dinsdag 14 augustus 2012

Song Cypherin’: Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Messenger

This is something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while. The seed for this was planted a few months back when a bunch of us on twitter were discussing the meaning of some of the lyrics to DBT’s Goddamn Lonely Love. Now I had another song in mind originally but never did post that so I’ll just move on to this one which has been on my mind a lot more lately. I will eventually post the other, and likely do some more of these as I think about it. I’m hoping we get some sort of discussion going on here. In my opinion the thing that makes great songs great are the slight openness to the lyrics, the ability for the songs meaning to mean multiple things to multiple people no matter what stripe of life you are from. So this below is simply my interpretation of what the song means to me. Please chime in with your thoughts in the comments.
Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “The Messenger” is one of my all time favorite songs.

Ray himself states that this was one of the first songs he wrote when he cleaned himself up and learned to fingerpick in the early 90s. To me the message of the song is one of finding contentment, not through material possesions or love or religion, but from within. To truly know yourself, and know your fears, and accept those things is the path to contentment the songwriter has taken. This gives the song an almost zen like quality. Let’s examine some specific verses:
I’m wearing old boots
high cuban heels
my soles they are worn
and I stand here by grace
my trousers are torn
and my jacket is borrowed
and I’m wearing my time
behind the lines in my face

My favorite thing about this verse is the double meaning you can take from the “my soles they are worn” line which could imply that the singer’s soul itself is worn. I don’t know if that’s the intent but that’s how I like to take it. As for the soles of his boots themselves being worn, to me this signifies a person who has done some serious walking, perhaps searching for something. Then you have the lines about standing here by grace, and wearing his time behind the lines in his face. This tells me this is a person who has been through some shit and came out the other side of it with more than a few wrinkles to show. This leads us into the chorus:
I am not looking for loose diamonds
or pretty girls with crosses around their necks
I don’t want for roses or water
I’m not looking for god
I’m not looking for sex

Now that combined with the opening verse really gives you a great intro to the narrarator. My take is he’s someone who has been troubled, and has been searching for contentment through many means such as money (loose diamonds), love (pretty girls with crosses around their necks), admiration (roses), religion, sex, etc… but he has found contentment on his own and he is no longer searching for these things. It’s been a long hard journey for him to reach this realization. This particularly becomes clear in live versions where he says he’s not searching for god now. Let’s look at the remaining lyrics:
now I’ve worn out my welcome
in certain small circles
in spanish bordellos
and confederate states
but there is an angel
in her leathers and kindness
who whispers my name
behind heaven’s gate

and all the true believers
are out on the road tonight
no matter what happens
you know they’ll be OK
well the Rock and Roll Gypsies
was the last song they sang
by Hearts and Flowers
down in old Santa Fe

now I have a mission
and a small code of honor
to stand and deliver
by whatever measures
and the message I carry
is by Ranier Maria Rilke
he said “our fears are like dragons
guarding our most precious treasures”

That last verse….man that is one of my favorite verses in all of music. It really brings the entire meaning of the song home for me. “Our fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures”…WOW, what a line. It is from the book Letters To A Young Poet, which Ray claims was given to him and really made him reexamine how he was writing songs. But what does it mean? To me it means our fears are the things keeping us from finding our own “most precious treasures”, and in order to find contentment, we must conquer our fears. Now that is just one interpretation I’ve come up with, but it’s my favorite, especially in concert with the rest of the song. Now the lyrics I posted here are from the 1994 version on Loco Gringo’s Lament, during live performances, he often changes some of the lines around:
The most dramatic change is in the bridge in which he now sings:
and all the true believers
are out on the road tonight
and no matter what happens
well you know they’ll be OK
and to the rock and roll gypsies
may last song you sing
be by Mr. Townes Van Zandt
if your out in Santa Fe

I take this as a tribute to Townes Van Zandt who died in 1997. The original verse references the group Hearts and Flowers who I don’t know much about except they were an obscure group from Santa Fe and wrote the song Rock and Roll Gypsies which Ray recorded a version of on the album Delerium Tremolos.
Well, to finish this up, that’s my take on it. A song about a man who has been searching most of his life trying to find contentment and he has finally found it. Would love to hear what you all have to say.
Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Messenger (live with Gurf Morlix)

1 opmerking:

Mike Rhum zei

I have a different interpretation of the quote from Rilke. To me, the treasures that fear protects, or guards like dragons, are our own shadow-hidden gold--our capabilities and talents that we are afraid to use and pursue. With every chance of success or brilliance comes the fear of failure and the self-censor. This is what we must face. We are our own treasure and our own dragons.