Lyrical History of Mankind – Undefeated Edition

I’m still working on my album review – in short: 10 days in I still enjoy it a lot – but gathering my thoughts on songs still leads me on tangents and then I get distracted and all that. I set myself to at least finish my less introspective and more academical engagement with this new album this weekend. I shared the first half earlier this week, but here now is the complete (current) result of my “research”. All in good nerdy fun, obviously.

There are at least two more bits that Frank himself mentioned in some of the many album release interviews I’ve listened to. There is some Gabriel García Márquez somewhere and the lines “Grateful that you got this far and proud that you behaved no worse” in “Undefeated” are inspired by something Clive James wrote. Frank didn’t elaborate if in a poem or essay and Clive James has created such a vast body of work that for now I dare not delve into that for more research. [I did search the internet for a bit, but gave up quickly.] I admit I haven’t read any García Márquezyet either, so I’m drawing a blank there for the time being as well.

I still haven’t made up my mind if I’ll include commonly used metaphors which embody a historical reference in my main reference guide. We’ll see. The following is in track list order, because doing it chronologically seems too much of a hassle right now.

Do One
Starting right off with something I’m not sure if it really is a reference or if it just sounds like one to me, because I’ve read the source material quoted in different contexts many times before. I’m talking, of course about the famous Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” (1915), which has the lines

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

“So which path to choose, the one less travelled or the one more used”

Photo from a narrow path on a hillside in Wales
One of the many – less travelled – paths I wandered in my life so far

Never Mind the Back Problems
Johnny Rotten (Sex Pistols frontman) did indeed appear in a butter commercial in 2008. I don’t know what to make of “The Damned” reference yet, obviously it’s a band, which according to a quick glance at Wikipedia disbanded and reunited and changed members quite a bit.

“Johnny Rotten been selling butter on telly while England slept
I’ve seen the Damned with two original members in the band”

Even though I right away felt like I knew which song from the 90s band “The Verve” (lead singer Richard Ashcroft) Frank was alluding here, I had to look it up and then had a “Duh! Of course!” moment. From their 1997 hit “A Bitter Sweet Symphony”

“But I’m a million different people from one day to the next”

“I know that you cannot stand The Verve
But Richard Ashcroft had a point
Now I’m old enough to see
There’s a million different people
You will be before you’re me”

Girl From The Record Shop
I’m not sure if I want to include all the bands / album referenced here as historical reference. I did it with Dylan and Springsteen before, but I might scrap all that in the next revised edition. Mentioned here are bands Supremes, Four Tops, and albums Everything Sucks (Descendants) , Amnesiac (Radiohead), Sheer Heart Attack (Queen). There is “Back to Black” from Amy Winehouse, but that doesn’t really fit the timeline teenage Frank? Creative Licence, maybe?

I actually shy away from calling a reference to the 1990s a historical reference, because I’ve lived through those years and calling it history makes me feel old as fuck, but maybe I’ll have to get used to that. The 1990s underground feminist alt-rock/punk movement the Riot Grrl movement needs to be included though.

“sat behind the counter in her Riot Grrl top”

Pandemic PTSD
We’ve all seen the “Keep Calm And Carry On” slogan from WWII era on posters and mugs and magnets and every (tourist-y) souvenir, I assume.

“And I won’t keep calm, I won’t carry on”

Here is one of the lovely – kind of meta – moments, when Frank quotes himself. From “The Way I Tend To Be” (2013)

It turns out hell will not be found
Within the fires below,
But in making do and muddling through
When you’ve nowhere else to go.

“And say, “I’m tired of just making do
I’m tired of just muddling through
Aren’t you tired of making do?
I’m tired of muddling through” “

No Thank You For The Music
In 333 BC Alexander the Great had marched into the city of Gordium, where he encountered a wagon, its yoke tied with an knot, so entangled that it seemed impossible to unravel. According to an oracle the man who did manage to, would be ruler of all Asia. Alexander didn’t bother too long trying to untie it, but rather sliced it with his sword. [Source:]

“Here’s hoping that the kids have fangs
To chew their way through this little Gordian knot”

International Hide And Seek Champions
In 1971 in the USA a man – later known as D.B. Cooper – managed to hijack a plane on the way from Portland to Seattle. He demanded a parachute and 200.000 $ in cash. His demands were met in Seattle, where he let the passengers go. He redirected the plane with the remaining staff to Mexico and sometime after the plane left Seattle, parachuted out the back and was never seen again. [More from the FBI].

I have no idea when/who started the “DB Cooper Hide & Seek Champion since 1971” meme, but there are tons of shirts, mugs, whatever available all over the internet. In an interview I listened to, Frank mentioned that he saw a documentary on DB Cooper and someone was wearing that shirt.

“DB Cooper now in second place.
International hide and seek champions.”

Show People
I bet we all have heard of Icarus, who in Greek mythology flew to close to the sun with his wings held together by beeswax.

Eviel Knievel was an American stunt performer and daredevil most known for motorcycle jumps.

“Can you fly like Icarus, land like Evel Knievel?”

The following might also more of a metaphor than a reference, though I personally always remember the parable from the bible when I hear it, so for me it is clearly historical/literal and this is my “research” so I’ll include it.

Luke 18:18 – 30 tells about Jesus’s encounter a rich young man, who enquires which actions bring eternal life. Jesus answers, that among other thing the rich young man needs to sell his possessions and give to the poor, because

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

“To be the truest version of yourself, pass through the eye of the needle”

And my post ends with John Otway, who – quoting from his own website“is an English singer-songwriter who has built a sizeable cult audience through extensive touring, a surreal sense of humour and a self-deprecating underdog persona.”

He started making music and touring in the 1970s and 5.000 gigs later he is still doing it for and with the aforementioned sizeable cult audience, so definitively hats off to him:

“You’re more likely to be John Otway than the Beatles,
But Otway’s still on tour. Hats off to the show people.”

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