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Robb Johnson, A Break in the Clouds

Man Walks Into a Pub


Superman got married
He married Lois Lane
They honeymooned on Krypton
He’s not been seen again
Jimmy Olson found a note
Pinned to a pair of tights
It said: Last one off the planet
Please turn out the lights
Someone else can save the world.

But you've got your lucky plastic
It buys all the things you want
The latest this the latest that in
The finest restaurant
You like to lick the plate clean
From the latest famous chef
You lift your head and ask for more
But now there's nothing left.

Up and down Threadneedle Street
The body bags pile higher
Cops protecting the criminals
Pouring petrol on the fire
Somewhere else the work gets done
18 hours a day
Somewhere where the garbage goes
Gets closer every day.

You can save it with a jumble sale
Save it with a song
Save it with a piece of string
Just don't ask how long
Super suits have got their
Super noses in the trough
It's just businessmen as usual
Ripping everybody off
Someone else can save the world.

That’s us.

Several things fed into this song. I started out wanting to write something in response to the murder of Ian Tomlinson by a policeman at the G20 protest, but found I was in danger of writing a song that I’d written before, and I felt uncomfortable about disrespecting Ian in this way. So the song started going off in different directions, and the initial impulse comes up less directly in verse 3.

There were other news stories that also generated allusions in the song - I think one was the Labour Pratty hiring designer chefs for their conference (which I was bitterly amused to see took place behind a Berlin Wall of security that literally hid the People’s Party from the people).

But the other significant event that animates the song was my son Hari organising a bring and buy sale at skool in support of a Blue Peter appeal. The whole idea of saving the world, whether it’s by G20 protests or charities and jumble sales, generated the opening idea of Superman. The world doesn’t actually depend on supermen, of course, it’s collective action gets the job done. I have become less active as an individual, but I am happy to note that regardless of what any one individual does or does not do, lots of individuals are always getting stuck in saving the planet through protests, songs and jumble sales.

Anorak note: this is the first song I recorded finger picking without a thumb-pick. When I used a thumb pick, I found I slowed down. I’ve always been a bit envious of those clever players who just use their fingers when they play, so gave it a go on this song. It gave my playing a completely different feel, and I even tried a couple of gigs without thumpicks, which felt strangely liberating (no more worrying if you’ll find one still in your pocket just before the gig starts), but also sounded - to be frank - strangely muffled on a lot of the songs.


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