It was the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme the other day. The battle lasted the best part of 5 months. 20,000 men died on the first day; one million were killed or injured all together. It is difficult to imagine how we can inflict such misery on ourselves and yet there was no strategic alternative for either side. And the Somme is now regarded as the tipping point that eventually led to the collapse of the German forces in 1918 and the end of the first World War.
Maria Browne is a young girl. Her daddy was killed in the war and she doesn’t know why. Between the nightmares she tries but she just can’t understand.
Tell me, how loud can you scream?
Maria Browne lost the love of her life to a strange land.
Maria Browne doesn’t know what they’re fighting for.
Maria Browne is a single from the recently released Patchwork album by a band called The Clear. Until this week Crotchety Man had never heard of The Clear but that song stood out when I heard it on the radio (the RadMac show, naturally) and prompted me to investigate. They are Chris Damms, Bryan Day and Jules Duffey. Between them they play guitars and keyboards, and they all sing. Although they describe their music as West Coast pop it’s not the fun, fun, fun of the Beach Boys; it’s much closer to the folk-inflected sunshine pop of The Mamas and the Papas.
West Coast pop is never going to have top billing on the Crotchety Man blog. On the whole it’s far too bland and predictable for this blogger’s ears. But sometimes, just once in a while, one of those ‘nice’ songs creeps under the wire and infiltrates Crotchety Man’s fortified camp. Songs like Good Vibrations and Sloop John B by the Beach Boys and Monday, Monday by The Mamas and the Papas did that in the sixties. Maria Browne has tunnelled in to join them this week.
An investigation into the causes of this breach in our defences is under way but several factors have already been identified.
There are the mellow tones of the folk guitar introduction, recalling early Simon and Garfunkel tracks. There’s the gently rocking rhythm of the bass and drums that, like a pocket watch swinging on a chain before your eyes, eases you into a hypnotic trance. And there are the vocal harmonies that seep deep inside like a hot honey drink. Then, of course, the lyrics tell a powerful and poignant story. And, finally, there is the intriguing emphasis on the first syllable of ‘Maria’ making it sound like a truncated ‘Marion’ – a secret weapon that pricks the brain and tricks the mind into focusing all its attention on the song.
The addled Crotchety brain spent a long time trying to decide whether Maria Browne deserved a Track of the Week slot in these pages. On musical merit I’m still undecided but it follows on so naturally from last week’s post (I Vow To Thee My Country) and fits the theme of remembrance so well that it seemed more than just appropriate. And when I saw that one of the other tracks on the Patchwork album is called The Planets the hand of fate was undeniable. A double link from the last post to this. If these songs were on The Chain Radcliffe and Maconie would be proud of me.