Monday 26 May 2008

One That Got Away

It always happens. Just as soon as you wave bye-bye to your manuscript for the last time before it emerges, lovingly set and bound, as a real book for real people to read, something (actually, loads of things) pops into your head that would have fitted perfectly inside those crisp new pages. I suppose you just have to accept that books are never really finished; you simply draw a line in the sand at some point.

Anyway, when I was in my teens I was big fan of Peter Gabriel’s first few solo albums, but they’d rather slipped away from me in the past ten years or so. Then someone reminded me the other day of the song Family Snapshot, from his ‘Melt’ album, and it immediately made me want to stop the presses and crowbar in a couple of extra paragraphs.

The song is about an assassin readying to kill a US politician – it's based on the attempted assassination of Governor George Wallace by Arthur Bremmer in 1972 – and some of the lyrics are really superb. In RENO's chapter on murder songs I talk about a brilliant line from Tom Waits’ Murder in the Red Barn, where he sings: ‘For some murder is the only door through which they enter life.’ There are a couple of lines in Family Snapshot, sung by the murderer to his prey, that are similarly chilling and perceptive: “I want to be somebody / You were like that too / If you don’t get given you learn to take / And I will take you.” In the closing lyric, we're transported back to the gunman's childhood and given a glimpse of the gaping holes he's trying to fill by killing. Listen to it here and you'll see what I mean.


Anonymous said...

Hey, nice one, great idea for a book! This Gabrel song is a real killah - I haven't heard it before, but it strikes me that it sounds very 'now' - the end sounds almost like Coldplay... when was it written, I wonder?

Graeme Thomson said...

Hi, Anon.

It came out in 1980, on Gabriel's third album which also has got Biko and Games Without Frontiers on it. Well worth checking out.

I think Gabriel is due a bit of a revival, actually. Not sure if I hear the Coldplay vibe, though!