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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, September 03, 2004
    Wobble down the road
    One of my favourite-ever Greenbelt appearances was the set by Jah Wobble at Deene Park in 1994. And his recently-released retrospective I Could Have Been a Contender has been good company on my travels during this past Greenbelt week-or-so.

    In the sleevenotes Jah shares his rationale for releasing this 3CD set now:

    "I am 45 years of age and still extremely good-looking. I thought that it was really about time that there was some sort of official Anthology of my work. My reasoning was this: when you undertake this type of venture you have to do accompanying publicity photos. I realise that it is impossible to go on being as good looking as I am now forever: therefore I had better make my move now. Otherwise I would end up compiling a beautiful sounding record, whilst looking old and decrepit. This would have confused people. And I hate confusion. On the other hand I love Confucius. He was a great believer in order, in coherency, in things great believer in order, great believer in order, making sense."

    Self-conscious wit is part of Jah's craft (not always successful), along with a truly eclectic spiritual consciousness, a gift for creative collaboration and an undying Essex perspective. And so one of my current faves is his tribute to the eternally-inspirational A13, his road home:

    The Ancestral Trek Eastwards
    The Spiritual path from the crumbling shop facades of
    Commercial Road
    Many Flyovers to marshland of Essex:
    Land reclaimed;
    My soul reclaimed.

    Ceases to be an arterial road
    Becomes a guideline,
    Pathway of the astral plane:
    A way of life; a way of death;
    A giant metaphor for nowhere.

    Oh land of my fathers, ancient Celtic warrior race,
    How are your tomatoes doing?

    A13, forever 3am
    Around and around the Rainham roundabout
    In gentle rain

    Absence of hope; absence of pain

    A13: cars race thrusting back-to-back
    Like a ritualistic symbol of the sexual act.
    These brave men: sales reps,
    Overseers of the Ford production line,
    Their wives wear blue eye-makeup and drive a smaller car
    To see Mum in Poplar, when they have Thursday off from their job in Asda's.

    Ohh, A13.

    I don't want to move to higher spiritual planes.
    I want to forget Destiny.
    I want to travel the A13 for Eternity.
    I love your oil refineries, motor factors, motor works,
    Sewage plants, factory farming, theme pubs, launderettes,
    Transport caffs, haulage firms, betting shops,
    People who look so dour.
    Swaggering, aggressive young men who hate themselves,
    A carbon-copy of dad, who really passed it on.
    And their sisters, bleached-blonde, already typecast in the role of

    And it's perfect, Oh so perfect:
    It makes me feel so cold inside,
    And that's familiar territory.

    Oh barren, hopeless highway of Essex
    I love you.