Sunday, April 03, 2005
There are two versions of this song that seem to have two completely different emotions and interpretations. Elvis Costello wrote the song, and his version plays for quiet dignity and a clean, strong production. But Robert Wyatt's spare, jazzed-down take goes beyond dignity and achieves utter pathos, due mainly to his shaky, reedy voice. And for me, this is much the more powerful version. The economic and social devastation wreaked by successive years of Thatcherism is laid bare, exposed not so much by direct accusation but more by implication: "Is it worth it?/A new winter coat and shoes for the wife/And a bicycle on the boy's birthday/It's just a rumour that was spread around town/By the women and children/Soon we'll be shipbuilding." And the simple, plain facts: "With all the will in the world/Diving for dear life/When we could be diving for pearls." This isn't a song that gets you caught up in righteous rage, but one that lays a hand gently on your arm and points you in the right direction.