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Robb Johnson, A Break in the Clouds

Man Walks Into a Pub


I’d climbed aboard the wrong train
It took me far away
Through the backside of the city
Where the factories decay
Through the ruins of the suburbs
Where the only reason why
Is the shopping on a Saturday
Consume until you die
And all I want to do
Is get back to you

Then we went this museum
Of the way things used to be
Where the jobless dressed as workers
Show you their old factories
And Alice on the omnibus
With Harry, Dick and Tom
The Shire Horse and the ploughshare
And they all died at the Somme
And all I want to do
Is get back to you

Now I climb aboard my APC
With no eBay Four-One-O
And I go looking for those IEDs
Where the lilac poppies grow
And I lost you at the station
And I’m going God knows where
And Alice whispers when you gonna
Turn this train to ploughshares?
And all I want to do
Is get back to you

All I want to do is come home to you.

This was a dream. I didn’t have to do much to it, apart from remember it when I woke up. It formed a coherent narrative that went from me being lost in somewhere like Manchester, becoming separated from my wife and family, the train taking me to a museum that was probably inspired by the Black Country Museum where the band played last year at the Chainmaker’s Festival, then on to Afghanistan. I simplified some of the narrative and detail a little, particularly in the second verse. The last verse however is admittedly rather (deliberately) overstuffed with bewildering details, variously researched and assembled. An APC is an armoured personnel carrier, and when I was writing the songs, the newspapers were reporting the death of another soldier in Afghanistan who didn’t have the right equipment, an Ebex 410 (made in Germany) that detects explosive devices (IEDs - improvised explosive devices, roadside bombs). I asked my friend Darren to ask his mates still in the army about this, and he told me the soldiers call these eBay 410s, because you’re better off trying to buy one on eBay; in Afghanistan they apparently are “as common as rocking horse shit”. And lastly, the poppies that grow in Afghanistan that produce the opium that produces the heroin are lilac in colour.

Keith Richards is supposed to have dreamt the riff to “Satisfaction”, and Graham Greene kept a dream diary that he used as a basis for some of his writing. Maybe this is the way forward...


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