Friday, June 19, 2020


Well, clearly I had to sneak this in as the shutters pull down, ashtrays empty and lights go out. Prompted by J.David's last post, his call for last orders initiated that strange pavlovian response of suddenly after all needing one more for the road. So let me pretend once more not to have noticed the subtext for this theme is "songs about opening up". (Oops, but it's true, literally not 'til just now. Well, they'll be open again in the morning. Or, as we call it in the UK, the beginning of July, virus willing.)

Much as I love the Semisonic, and I do, having that album, it isn't the first song provoked by Closing Time. The one I default to is the one above, arguably one of the lesser songs by the Bard of Montreal. From his second sorta comeback album The Future, which followed 1988's I'm Your Man, wherein he reinvented himself as being more up to speed with the change of musical styles and instrumentation than his earlier bedroom acoustic might have suggested. This record was positively reeking of modernity, synthesisers drenching the grooves, give or take some gypsy fiddling. But still that voice, that golden voice, the one he was born with. And it is, true, a pretty slim song, the lyric better than the melody, which nonetheless evokes well the blurry, bleary atmosphere of a basement bar, more promise than preferences, the drink subverting sense and senses.

And that would have been that, were it not for a team of of his earlier advocates picking it up, the concept of closing time a more familiar seeming environment for Fairport Convention than Cohen. (The received wisdom would be that Cohen would have long since departed the bar, an uncorked bottle of vintage red in one hand, a sobbing mistress in the other.....) Back in the dim distant, when Fairport were a youthful band in admiration of earnest singer songwriters and yet to invent folk-rock, with Leonard Cohen one of the authors they admired, along with Joni Mitchell, they covered several of his songs. It was good, therefore, in 1995, to see him back in their hands, the lightweight lyric perfect for their "Grateful Dead on real ale" ambience. They play around with the words, echoing and repeating pertinent words. Plus, as a good idea of where they would place the song in their live set (and did), towards the end of the song the backing vocals remind " up next". That enough endears their version to me, and, simultaneously, raises the game of the original.

Finally, lest the eagle-eared be seeking it, Closing Time by Tom Waits was addressed here, some years ago. Lyle Lovett? A different song altogether, maybe for another day.

Salut! Cheers!

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