June 16, 2016

Horse 2125 - Things Will Be Great When You're Downtown

I was delivering a packet of documents to a client yesterday and had to make my way into the city. Thanks to the maelstrom of chaos that is Wynyard Station whilst it is under renovation, instead of passing underground and through the Hunter Connection¹, I went upwards to street level and crossed George Street.
Where the ramps meet George Street, there was a busker with a burnt out guitar; with the message "this machine kills fascists" in a Woody Guthrie style scrawl, playing the Tony Hatch song "Downtown", which was made famous by Petula Clark.
He wasn't playing it in that summery pop style though. As he strummed every chord, it was as if he was trying to rend the hearts of passers by and his voice was like nineteen broken bottles being scraped down a chalkboard.
Played like that, it added a whole dimension to the song; which I'd never thought about before.

When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go, downtown
When you've got worries all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help I know, downtown

If life is making you lonely, then going downtown isn't likely to cure that. The noise and the hurry might drown out your internal monologue for a while but it still ultimately doesn't change the fact that we all suffer from a sort of existential or cosmic loneliness, where nobody else can see the world from where we do.

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk, where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose? The lights are much brighter there

I suppose that all of the flashy lights are a show of sorts. At least walking around downtown at night is cheaper than burning your money in the grand neon ballrooms filled with pokies in this city. How can you lose? You lose far less when the layout is nothing.

You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go
Downtown, things will be great when you're
Downtown, no finer place for sure
Downtown, every thing's waiting for you

I'm already starting to see false promises in this song. Things will be great when you're downtown? Really? Can you really run away from all your troubles and all your cares that easily? Forget all your troubles, forget all your cares? You can try but I don't know how successful you'll be.

Don't hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows, downtown
Maybe you know some little places to go
To where they never close, downtown

The solution offered here, rather than wandering around aimlessly in the electric neon paradise and jaundice stained of 580nm light produced by sodium lighting, is to watch other flashy shows in a darkened room.
Going to places that never close sounds to me like visiting pubs or wine bars. If you're all alone and by yourself downtown, that is a pretty sad sort of thing to do. Instead of distraction by the cinema, this person is suggesting self medication by ethyl alcohol produced by the fermentation of vegetable produce.

Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You'll be dancing with 'em too before the night is over happy again
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

I suspect that the world of the 1960s that this was written in the face of is long long gone. This was way before the invention of disco, punk and electronic music. Maybe you might find samba and jazz music being played in the 1960s but not today.

And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you
Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand
To guide them along so maybe I'll see you there
We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares

The proverb says that "misery loves company" and maybe there is some perverse consolation for people who are unhappy in knowing that others are unhappy as well.

I guess that all this proves is that when viewed through a different prism, you can find all sort of thing that you didn't see before. Then again, maybe as George despaired² in the episode The Bottle Deposit: "I got nothing".
As this guy played, hoping for the change which the passers by might throw into his guitar case, he became the personification of the almost desperation which he'd found in this song. He found the soul of this song, drained it of its shallow happiness and then spun it round on its head.

It was an interesting sort of piece of theatre. Here this man was, surrounded by all the noise and the hurry of downtown Sydney, standing out the front of Wynyard Station which itself is a shambles and speaking to the crowds who were mostly ignoring him. It was a brilliant piece of dramatic irony.

Things will be great when you're downtown - yeah right.

¹Someday we'll find it, the Hunter Connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.
²Seinfeld - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzUICBMQBNU

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