I read about Vlakplaas, but also by Jo Ractliffe’s series of photos of that place.

5. Hope Was Inevitable. Words and Music: Tim. 2006
A song about looking back on the first time I saw Nelson Mandela, in Cape Town, 1994, just after he had been elected president. Song title courtesy of the late, great Plumber Rob.

6. The Ballade of Crazy Horse. Words and Music: Tim. 2009
Some songs are inspired by books, this by Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and Guns Germs and Steel.

7. The Little Church. Words and Music: Tim. 2009
I wrote this song for all those Christians in the U.S. (not that they’ll ever hear it but anyway) who think America is prosperous because god has somehow intervened in their affairs and blessed them. He must then have cursed all those unfortunate souls who took shelter in the little churches in Rwanda.

8. Oil and Water. Words and Music: Tim. 2010
My departed friend Caleb thought this was a cool song. “It’s like Alanis Morissette for guys,” he said.

9. Continental Rift. Words and Music: Tim. 2008
A song about falling for someone from another continent who will never quite understand the continent you’re on.

10. Scattered. Words and Music: Tim. 2008
We had our clothes hanging on two racks in the bedroom. After she moved out, I walked upstairs and saw a whole rack of empty coat-hangers. It was the saddest thing to see, the absence of a presence.

11. Revelations. Words and Music: Tim. 2005
This song about millenarian movements was the first proper song I wrote. I guess a lot of stuff that had been occupying my mind came out. It kind of took my friends and me by surprise.


Thank You:
There are so many people I’d like to thank. Too many, dunno where to start.
Big thanks to all who performed on it: Joe, Stella Konik, Megan du Toit, Lloyd Martin, John Dickin, Caleb Vaughn-Jones, Danny Boschoff, Dolla Sapeta, Will Pinnock and Simon van der Linden.
Big thanks also, for his input: Donovan Hattingh, and Andrew and Jen for the house by the river.

Thanks also, in no particular order, to everyone who encouraged me at the beginning of this weird mid-life decision to start writing songs, as some people thought I was mad: Anton, Henry and Michele, Marc and Yolande, Pete, Mandy, Dolla, Baadie, Rob B, Danny, Fergus, Philpie, BA, Evan, Herman, Donald, Pat, Gary, Sean, Will and Shannon, Vos and Val, Will P-J, Dave G, John D, Allasdair, Ettianus, Kendal, Waynee, Dori, Hagen, Amy, Gni, Raadie, Anton B, Graghim, Shouli, Mike W, the departed souls of Johnny Hodgkiss, Caleb Eastwood and Plumber Rob, and of course, the biggest culprits of all, Jane and Joe. Thanks also to my mom and dad and brother James for all their moral support, albeit accompanied by slight befuddlement, and to the many others who subsequently gave their support.

Humble thanks to all the SA musicians and bands who have inspired me musically over the years: Anton Calitz, Dave Goldblum and his cousin The Vabond, Chris Letcher & Matthew van der Want, Koos Kombuis, David Kramer, Valiant Swart, James Phillips, Rian Malan, Gert Vlok Nel, Will Pinnock, Joe, The Ha!Man, Strange Little Man, Fetish, and Juluka, amongst others. Humble high-fives to my musical heroes who now reside in The Hotel Eternal Blackness: Leonard Cohen, John Martyn and Nick Drake.

Big thanks to the musos of Port Elizabeth in general. They’re an awesome bunch: very supportive of each other, and always keen to lend a hand. Thanks especially to those who sometimes collaborate with Joe and me: Stella Konik, Megan du Toit, Jason Erlank, and the Ha!Man. Thanks also to Alan at Offbeat for lending us a 12-string for the recording, and Fergus for the classical.

Bigger thank yous to my brothers James, Frank and Chris for making sure I listened to decent music as a kid, to Simon Lawson for teaching me the basics all those years ago, and Anton Calitz for being so encouraging right from the very start. (And to my housemates Jimmy, Rabbi and the rest in 67 African Street, Grahamstown, for tolerating my tuneless noodling).

Biggest thank yous to Jane Burt for encouraging me to write, and for being my guide through the landscape of ideas and the intellect, and to Joe van der Linden for far too many things to mention, not the least being all the kick-ass playing, inspired decisions and hard work in producing this album. And for being able to work around my click-track allergy foible.

credits

released May 1, 2017

• all songs written by Tim Hopwood
• all songs recorded and produced by Joe Van Der Linden

• Tim: vocals and all acoustic guitars
• Joe: all electric & classical guitars, electric & fretless acoustic bass guitars. keyboards tracks 2,6,7,8. Percussion programming tracks 1,2,3,6,7,8
• Stella Konik: hammond organ tracks 1,2,7,9. Piano tracks 2,7,10. keyboards track 7. Backing vocals tracks 2,5,6,7,9
• Megan du Toit: piano and vocals track 10. Backing vocals track 5
• John Dickin: djembe & shakers track 1. Bongos track 2. Brushed bodrain track 7
• Lloyd Martin: drums track 2. Brushes tracks 3,8
• Caleb Vaughn-Jones: cello tracks 2,5,8
• Dan Boschoff: e-bow tracks 5,6,7
• William Pinnock: backing vocals track 11
• Mxolisi Dolla Sapeta: spoken word track 11
• Simon van der Linden: Saxophone track 11
• Assistant producers: Donovan Hattingh, Leandra Grobler
• Recorded in Port Elizabeth 2008, 2012 & 2017 and Kromme River, 2017
• All songs © Tim Hopwood & Joe van der Linden

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