1 maart 2012

Rock Your English! (13) - @BenFolds' 'Fred Jones Part 2'

Wow, heads-up van de Meester zelf:'Thank you @LuckyFonzIII for your stellar reaction to my blogposts on James Blunt's lyrics vs those of Ray LaMontagne. You rule. And you’re absolutely right. Too. It really shows that if 10 people hear a song, 10 stories are born. That’s one of the reasons I started writing this blog. Also big ups to 3FM's Michiel Veenstra who called me to talk about the blog.'

Aan het woord is Buffi Duberman (twitter, Facebook), die haar tips & trucs deelt hoe je je Engelse uitspraak en songteksten verbetert. Zo zette ze Nederlandse songwriters op hun plek, had het over die altijd lastige 'th'-klank, de V en F in I Lof You Fairy Much, blogde over je songteksten (en nogmaals), woorden aan elkaar breien, ambities, gaf je een gratis worksheet en analyseerde met veel succes Ed Sheeran's 'The A Team', de bestgelezen post van dit kwartaal. En vandaag?

Buffi: 'I know that spring is in the air. I feel it from my curls to my heels. And also because Dutch people look at me and say “Spring eens in de air!” and laugh. To be honest, spring kinda scares the shit out of me. I see all the buds and baby flowers and newborn leaves growing, and I seriously fear for their lives. Because they might be budding in my garden, and my heart is filled with dread because there’s an excellent chance that I will kill them. Like 100%. Gardening frightens the hell out of me and I just wish things would either just stay alive or dead forever. Pick one and stick to it. None of this rebirthing crap.

Ok, enough with my phobia already. To give the dark days the final farewell that they so deserve, I’d like to honor one of my favorite lyricists – the fabulous Ben Folds, who wrote the masterpiece Fred Jones Part 2. If you’ve never heard of this gem, this means that I have never taught you, coached you, worked with you, talked to you, or lived with you (there’s about 12 of you left).

Off we go. Ready? We are drawn in, enticingly, by the melancholic rapture of the piano, and then we hear Ben’s unique voice calling to us, his voice respectfully heavy with the words:

Fred sits alone at his desk in the dark
There's an awkward young shadow that waits in the hall
So I’m thinking – who’s Fred? Why is he alone and in the dark? Is he the first one at the office? The last one? I’m intrigued. And I feel kind of sorry for him already. I love the awkward young shadow – that, to me, represents something that he’s not. It’s a reflection of something – but what? And why is it awkward? It waits. In the hall. This particularly shy shadow doesn’t dare to approach. And who is it a reflection of? Now I’m hooked. So many questions. No answers. Yet.
He's cleared all his things and he's put them in boxes
Things that remind him: 'Life has been good'
He’s removed everything from his desk and he’s boxed it all up. Aha. It’s his last day at work. Has he retired? Did he get the pink slip? And it’s the things that remind him of how good life was. Things from his work. Not feelings, not people, but objects. Objects that were once found on his desk. Would life have been good without these things, I wonder?
Twenty-five years
He's worked at the paper
A man's here to take him downstairs
Aha. Now we get it. He’s retiring. And he’s being escorted out of the building. Is the “awkward young shadow” a young security agent, waiting to take him out of the building? Is it a new college graduate, literally waiting in the wings to take his job?

And then the chorus kicks in; so simple it stings:

And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones
It's time
How they apologize. It’s time to go, whether he wants to or not. It’s almost like he’s on death row. And Mr. Jones. Ben called him Fred. But no one else did.
There was no party, there were no songs
'Cause today's just a day like the day that he started
No celebration. Nothing. Bupkes. He’s been there for 25 years and no one took the trouble to acknowledge his last day. For the rest of the world, this was just a normal day at the office. But not for him. Not at all.
No one is left here that knows his first name
My heart breaks for Fred (I feel like I can call him that). He’s outlived them all. All of his colleagues, the ones who really knew him, have up and left. He was the only one remaining. And now he’s leaving too, and no one cares. He has no name anymore. And he probably hasn’t for a very long time.
And life barrels on like a runaway train
Where the passengers change
They don't change anything
You get off; someone else can get on
This is such a powerful analogy. Life as a ‘runaway train’ – you are not the conductor. Someone else is. You can’t control your own destination, or how you’ll get there. If you even get there. It’s a runaway train, so you might end up somewhere you never imagined you’d be. And on this train, nothing changes except the passengers getting off and on the same train as you. That’s it. And you move to make place for someone else. That’s life. Nothing more, nothing less. And sometimes, life sucks.

The chorus kicks in again, and the 2-line apology hurts even more this time, knowing what we know now about Fred Jones.

Streetlight shines through the shades
Casting lines on the floor, and lines on his face
He reflects on the day
So now Fred’s back home. He’s left the office for good. The shades are drawn and the shadows are cast. Lines on his floor, lines on his face. I see prison bars when I hear this. Is he now a prisoner in his own home? Was he really being sentenced when he had to leave? Is being permanently at home the worst punishment you could give him?
Fred gets his paints out and goes to the basement
Projecting some slides onto a plain white
Canvas and traces it
Fills in the spaces
So he’s a painter? Like an artist and all that? Great – maybe he can paint away this horrible feeling that I’m drowning in. Art therapy time. Oh, wait. Projecting slides – like pictures of what once was? Memories? And he traces it – like trying to recreate it. To make it real again. To bring it back to life. To fill in the blank spaces, literally.
He turns off the slides, and it doesn't look right
Oh, that hurts. To me this means his memories don’t match up with reality. The way he remembers things is better than the actual situation. He misses work, which was a huge part of his life. Even if no one knew who he was anymore. Look down. There’s my heart. Don’t step on it. Please.
Yeah, and all of these bastards
Have taken his place
He's forgotten but not yet gone
Now we get the anger – no more nostalgic blues for Fred. He realizes that he’s out and can’t ever go back again. Those bastards – they killed his future. And here Ben Folds, madman that he is (in the bestest of ways) takes the expression you will find chiselled into every other gravestone in the States – “Gone But Not Forgotten” – and turns it inside out, forces us to examine its moldy interior, the one we don’t want to acknowledge… Just like Ed Sheeran did in The A Team, where he said The worst things in life come free to us. He’s forgotten but not yet gone. Poor, poor Fred. He loved his sucky job. Held out for 25 years. That’s all he had. And they couldn’t wait to get rid of him.
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones
It's time
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones
It's time
All good things must come to an end (like this blog ;). And change… Lots of people don’t like it; a few hate it. Some embrace it. If we could have autumn all year long, I’d be the happiest girl in the world. But we don’t. And you know what? I’m still the happiest girl in the world. Why? Because I’m glowy golden red leaves dappled in sunlight on the inside. And that will never change.'

Thanks for reading! Wit lof, Buffi

En dank voor het schrijven, Buffi! Overigens heb je het natuurlijk volstrekt bij het verkeerde eind. Ben Folds' mooiste tekst is het laatste couplet van deze prachtplaat, de afsluiter van hetzelfde briljante album:
Next door there's an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away

I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way to tell you that I know we belong

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