Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

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Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 2nd, 2011, 1:54 am

I thought we'd try a harder lyric this week, "What a Day That Was" from The Catherine Wheel. I like this song even though I'm confused by it. I'm wondering what it means to other fans.

Steenstra's book analyzes this song at pages 81-84. Here's a quote from page 83: "This text has some remarkable characteristics. First, there are repeated shifts in its implied perspective, as shown by the pronouns shifting freely between "I," "you," "we," "he," and "they." The perspective also shifts between solitary musings to storytelling, from factual observation (in the beginning of the 1980s, the number of beggars in New York City was indeed estimated to have reached 50,000) to dreaming. The distant present of a mythological "big chief with a golden crown" mingles with the here and now, as if all of mankind's history is relevant to the interpretation of every single event within that history." :?:

I don't hear all of that in this song. DB says his lyrics are accessible, so what are we non-PhD's to do with this lyric? I can make reference to other songs. The whirlpool is the overlap of two recurring Byrne themes- drowning and spinning. Having more than you can hold and having no choice but to let it drop reminds me of "I Feel my Stuff." And we have dream cities that show up in many DB lyrics.

Here's my interpretation. I think of baby boomers ("boom boom boom"). The boomers had more economic and moral freedom than their parents; did it become overwhelming (whirlpool/going home/talking to the older generation about differences between right and wrong)? In that interpretation, the "first day" could be coming of age in an era of relative freedom; the "second day" the realization that sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll did not bring meaning or happiness. So now what? :coffee: What does the song mean to you? :coffee: :coffee:

Here's the lyric:
Well, I'm dressed up so nice
An' I'm doin' my best
Yes I'm startin' over..
Startin' over in another place

Lemme tell you a story
Big chief with a golden crown
He's got rings on his fingers
And then he walks up, up to the throne

He's makin' shapes with his hands
An' don't you dare sit down
Now don't you dare sit back
And don't you dare speak up!

And on the first day, we had everything we could
hold
Ooh and then we let it fall
And on the second day, there was nothing else left
to do
Ooh what a day that was.

There are 50,000 beggars
Roaming in the streets
They have lost all their possessions
They have nothing left to eat

Down come the bolts of lightning
Now an electrical storm
Starts a chain reaction
Go pull a fire alarm

I'm dreaming of a city
It was my own invention
And I put the wheels in motion
A time for big decisions

And on the first day, we had everything we could
hold
Ooh and then we let it fall
And on the second day, there was nothing else left
to do
Ooh what a day that was.

Oh a day that was
Ooh that's the way it goes
There's a million ways- to get things done
Three's a million ways- to make things work out.

Well I'm going right through
And the light came down
Well they're roundin' 'em up
from all over town

They're movin' forward and back
They're movin' backwards and front
And they're enjoying themselves
Moving in ev'ry direction

So if you feel like you're in a whirlpool
You feel like going home
And if you feel like talking to someone
Who knows the difference between right and wrong

And on the first day, we had everything we could
hold
Ooh and then we let it fall
And on the second day, there was nothing else left
to do
Ooh what a day that was.
We're go(in') boom boom boom That's the way we live
And in a great big room and That's the way we live.
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Oedepus on May 2nd, 2011, 3:36 pm

My first observation is that David really likes this song, it's been on a fair share of his tours.
The version form Austin TX is outstanding!
Will return with more thoughts after a look at the lyrics.
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 3rd, 2011, 2:45 am

s!mbells wrote:I just want to clarify it's the lighting in "What A Day That Was" that is outstanding. As is the choreography. SMS is a masterpiece but in particular "What A Day That Was" is outstanding. There is a particular point in the video that I' always blown away by...I can't find words to articulate so here's the link - it's around 4min 50sec mark.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXJgt8rLMC4

Everybody in this clip looks out of this world - great work!


I can see why you didn't try to spell that! I'm interested in these sounds too. They remind me of vocal tics, and they tend to be the part where I end up singing along (alone, in my car). It's remarkably uninhibited to be able to channel those feelings in front of a microphone and a crowd!

Re: SMS, This song is a show-stopper for me. I'm a fan of The Catherine Wheel, so I'm glad they included this. The lighting makes the faces so ghoulish! It reminds me of campout ghost stories.
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 3rd, 2011, 3:07 am

Oedepus wrote:My first observation is that David really likes this song, it's been on a fair share of his tours.
The version form Austin TX is outstanding!
Will return with more thoughts after a look at the lyrics.


I'll have to check out the Austin performance. Thanks.

Re: text. This lyric is full of recurring DB themes. Here's what I found: king/queen ("His Wife Refused" "HeLL"), blending in with a crowd for your own protection ("Life During Wartime," "Dirty Old Town"), fire, dream cities ("One Fine Day"), wheels/spinning ("Home"), and decisions ("No Compassion" "Empire"). That's a lot of connections to other songs. I know there are a bunch more songs with these themes that just aren't leaping to mind at the moment. But this list maybe gives us something to work with.

I'm also noticing a lot of references to posture and movement: sit down, sit back, stick out (the official lyric says speak out, but I hear "stick out"), forward, backward, whirlpool, every direction. Does that mean anything? The crowd seems to be moving in "every direction," but that's not really possible, is it? There are infinite directions, and moving up, for example, is quite a difficult one to manage for long. It reminds me more of molecules than people. :?: Does the progression from simple, one person movements to complex/impossible movements suggest being overwhelmed or disoriented?

The dream city thing, along with the reference to the beggars in the street, reminds me of Plato's Republic- where the philosophers spend the whole book trying to envision what a just (meaning fair) city would look like. Interesting thing about the Republic is that the discussion is set while Socrates awaits his execution for corrupting the youth. Injustice wins in ancient Athens and 1980s New York.
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Wickeddoll on May 3rd, 2011, 10:52 pm

My kids used to love to sing the wooooooooo part of that song when they were little.

Natalie
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"Wicked little doll, you have no soul"
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 4th, 2011, 1:43 am

Wickeddoll wrote:My kids used to love to sing the wooooooooo part of that song when they were little.

Natalie


That's cool! :rockdude:
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 4th, 2011, 1:48 am

Aspiemom wrote:
Re: text. This lyric is full of recurring DB themes. Here's what I found: king/queen ("His Wife Refused" "HeLL"), blending in with a crowd for your own protection ("Life During Wartime," "Dirty Old Town"), fire, dream cities ("One Fine Day"), wheels/spinning ("Home"), and decisions ("No Compassion" "Empire"). That's a lot of connections to other songs. I know there are a bunch more songs with these themes that just aren't leaping to mind at the moment. But this list maybe gives us something to work with.


I feel dumb for omitting "going home" from my list of recurring themes. :oops: SMS has "Naive Melody" right after this song. It's like "you feel like going home" in this song, and then you get there, "I guess."
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 5th, 2011, 2:59 am

I had to look up "chuffed," and it's a word with many meanings! I think it means you're pleased, though. When our kids get older, they'll have to rebel by listening to Lawrence Welk. . . or take up bagpipes. . . I'm sure they'll think of something!

The Osama assassination makes me wonder why it was considered good policy to occupy Afghanistan? Maybe now we can leave?

I'm still chipping away at the edges of this song. I found a couple more recurring themes: "doing my best" ("His Wife Refused") and "light."

"What a Day That Was" comes right after "Swamp" on SMS. I also found a documentary on Youtube that also had these two songs in this order. If it happens twice, it must be on purpose, right? Both "Swamp" and "WADTW" start with "Let me tell you a story," and both are kinda dark. Any other reason to juxtapose them?

The documentary showed grainy, under and over-exposed home movies accompanying "What a Day That Was." Maybe the song is about baby boomers after all? Or a more universal loss of innocence as children morph into adults? Or sensory overload (some of the films mirrored snow-blindess). I'd post a link, but I can't find it anymore. It was called "Once in a Lifetime," and it ran on BBC 4.

I've been thinking about what kind of person would tell such a gut-wrenchingly bleak story while starting over in a brand new place. Most people put on their happy-masks when they're starting over ("I'm happy. Everything's great! How are you?") Here's my list of people who tell dark stories of their pasts: released prisoners; refugees; born-again Christians; other groups I haven't thought of. Of these, I'm leaning toward refugees, because of the big chief and the political oppression ("don't you dare speak out," "they're rounding them up, all over town"). First day/second day could refer to a change of circumstances as someone falls out of favor with the tyrant, or a kind of "revolution eats its children" problem.

I don't know. Then you run into lines like "that's the way it goes," or "there's a million ways to get things done," which seem so ordinary and accepting and calm. Makes me wonder if the king and all that is just a metaphor for something disturbing but ordinary. :hippy:

I feel like I'm in a whirlpool. Lifeline, anyone?
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Oedepus on May 5th, 2011, 9:14 pm

I had to look up the definition of "Chuffed" as well :lol:

Aspie, I'm sooo lost on this one, it's even harder than Strange Ritual and I feel my stuff!
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 6th, 2011, 3:23 pm

Hmm, Star Wars would explain the link to "Swamp". . . . (May the 4th be with you, belatedly.) Seems like the U.S. is always bombing somebody- "boom boom boom." Thanks for tossing me a life-preserver!

A lot of shit happened during the Reagan administration. It was alienating, incomprehensible for some of us. ("Our President's crazy. Did you hear what he said?") I started thinking about the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill. The Reagan Administration defunded lots of mental hospitals, claiming that they were freeing the patients. Schizophrenics, manic depressives, alcoholics were given a clean set of clothes ("well I'm dressed up so nice") and an outpatient appointment. Many of them ended up "roaming in the streets." I thought the song might describe their point of view- First day went okay, 2d day not so good.

I checked out the choreography from "The Catherine Wheel," and it's a very joyous dance. The dancers jump and spin in gold costumes, and they sometimes turn into rotating, multi-person machines! That works as well as the darkness in SMS. If the song has such a broad range of interpretation, maybe it's another mirror-type song that shows more about the listener than anything else. :?:
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Youdo on May 7th, 2011, 11:07 pm

"What a Day That Was" comes right after "Swamp" on SMS. I also found a documentary on Youtube that also had these two songs in this order. If it happens twice, it must be on purpose, right? Both "Swamp" and "WADTW" start with "Let me tell you a story," and both are kinda dark. Any other reason to juxtapose them?

The documentary showed grainy, under and over-exposed home movies accompanying "What a Day That Was." Maybe the song is about baby boomers after all? Or a more universal loss of innocence as children morph into adults? Or sensory overload (some of the films mirrored snow-blindess). I'd post a link, but I can't find it anymore. It was called "Once in a Lifetime," and it ran on BBC 4.


Channel 4 :geek: http://www.youtube.com/user/logoagogo20 ... iIhKkqcQMY
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 8th, 2011, 12:29 am

s!mbells wrote:I'm not sure about Star Wars as chronologically the song is a bit early but I'm not discounting it. I heard the song "Oh What a Night" by Four Season and the lyrics "Oh what a night, late December back in 63...." made me think it's the opposite (in a fashion) of WADTW, and in the song "The River" DB sings "Like Sam Cooke sang in 63"......is there some connection here and I'm curious - what is the change that Sam Cooke sang (sang or sung?) about?


I think my deinstitutionalization theory may have a similar chronology problem, but oh well.

At least I can answer one of your questions. Check out Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come." It's great, and it has a river in it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaNzxniXxYE

1963 is a time before I was born. It was the year John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and you can hear a loss of innocence in American pop music. I think of it as the year the '60s started in the U.S., but my parents would have a better perspective on it. :hippy: The civil rights movement had a long way to go. We only prohibited employment discrimination based on race in 1969, the year Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were shot. Although we have elected a black president, racial disparities and racism persist. No to mention class, gender, disability, sexual orientation, national origin/language, veterans' status . . . . So, the line in "the River" may be ironic, because if the change is still on the way 45 years after Sam Cooke sang about it, how much hope is there in that? In the long term, we'll all be dead. . . .
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 8th, 2011, 2:36 am

Youdo wrote:
"I'd post a link, but I can't find it anymore. It was called "Once in a Lifetime," and it ran on BBC 4.


Channel 4 :geek: http://www.youtube.com/user/logoagogo20 ... iIhKkqcQMY

Oh cool thanks, Youdo.
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 9th, 2011, 11:44 pm

s!mbells wrote:Aspiemom, I was thinking about what you wrote re WADTW/Swamp and the line "Lemme tell you a story" appearing in both songs and possibly linking them. It's unusual for him to use the same line (I'm not sure of another instance) and so I pondered. I started thinking (as per my last post) that you're right, the two songs are linked - atomically. Strangely my pondering led me to the following insight - "Lemme tell you a story" is an anagram for "Atoms reelly melt you". Pretty cool huh. Coincidence? I don't think so.... The spelling of "reelly" is obviously not correct and there are other combinations such as "You reelly melt atoms" and "Reelly atoms melt you" etc... "Reelly" could be "contained" maybe???

I'm not sure what WADTW is about anymore (I'm also thinking about the two atom bombs dropped on Japan in WW2, and as I'm typing I'm thinking is WADTW a metaphor for WW1 & WW2?) - but we've given it a good shaking!


I know Eno does anagrams, and they're the basis of a lot of British crossword clues, aren't they? So maybe you're onto something. I have some more evidence for your theory. In "The Catherine Wheel" ballet, there's this confusing pineapple symbol. The dysfunctional family members fight over this pineapple, and eventually it morphs into a bomb (they're similarly shaped). So this got me thinking about the word "nuclear" as in "nuclear family" and "nuclear war." As I understand it, one kind of nuclear bomb works by dividing cellular nuclei (fission), which creates the explosion. A "nuclear family" has a similar structure in some ways to an atom, with people functioning as different particles. Mom and Dad are probably the nucleus. Split them, and you get an explosion.

Maybe The Catherine Wheel is exploring the pressure that the nuclear age imposes on a nuclear family. Do family members who are aware that the world could end tomorrow act more selfishly (hog the pineapple/seek their own happiness over others')? Is it harder for family members to play their parts when staring into the abyss? (At the end of the ballet, the Golden Section, the dancers act much more collaboratively, sometimes as cogs in a beautiful machine, as if they have transcended their own individuality). Not sure how to relate this back to WADTW though, except through the general theme of being overwhelmed/frightened.
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby GRANDPAALLEWIS on May 11th, 2011, 2:54 am

Of the many, many times I have seen DB over the years (8 times on the last tour), this has always been my favorite. The lighting always seems to set this one apart, but maybe his best song regardless. I would agree he seems to really enjoy playing this one, but I missed it on the last tour. Hope there is something in the works, been a couple now and need to see!
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby Aspiemom on May 14th, 2011, 1:53 am

GRANDPAALLEWIS wrote:Of the many, many times I have seen DB over the years (8 times on the last tour)


I'm so jealous! :mrgreen: I like the song too, maybe just for the sound of it, especially the percussion.
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Re: Song of the Week- May 1- "What a Day That Was"

Postby GRANDPAALLEWIS on May 15th, 2011, 11:38 am

The show outside of Philly (the first one) was sublime, but all the shows were great, he never mails it in.
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