Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Richard Thompson's "Wall of Death"


I'm a fan of the single-metaphor song, not least because they are easy to understand but also because of the way the pieces get cleverly put together by the lyricist. A while back I posted one of my favorites of the genre, Merle Haggard singing Floyd Tillman's "This Cold War With You." Here's another great example: Richard Thompson's "Wall of Death." I saw this tour, or another one featuring the same band, at a club in Boulder back in the 80s. The song is great not only because of the inspired lyrics but also because of the Byrds-like jangle that drives the thing. Musicology note: Thompson is one of the world's great rock guitarists, but unlike most rockers his sound isn't based on the blues so much as on Scottish bagpipes and other traditional tones of his native British Isles.
Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

You can go with the crazy people in the Crooked House
You can fly away on the Rocket or spin in the Mouse
The Tunnel Of Love might amuse you
Noah's Ark might confuse you
But let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

On the Wall Of Death all the world is far from me
On the Wall Of Death it's the nearest to being free

Well you're going nowhere when you ride on the carousel
And maybe you're strong but what's the good of ringing a bell
The switchback will make you crazy. Beware of the bearded lady
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
Oh let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death
Let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death
UPDATE: 9-8-16
I must confess I relate to the sentiments of this song in only a theoretical way.  Unlike the Mystic Warriors of the Plains, who, before entering battle, would confirm that "It is a good day to die," the most severe existential threat I face on a daily basis is getting stuck in gridlocked traffic.

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