Music Monday: The Boxer

Simon and Garfunkel - Bridge over Troubled WaterThis is the second Music Monday to feature a Simon and Garfunkel song, and it won’t be the last. “The Boxer” is from their fifth, final, and arguably greatest album, “Bridge over Troubled Water.” There’s one other song I want to discuss from “Bridge,” so I’ll save my comments and reflections on the album until then. This is not only one of my favorite songs off that album, but one of my favorite Paul Simon songs, and certainly among my all-time favorite songs, which is interesting given its relative simplicity. There’s nothing particularly quirky about the chords or harmonies, but it has a compelling tune, and tells a story in poetry that only occasionally rhymes. Even though the chorus doesn’t have real words (“Lie-la-lie…”–apparently these were supposed to be place-holder words that stuck, a fact that embarrasses Paul Simon to this day!), there’s something powerful about it.

Lyrically, “The Boxer” is somewhat autobiographical. It seems Paul Simon was receiving a lot of criticism at the time, and this was his way of dealing with it: turn it into a song. He’s misunderstood, been through a lot, and still carrying the scars. But he won’t be defeated: the fighter still remains. (My favorite mis-heard lyric: substitute “horse” for “whore” in the third verse.)

The song is in C-major and features multiple guitars layered upon one another. I’ve figured out the notes to the introduction, but I think it’s played using an alternate tuning. Since I’m not sure what that tuning might be, I’ve transcribed it in C-major, both in regular note form and in TAB-form in standard tuning:

TheBoxer_TAB

Try out some different tunings (maybe a C tuning?) and see if you can figure out which is used on the track. If you listen carefully, you’ll notice that there aren’t a lot of other instruments on the song other than guitars. There’s a bass drum, a snare in the chorus, a bass harmonica briefly in a couple of verses, and then the mellotron (and perhaps some real strings) for the final crescendo. The majority of the song is just vocals and guitars.

Despite the fingerstyle picking, this isn’t a very complex song to play, as you can see from the lead sheet (click to enlarge):

TheBoxer

It uses standard chords in the key of C-major (C, G, G7, G6, F, Am, Em), with the exception of the C9 at the beginning, the chord around which that introductory run is based.

If you play along to the recording, or if you happen to have perfect pitch, you’ll notice the song is not in concert pitch. It sounds to me as if the guitars on the original recording were tuned down a half-step, so although they are playing in C-major, it sounds like B-major. And then somewhere along the way, maybe during the final mix, they sped the recording up a bit, so the key on the record is somewhere between B-major and C-major. To help you out if you want to play along with the recording (a practice I highly recommend), here’s a version of the song where I’ve tweaked the pitch up to C-major:

Questions? Thoughts? Comments? Requests for future Music Monday songs…?

Flash Fiction Friday

I wasn’t sure if I was going to do a Flash Fiction Friday this week, but then Janet Reid announced a new writing contest, so I decided this would be a good warm-up.

The Random Word Generator gave me:

  • formula
  • menu
  • binder
  • test
  • carpenter

Here’s the 100-word story I came up with:

The hall was silent save for the scratching of pencils and the hum of the air conditioning. Jill glanced at the clock: fifteen minutes left. The formula hadn’t changed in the last ten minutes, and she was no closer to solving it. Anxiety crawled up her chest like an army of carpenter ants.

Deep breaths.

Not one answer on the menu seemed possible. Jill closed her eyes and tried to visualize her binder full of math notes. She opened it. The pages were blank.

Five minutes.

It was just one question out of the entire test.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…

Have a great weekend! And don’t forget to check out Janet’s contest tomorrow…

Blog Birthday!

birthday_icon_cakeToday, my blog turns four. I started writing to this little corner of cyberspace exactly 4 years ago today: June 17, 2011. It’s not the hottest spot on the web, but people still stop by to read what’s here. Not as many as I’d like, but more than I thought. What are people reading? Here are the top ten most visited pages over the last 365 days:

  1. The Graham Cracker Question
  2. Graham Crackers in the UK: An Update
  3. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: Background
  4. 2014 World Cup Thoughts: The Final
  5. Book Review: CARRIE by Stephen King
  6. The Graham Cracker Question Revisited
  7. Banned Book Profile: All Quiet on the Western Front
  8. Banned Book Profile: Twilight
  9. About
  10. Book Review: THE SHINING by Stephen King

You’ll notice that for a blog whose focus is supposed to be Writing, Theology, and Music, only one of the top ten hit any of those categories. Now, if you throw Reading into the mix, then I’m doing a little better, but still, only two book reviews in the list. I’m not sure what this says about me, my blog, or my readers, but there it is. Feel free to offer your own thoughts!

Regulars may have observed that I skipped out on Flash Fiction Friday and Music Monday this past week. I decided to take a break. I hope you don’t mind. I want to keep doing these features, but they take a lot of time to write, and while I enjoy blogging, I’m not a full-time blogger. So I may not commit to EVERY Friday and Monday, just as often as I can. If you enjoy Flash Fiction Friday and Music Monday, or any of the other posts I put up here from time to time, be sure to subscribe so you’ll be notified whenever there’s a new article.

If you’ve visited once, or you’ve been coming back for months–perhaps years–thank you! I’ll try to keep it interesting for you. :)

Music Monday: Ommadawn

I can’t say I’m a big Mike Oldfield fan, though I have a lot of respect for him as a musician and composer. Of all the work he’s done over the last 40+ years, however, my favorite album has to be his third, “Ommadawn.” Released in 1975, this to me is Oldfield at his creative finest. Why? Why not his first, and perhaps most celebrated album, “Tubular Bells”? “Tubular Bells” was certainly a landmark piece, and has some great and memorable moments. However, “Tubular Bells” is very much a stream-of-consciousness piece, at least that’s how it comes across to me. It starts in one place, goes to another, then to another, meandering down paths, exploring ideas for a while then leaving them to the side. That’s all well and good if you like that sort of thing. “Ommadawn,” on the other hand, has structure. In fact, I would go as far as to say it’s a lot more classical in its composition. While “Tubular Bells” sounds as if Oldfield sat down and improvised for half-an-hour, “Ommadawn” sounds composed. It has themes that reoccur. It seems to have purpose, direction, and a destination. Listening to “Ommadawn” I feel like I’m being led on a journey by a composer, not just exploring the landscape with a musician.

You would be forgiven for thinking Part 2 (side two of the original vinyl album) breaks the thematic unity, but there are two ways (at least) in which it very closely connects with Part 1. First, the basic structure: an introductory section, a wind section (part one had recorders, part two uses uilleann pipes), and a final rhythmic crescendo. Second, if you listen carefully, you’ll notice that Part 2 is actually somewhat of a play on the recorder section from Part 1 (from 6:57 to 8:16 on the clip below), and repeats parts of that section in places. Even the song at the end, “On Horseback,” where Oldfield gives us a rare vocal performance, connects back to Part 1. Pay careful attention to the guitar part under the verses–it’s an echo of the main theme you hear at the beginning of Part 1. Not to mention the female vocal that comes in after the first chorus, which sounds uncannily like the voice that joins Part 1 a little more than a minute in. This is what I find so satisfying about this album. There’s a compositional cohesion as well as a unity to the sound that permeates even those parts that seem otherwise disconnected.

I have to confess that part of my affection for this album also stems from my childhood, and the fact my Dad played it quite regularly. He owned both “Tubular Bells” and “Ommadawn” (and possibly a few other Oldfield albums), but “Ommadawn” was the Oldfield album of choice in our house ever since my Dad took my Mum to see “The Exorcist” in 1973. My Dad enjoyed the movie, but my Mum did not. At all. Now she can’t even listen to the beginning of “Tubular Bells” without recalling the worst moments from “The Exorcist.” (For those who don’t know, the first part of “Tubular Bells” was used as the theme for “The Exorcist.”) Naturally, my Dad didn’t want to put my Mum through that torment, so he wouldn’t play the album when she was around, preferring “Ommadawn” instead.

I’m not going to provide music or chords for this–it’s a 36-minute instrumental album, and it would take too long to write out. But I do encourage you to listen to it, perhaps while writing your novel (I imagine it’s great to listen to if fantasy is your chosen genre!), or doing the ironing. Listen carefully for the themes, how they reoccur throughout the entire piece. Get caught up in the awesome atmosphere Oldfield has created by his choice of instrumentation, and the way he carefully weaves voices and sounds together.

Someone posted the entire album on YouTube. I provide the link to promote the music in the hope that you purchase it if you like it:

My brother John found this remarkable arrangement of “Ommadawn, Part 1″ for two pianos. I was very impressed with the way the composer managed to capture the essence of the piece. If you like piano music, you must check this out. Thanks for the tip, John!

Flash Fiction Friday

A quick spin of the Random Word Generator this week gives us:

  • seaside
  • passport
  • neck
  • north
  • beast

And here’s my 100-word story based on those words:

I encountered Beast Haven while vacationing in North Wales. The name intrigued me, so armed with my passport and seasick pills I took the ferry to the small island not knowing what to expect. Some kind of wildlife preserve? A large animal shelter?

On account of this, I paid no heed to the howling that first night.

And didn’t think much of the scratching at the windows the second night.

Fear set in when I found bite marks on my neck while shaving the following morning.

The third night was a full moon.

That’s when I knew I was staying.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday School Notes: Revelation 7:14-17

14 And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “Those are the ones coming from the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and they have whitened them by the blood of the Lamb. 15 On account of this they are before the throne of God and they serve Him day and night in His temple, and the One sitting upon the throne will tabernacle with them [or spread a tent over them]. 16 They shall neither hunger nor shall they thirst and the sun shall not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat, 17 for the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them and he will guide them to a living fountain of waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Last time we finished up part-way through verse 14, so we recapped very briefly the chapter so far, and then considered what it means for the multitude before the throne to have “washed their robes” and “whitened them by the blood of the Lamb.” We should be familiar with the symbolism of the white robe (righteousness, purity), and the Lamb’s blood (Christ’s death on behalf of his people) from what we’ve seen so far in Revelation. The striking thing here is that the verbs are active, not passive. Previously, Christ has talked about dressing the overcomers in white garments (3:5), and those under the altar are given white robes (6:11)–in other words, this symbol of righteousness is presented in such a way that we understand that righteousness did not originate with God’s people. They are the recipients of a righteousness that is not their own. They didn’t come with white robes; the white robes are given to them. Yet here, they actively wash their robes and whiten them with the Lamb’s blood. Is the elder saying there is something God’s people contribute to their righteousness?

First we need to remind ourselves what it means to have “soiled” robes, that is, robes in need of cleansing. Back in 3:4, Christ points out that there are some in the Sardis church whose garments are not soiled. When we studied this passage, we concluded that this was a reference to the fact that many within the church had chosen to compromise with the culture rather than stay true to the gospel and their profession of Christ. As in Isaiah 64:6 and Zechariah 3:4-5, such sin is likened to having dirty clothing. Since the faithful in Sardis have not soiled their garments, we understand that they have remained true to Christ, and their spotless robes are a symbol of their faithfulness. So the focus of 7:14 is not on how this multitude in white managed to earn their righteousness, but rather on the fact that these are those that remained faithful, even under the most extreme pressure to deny Christ.

The fact that they have whitened their robes by the blood of the Lamb really serves to underscore this point: it’s not their own sacrifice or faithfulness that has earned them the white garments. Rather, it is Christ’s blood shed on their behalf that makes them clean and pure, and enables them to be faithful. Without the regenerating power of the Spirit at work on those for whom Christ died, they would have all fallen away too. But they have professed Christ as their Savior and Lord, and have remained true to him, and this is how they have whitened their robes with the blood of the Lamb. Daniel 12:10 speaks of the faithful actively cleansing their garments, and this passage could be behind the language used by the elder in 7:14.

I also noted in passing that some believe the multitude before the throne are only those who have died by martyrdom. I’m not convinced of this for a couple of reasons. I think we are looking at the final congregation of the elect here. These are God’s people from all places and all points in history gathered to worship the Lord. And while “coming from the great tribulation” sounds like a present tense activity (i.e., they are coming out now and continue to come out), that verb is actually a present participle: “the ones who come out”–i.e., it’s descriptive of the people, not of their activity. So these are those who survived the tribulation, and did so because they are sealed, and have shown this fact through their faithfulness. They are blood-bought, redeemed people of God. Doesn’t this describe every believer? And the nature of these believers, that they are Jew and Gentile, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (144,000–remember?), an innumerable amount from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people, seems to point toward more than just those who survived a particular period of tribulation.

It is “on account of this” (Greek: dia touto), the fact that this white-robed multitude have been washed and cleansed by the Lamb’s blood, and they testify to this by their faithfulness and willingness to overcome for the sake of the gospel, that they are able to be before God’s throne. Nothing else gives them that authority or that access–only the grace of God shown in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on their behalf.

The language of verse 15 is distinctly sacramental. “Serving” is the Greek verb latreuô, which has priestly connotations. The elder is deliberately associating the “night-and-day” ministry of believers here to that of the Jewish temple priest. If we recall in 1:6, believers were referred to as “a kingdom, priests to his [i.e., Jesus’] God,” which was echoed in the form of a promise in 5:10. We can trace this promise back to Exodus 19:6, when the Lord promised Moses (and Israel), “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Clearly, to John and the elder this is fulfilled in the church.

The elder says they will serve in God’s “temple” (Greek, naos). In Ezekiel 37:26-28, God promised that His sanctuary would be in the midst of His people. He then gave Ezekiel a vision of a new temple, set upon land partitioned according to the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Ezekiel 40-48). It’s hard to avoid the fact that this is another vision/prophecy finding its fulfillment in Revelation and the Lord’s promises to the church.

Finally in verse 15, we have this picture of the Lord “setting His tent” or “tabernacling” over His people. This might be another reference to the Feast of Tabernacles, as in verse 9. Certainly, the idea of God pitching His tent with His people is extremely important. This is “Immanuel”–God with us–the idea that God is ever-present with His people. He symbolized this with the Old Testament Tabernacle, then the Temple. He exemplified it in the coming of Jesus at the Incarnation. At the Resurrection and all the way through to the End Times, this idea is fully realized in the church.

Verses 16 and 17 draw from Isaiah 49:8-12 (particularly v. 10), speaking of the restoration of Israel. That restoration will only come when God’s people from every tribe, language, nation, and people, enter into His rest through Christ. Jesus is not only the Lamb of God, but he is the Shepherd of his people, guiding them to fountains (or springs) of living water (a nod to John 4:10?). It’s hard to ignore the fact that Isaiah 49:9 and Psalm 23 both refer to God as the Shepherd of the faithful soul. Here the elder applies that divine role to Jesus in another clear assertion of Christ’s deity.

The psychologist Maslow developed a hierarchy of “human needs” to help explain motivation. At the base of his hierarchy he listed those fundamental needs without which a person cannot survive. The primary of these are air, water, food, clothing, and shelter. In verse 16, we see the promise that these needs will be met for God’s people: they shall not hunger, they shall not thirst, the sun shall not strike them, and they shall not suffer under scorching heat. Indeed, this recalls the situation of man in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, where the Lord supplied all their needs.

This picture of the Lord giving sustenance to His people such that they want for nothing in His presence is brought down to the most intimate level in verse 17: God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Though this is symbolic, it is perhaps the most touching picture of God’s care and compassion for us. If we step back and remember that Revelation is a letter of hope to suffering churches, this vision of believers in their final state (and if there’s doubt that these are believers in their final state, compare these verses with chapter 22), covered by the presence of God, guided by their Shepherd to places of refreshment, wanting nothing, and with no more suffering or heartbreak, is something to cling to. But not only for those in first century Asia Minor, for us too. This is our promise as we go through the trials of life, no matter how big or small. We need this perspective. One day, the frailty of the body, the fragility of this world, the sin we contend with day-to-day, and the evil of fallen men will no longer be of concern to us. The Lord will bring judgment and justice to bear, and those who are in Christ will enter into His rest.

My Sunday School class is taking a break for the summer, but will be back mid-August starting at chapter 8!

Music Monday: Interlude No. 1

For the past however-many months, I’ve been writing about songs that have been a part of my life, and talking a bit about my own history with music and playing over the past 30+ years. This week, it’s time for something original.

I recently purchased an interface so I can record to my PC. I’m still experimenting with it, but I think I can get a decent enough quality noise out of it to be able to share stuff with you. The piece I’m sharing this week is the musical equivalent of flash fiction. I call it “Interlude #1″ (yes, I may write more Interludes…):

(For those who are interested, I’m playing a Casio Privia digital piano.)

Flash Fiction Friday

For this week’s Flash Fiction Friday, I’m being lazy and reposting my entry for this week’s Flash! Friday contest. The story must have a central theme of “defeat” and be inspired by this picture:

 

Here’s what I came up with:

There was silence in the car all the way home. I had cried away all my words on mother’s shoulder once we were outside the Convention Center. As we pulled into our driveway, my mind still held on to that last devastating moment.

“I-n-t-e-r-r-a-g-a-t-e?”

“Sorry, that’s incorrect.”

Inside, Mom offered me a glass of Coke. But all I could think of was the gasp from the audience, magnified in the echo chamber of my imagination.

That evening, as I pushed food around my plate, Dad took me by the hand to his workshop.

“Here, James,” he said, showing me four small pieces of wood tacked together into a square shape. I looked up at him, confused. Without another word, he took a piece of wood and tacked it to the others. Then he tacked another. And another. Soon I was helping him build this square up, adding more wood, neither wanting to corrupt the sound of our labor with conversation.

“Okay,” he said after about half an hour. “That’s enough.”

I stared at the half-pyramid we had made.

“It’s for your trophy, son.”

“But—I lost, Dad,” I said, my voice small and weak.

Dad just smiled. “For next year.”

**********

The contest runs until midnight tonight, US Eastern Time, so there’s still plenty of time to enter if you’d like to give it a try. See the Flash! Friday blog for details.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday School Notes: Revelation 7:11-14

11 And the angels stood encircling the throne and the elders and the four living creatures and they fell upon their faces before the throne and they worshiped God 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever. Amen!” 13 And one of the elders spoke saying to me, “Those people having been clothed in white robes–who are they and from whence did they come?” 14 And I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “Those are the ones coming from the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and they have whitened them by the blood of the Lamb….”

The throne room is full again–or at least John is now drawing our attention to the fact that the myriads of angels from chapter five are still there. These angels are standing around the throne, elders, and creatures, as they were in chapter 5, only this time John says he saw them (in 5, John says he heard them). John’s emphasis here is on the visual, not just the sound. He sees the majestic gathering of creatures in heaven who are there for one single purpose: to offer praise and worship to the One on the throne and the Lamb. They fall on their faces before the throne and worship the Lord. Bear in mind that this praise and worship is going on in full knowledge of what was described in chapter 6, and what is to come in chapters 8 and following. Even though the Lord is the One who brings judgment and tribulation, He is still worthy of worship.

The chorus sung (or said, but I like to think of them as singing) by the heavenly host is a longer version of the song sung in 5:13. Indeed, here we have seven things mentions: blessing, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength. By now, we should be accustomed to the fact that whenever seven is used in Revelation, it signifies completeness or fullness. Since 5:13 only has four items (blessing, glory, honor, and might), I think it’s safe to say this is a deliberate seven-fold enumeration, conveying the fullness or completeness of the majesty and worthiness ascribed to God. This song starts and ends with an “Amen,” denoting ascent–that is, agreeing with something. In this case, the angels are probably agreeing to the statement in verse 10: Salvation belongs to God.

One of the elders approaches John and asks him who all the white-robed people are, and where they come from. No clue is given as to who this elder is, and that’s probably just as well–what’s important is the question he’s asking. John knows he can’t answer this question, but he’s sure the elder can so he respectfully turns the question back on him. If the elder knows the answer to the question, why ask? Clearly because it’s important. The origin of the people in white robes is, perhaps, something John wouldn’t have given a second thought to, but the elder wants to be sure their identity is known. John needs to know. The churches need to know. We need to know.

The elder answers the who and where questions in two parts:

  1. They have come out from the great tribulation.
  2. They have washed (i.e., clean) robes, whitened by the Lamb’s blood.

We need to look at each of these in turn.

First, what is this “great tribulation” from which the multitude have emerged? Is it a cataclysmic event in our future, or something that happened in the past, or a present trial the church is going through, or something else?

Some have suggested that this is a reference to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, an event that affected the Jews deeply, and would have also impacted the church insomuch as Christianity was viewed by many in that pagan society as a Jewish sect. However, as traumatic an event as that was, I don’t see how it would qualify as “the great tribulation” for believers in Asia Minor–i.e., the churches to whom John was writing. It’s likely many of the Christians in John’s audience were Gentiles, and they all live many miles from Jerusalem, so they wouldn’t have felt the impact of this nearly as much as the Jews in Palestine.

A popular view today is to see this “great tribulation” as an event that is yet to happen. Taking a strictly chronological view of the visions, this tribulation is a period of time during which the church is absent from the earth, having been snatched up (“raptured”) and protected from all the calamity that’s happening. However, there will be those who are saved during this tribulation period–I believe the theory goes that these are Jews who come to Christ, hence the 144,000–and those are the ones in white robes. There are several problems with this view, I think. First, those in white robes are more than just a section of God’s people. All of God’s people are dressed in white (e.g., Jesus’s promise to the church in Sardis in 3:5, the believers under the altar in 6:9-11, and the multitude in 7:9). Further, tribulation isn’t something that will come upon the church in the future: it has been a present reality for the church since the Resurrection. I could see this referring to a time of heightened tribulation prior to the end, but for further insight we should take note of two important passages elsewhere in Scripture.

Daniel 12:1-2: This is more than likely the passage the elder is referring to when he speaks of “the great tribulation.” Notice that those “delivered” are those whose name is in the “book of life,” which, according to Revelation, includes all believers. It will also involve “all who sleep in the dust of the earth”–i.e., the dead, so it’s an all-encompassing event that will involve resurrection to eternal life or to eternal condemnation. It’s an event that will bring tribulation to believers and judgment upon the world.

Matthew 24:15-31: Jesus appears to be developing Daniel 12:1-2 here, but notice how this tribulation is followed by cosmic anomalies that sound like the sixth seal, and yet prior to this, there is no indication that the church will be rescued physically from the torment to come. Indeed, Jesus tells his audience to watch and be ready. In verse 9, he warned that his followers will be delivered to tribulation and death, but the one who endures will be saved. In verse 22, he says that the days of tribulation will be cut short “for the sake of the elect”–i.e., for the sake of God’s people. It’s not that God’s people will be pulled out of this tribulation, but that the tribulation will be curtailed for the sake of the elect.

If we survey the New Testament, we see that “tribulation” is primarily to do with attacks upon the faith, and has been part of the church’s experience from the beginning (e.g., John 16:33; Romans 5:3, 8:35-36; Revelation 1:9, 2:9, 3:10, 6:9).

So what is this “great tribulation”? From the Scriptures we looked at, it seems to me that this is a period of judgment for the world, and persecution for God’s people. Tribulation of this nature has been going on since the earliest days of the church, but it appears there will be an escalation of it as we draw closer to the end. Christians shouldn’t look for some kind of physical rescue from the ordeals that are present, or the ordeals to come. Our hope is that we will be among those robed in white before the throne. The promise we have from Christ is that we are sealed to him, and whatever may happen to us, our faith is secure as those who have been purchased by his blood.

Next time, we’ll look at the second part of the elder’s answer: the washed robes whitened by the Lamb’s blood, and hopefully finish the chapter.

Music Monday: The Friends of Mr Cairo

Friends of Mr Cairo LP 1Since I recently finished THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett, I thought this would be an appropriate song to share for Music Monday this week!

Jon Anderson, former lead vocalist for the band Yes, and Vangelis, composer of electronic music, first found each other in the mid-70s and discovered they had an unusual yet sympathetic musical rapport. By 1979 they had enough material together to release an album. “Short Stories” spawned the British hit “I Hear You Now.” A second album followed in 1981: “The Friends of Mr. Cairo.” This album featured their second British Top Ten single, “I’ll Find My Way Home,” as well as the song “State of Independence” which Donna Summer later covered. Around this time, Vangelis, hit the Hollywood big-time with his Academy Award winning soundtrack to “Chariots of Fire.” He followed up this success a year later with his highly-acclaimed score to the film “Blade Runner.”

Today’s featured song is the title track of Jon and Vangelis’ second album. It’s a 12 minute homage to classic movies, with particular attention to the films “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Thief of Bagdad,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The song consists of two distinct but related parts. The first part is upbeat, relating story themes common to many of the films of this era. It starts like a classic gangster movie with squealing tires and gunfire, followed by dialog reminiscent of such films. These voices return at various points throughout, adding to the ambiance of the piece. Part two is slower, more reflective, talking about how much these films mean on a personal level. The novelty of part one first drew me to the song as a child, but it’s part two that got me hooked to it. It’s not particularly complex musically, and even relatively simple in its arrangement. But it has a lovely, solid tune sung so passionately, and backed with an equally stirring Vangelis arrangement, its worth every moment of the seven minutes of part one it takes to get there.

I think I’ve mentioned before that when I was first learning to play, and I was not nearly as confident in my musical ear as I am now, I used to hunt down sheet music to songs or pieces I wanted to learn. Living in a small city with limited resources, and prior to the advent of the World Wide Web, it wasn’t uncommon for me to search in vain for my favorite music. I remember my Dad had a book, almost like an almanac, of hi-fi equipment and music resources. The copy I remember was from 1978, and I believe he had just finished working in a retail electronics store around that time, which might be how he came upon this book. In any event, one day as I was trying to figure out how to get hold of much sought-after sheet music, I was thumbing through this book when I noticed a section at the end listing the addresses of music publishers. Many of the names I recognized from Smash Hits, the popular music magazine I collected that printed the lyrics to Top 40 songs, crediting the writers and publishers for each song. It dawned on me that these publishers would probably have the sheet music to the songs, and might even be willing to sell me copies. I then did something that would be unheard of today, especially for a teenager:

I started writing music publishers. Hand-written letters. In envelopes. With stamps.

I would write something along the lines of: “Dear Sir or Madam, Do you have the sheet music to I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats? If so, could you tell me how much it would cost for me to purchase?” I knew it was a long shot, and I didn’t expect a response. But not only did I get responses from nearly all the publishers I contacted, almost every response came with a copy of the sheet music I requested. Most of the time it was a hand-written lead sheet, but that was good enough for me! Some even had a note attached saying something like, “With compliments.”

One of the publishers I contacted was Warner Bros. Music asking for the sheet music to “The Friends of Mr. Cairo” by Jon and Vangelis. Here’s what they sent (click on the picture for the complete pdf):

FriendsOfMrCairo

This is clearly not the full 12-minute song, but is essentially part one. Even so, this was beyond my wildest expectations.

OK, this post is getting long, so here are the words and chords to the entire song, minus the spoken-word parts (click on the picture to download a three-page pdf):

FriendsOfMrCairo_Chords

Part one was released as a single in Canada where it got to number one. DailyMotion.com has the music video that accompanied it.

Here’s the complete song:

As usual, if you have any questions or comments about the music for today’s song, please leave them in the comment section below. Also, if you have any requests for future Music Monday songs, let me know in the comments!

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