British songwriter/performer Jon Byrne proves that marching to one’s own beat proves that genius and insanity are much the same. Reminiscent of The Kinks Ray Davies had done during his more productive years he would write about social injustices of Great Britain under the auspices of humor and sarcasm. If dreary were a color it would be time to fade to black. Ray Davies and Byrne share in their desire to be understood by their innuendos. Both write of being slightly self-loathing and self-deprecating yet they see the world with great potential optimism. It’s like premonitions becoming flashbacks! Caught between dystopian thought and social commentary makes for insightful tunes for these “brothers of different mothers.”
Ray Davies Jon Byrne Kurt Cobain
There are creative assets of being slaves of alcohol and drugs. Even though those benefits are ephemeral; just look at Curt Cobain? In today’s society youngsters are dispensed with medication in lieu of poor parenting, not listening to enough John Lennon music and being read the titan of children’s books, “Good Night Moon.” Being a father Byrne offered insights behind his second album “Built By Angels”, “When It came to “Built By Angels” I was a different man really I was looking inward trying to get more spiritual, stopped the drugs and got married. We had a daughter who is the world to me that’s when the title built by angels was born. I think with the parenting thing people are just a bit scared for their kids. I think the way things are within this society is that there seems to be a lot of stress and worry on the young now. This country is in need of a radical change people are becoming so content with the bullshit politicians talk those people don‘t live in the real world.”
The Kinks, “Dead End Street:
We are strictly second class,
We don’t understand,
Why we should be on dead end street.
People are living on dead end street.
Gonna die on dead end street.
Sir Ray Her Majesty Queen Jon Bryne
With or without your glasses the stories would always be the same, only the butt of the joke changes. Byrne is a most interesting musician and perhaps his draconian wit is what separates him from being called a moral terrorist. Would he be considered a racist for his “black” humor? Byrne grew up in the industrial shipbuilding town of Barrow-in-Furness where equivocation and dreams were in short supply. Hooking up with former Clash icon, Mick Jones was the “hurricane” in his pocket to receive ample amount of press notoriety. His songs have the zealotry that only the nightmares of Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and John Lennon would have had.
His words aren’t flippant slices of Bob Dylan’s similes or the mashing of William Burroughs’ metaphors. They are powerful like an evangelist preacher without appealing for moral dependency. Asked about his youth he spoke of it with clarity and sanctity, “I feel it important to try and express who I really am. I feel sometimes like a mad man pushing songs together to justify or enlighten my own existence.” Byrne’s story telling is opaque at times but there’s always an ironic ending you can be sure of. Not necessarily “cheery” but like every good book all the ends are handsomely tied together.
Jon Byrne.. Cocaine
His rousing skiffle-like song from his debut album “It Boring Being in Control”, “Cocaine” is about self-responsibility and pleading for redemption. Byrne’s bio claims “suffering for your art” is what kept his head straight and made for compelling song writing. He acknowledges guilt while admonishing the demons of the drugs addiction. Similar to Johnny Cash’s song “Cocaine Blues” Byrne tells his song with a dilemma of being considered a saint, a sinner or a prophet.
Jon Byrne..”Living the Dream”
There is no sameness in Jon Byrne’s songs; each molded within a short vignette about his life. At times he appears to follow a Walter Mitty delusion but always maintains his proletariat self. His telling video for “Living the Dream” has him wearing a bath robe confessing of his bohemian life and his reality but congers up a meeting with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis for a sip of champagne dressed all dapper and dandy. In the brief snatches that punctuate his fantasies the listener meets a well-meaning but insensitive reality that inadvertently Jon Byrne relishes in his remaining dignity as a musician. Though being an ineffectual dreamer who indulges in fantastic daydreams his epiphany of self- worth becomes his personal triumphs when gilded by God telling him he’s a musician with purpose.
I wanted to thank Jon Byrne, Dawn Moonan and David Chatfield Esq. for their time and inspiration. My story wouldn’t end if I didn’t link Byrne’s video of his song…”Don’t Life Let You Get You Down”.. Every Dog Has Its Day..Like a true music journeyman he makes you take notice and then make choices . Its all about living in the moment.