Mermaid Avenue – The Complete Sessions

21st April 2012
Billy Bragg
Nonesuch 75597958201
Number of discs: 3 x CD's + 1 DVD

It’s aginst th’ law to walk, aginst th’ law to talk
Aginst th’ law to loaf, aginst th’ law to work
Aginst th’ law to read, aginst th’ law to write
Aginst th’ law to be a black or brown or white

Ever’thing’s aginst th’ law
I’m a low pay daddy singing th’ high price blues

It’s aginst th’ law to eat, aginst th’ law to drink
Aginst th’ law to worry, aginst th’ law to think
Aginst th’ law to marry or to try to settle down
Aginst th’ law to ramble like a bum from town to town

Ever’thing’s aginst th’ law
I’m a low pay daddy singing th’ high price blues

It’s aginst th’ law to come, aginst th’ law to go
Aginst th’ law to ride, aginst th’ law to roll
Aginst th’ law to hug, aginst th’ law to kiss
Aginst th’ law to shoot, aginst th’ law to miss

Ever’thing’s aginst th’ law
I’m a low pay daddy singing th’ high price blues

It’s aginst th’ law to gamble, it’s aginst th’ law to roam
Aginst th’ law to organise or try to build a home
Aginst th’ law to sing, aginst th’ law to dance
Aginst th’ law to to tell y’all th’ trouble on my hands

Ever’thing in Winston, Salem is aginst th’ law
I’m a low pay daddy singing th’ high price blues

Yea, you know me and my brother we was down in North Carolina not too far from Winston-Salem. 5-0 stop us trying to talk some stuff. I said the police might arrest me but the judge gonna set me free. Man made law like he know it.

I’m gonna tell all you fascists you may be surprised
The people all over this world are getting organised
You’re bound to lose, you fascists are bound to lose

Race hatred cannot stop us this one thing I know
Your poll tax and Jim Crow and greed have got to go
You’re bound to lose, you fascists are bound to lose

All of you fascists are bound to lose
You fascists are bound to lose
You fascists are bound to lose
You’re bound to lose !
You fascists ! Are bound to lose

People of every colour marching side by side
Marching ‘cross these fields where a million fascists died
You’re bound to lose, you fascists are bound to lose

I’m going into this battle, take my union gun
Gonna end this world of slavery before this war is won
You’re bound to lose, you fascists are bound to lose

Sometimes I think I’m gonna lose my mind
But it don’t look like I ever do
I loved so many people everywhere I went
Some too much, and others not enough

Oh I don’t know, I may go down or up or anywhere
But I feel like this scribbling might stay

Maybe if I hadn’t of seen so much hard feelings
I might not could have felt other people’s
So when you think of me, if and when you do
Just say, well, another man’s done gone
Well, another man’s done gone

The birds are singing in your eyes today
Sweet flowers blossom in your smile
The wind and sun are in the words you say
Where might your lonesome lover be ?

Birds maybe singing in my eyes this day
Sweet flowers blossom when I smile
But my soul is stormy and my heart blows wild
My sweetheart rides a ship on the sea

Though my soul is stormy and my heart blows wild
Where might my lonesome lover be ?

Black wind blowing in the cotton field, honey
There’s a black wind blowing in the cotton field, baby
There’s a black wind blowing in the cotton field
And o’ how funny it makes me feel
Baby, sweet thing, darling

There’s a long black cloud hanging in the sky, honey
There’s a long black cloud hanging in the sky, baby
There’s a long black cloud hanging in the sky
Weather’s gonna break and hell’s gonna fly
Baby, sweet thing, darling

Cotton’s pretty thin yonder on the hill, honey
Cotton’s pretty thin yonder on the hill, baby
Cotton’s pretty thin yonder on the hill
It won’t clear a greenback dollar bill
Baby, sweet thing, darling

Work shade and back to the buzzard wing, honey
Work shade and back to the buzzard wing, baby
Work shade and back to the buzzard wing
Clouds are gonna bust and cry down rain
Baby, sweet thing, darling

Black wind blowing in the cotton field, honey
There’s a black wind blowing in the cotton field, baby
There’s a black wind blowing in the cotton field
And o’ how funny it makes me feel
Baby, sweet thing, darling

If I get up and let you in
I lose my house and my home again
If I get up and try to come
Get sent back to the land I’m from
Back to the land I’m from

The cloud came low and the rain did pour
I hear your hand touch on my door
The rain has quit and the light of the moon
Shows you standing in my room
Standing in my room

Bugeye Jim, I can’t come
I can twist and turn but I can’t come
I can ache and I can burn but I can’t come
I woke up this morning with an aching brain
Hear you tap on my window pane

Look at you with a heavy head
I hear you sit down on my bed
The storm gets worse and my heart feels bad
I feel your fingers comb my hair
Feel you comb my hair

The Muddy runs and the waters rise
And I feel your hot kiss on my eyes
The rain it rained and the world did stop
I sing to you my lovesick word
I sing you my lovesick word

Eisler on the go
Eisler on the move
Brother is on the vinegar truck
And I don’t know what I’ll do

I don’t know what I’ll do
I don’t know what I’ll do
Eisler’s on the come and go
And I don’t know what I’ll do

Eisler on the farm
Eisler on the town
Sister in the tickly bush
And I don’t know what I’ll do

Eisler on the boat
Eisler on the ship
Daddy on the henhouse roof
And I don’t know what I’ll do

Eisler in the jail-o
Eisler back at home
Rankin scratch his head and cry
And I don’t know what I’ll do

Eisler him write music
Eisler him teach school
Truman him don’t play so good
And I don’t know what I’ll do

Let down your hair
When you kneel down there
Let me be the wind
That pulls at your hair
And you be the man
If you’re made out of sand
Let your hands
Keep making him there

When nobody is looking
Kiss your hand
Touch to the nose of
Your man in the sand
Then lay down with
Your head on his chest
And be nice, be nice to
Your man in the sand

Hoodoo Voodoo, seven twenty one two
Haystacka hostacka, A B C
High poker, low joker, ninety nine a zero
Sidewalk, streetcar, dance a goofy dance

Blackbirdy, bluejay, one two three four
Trash sack, jump back E F G
Biggy hat, little hat, fattyman, skinnyman
Grasshopper, greensnake, hold my hand

Hoodoo voodoo, chooka, chooky choochoo
True blue, how true, kissle me now

Momma cat, Tommy cat, diapers on my clothes line
Two four six eight, I run and hide
Pretty girl, pretty boy, pony on a tincan
I’ll be yours and you’ll be mine

Jinga, jangler, tingalingle
Picture on a bricky wall
Hot and scamper, foamy lather, huggle me close
Hot breeze, old cheese
Slicky slacky fishy tails
Brush my hair and kissle me some more

I’m a porter and a night clerk at the old Hot Rod Hotel
I clean and scrub the lobby down, thirty one rooms as well
I wax and shine their boots and shoes
I brush down their crinkley clothes
I meet the buses and the trains and I show you to your door

Bell bottom pants brought two boys in at six-fourteen last night
Two girls checked in at ten-o-two and I flipped on their light
The lamrods wife looks in their doors and finds one terrible sight
Those boys and girls got bawled up in their doors and rooms that night

A bloody flood could never mess these rooms up any worse
It looked like Moe had used the room to grease and breed a horse
Old gum and hairs and sticky rags, old bottles on the floors
Gobs of spit and condom rubbers on the windows, walls and doors

The lammy tried to make me clean out the crappy mess
Or else he’d fire me off my job and let me starve to death
I laid aside my polish rag and I downed my dusting pan
And I’ve not seen the old Hot Rod nor that old town since then

I guess I planted some long lonesome seed of a song
Way down inside me long ago
And now I can’t remember when it was
But it joined up with the rest of them and grows
It’s such a little song it don’t compare
With all your big ones you hear everywhere
But when it dawns way in the back of your mind
The big ones are made up of the little kind

Union song
Union battled
All added up
Won us all what we got now

I can’t even start to look around me here
Without hearing this song
And seeing all of us first separated
Hurt, apart and afraid
Hungry for the union
And so we kept on
Singing and working, fighting till we got it
This is the big union song I guess I hear

We fought there at your place
We fought there on your ship
I guess if you missed out on
The fight for our union
You missed out on one awful big step
Us people took

I was born at half past twelve
Almost one in the morning
I was born at half past one
Almost two in the morning
Now my birthday comes again
I don’t know how old I am
Half past one or two or three
Almost four in the morning

I was born at half past four
Almost five in the morning
I was born at half past six
Almost seven in the morning
How old am I ? You ask of me
One year younger than I used to be
Half past seven, half past eight
Half past nine in the morning

I was born at half past nine
Almost ten in the morning
I was born at half past ten
Almost ‘leven in the morning
Today my age is twiddle and twee
I’m prettier than I used to be
Half past ‘leven, half past ‘leven
Almost twelve in the morning

Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman
Let’s go make a picture
On the island of Stromboli
Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman, you’re so perty
You’d make any mountain quiver
You’d make fire fly from the crater
Ingrid Bergman

This old mountain it’s been waiting
All its life for you to work it
For your hand to touch its hard rock
Ingrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman

If you’ll walk across my camera
I will flash the world your story
I will pay you more than money
Ingrid Bergman

Not by pennies, dimes nor quarters
But with happy sons and daughters
And they’ll sing around Stromboli
Ingrid Bergman

Joe DiMaggio’s done it again !
Joe DiMaggio’s done it again !
Clackin’ that bat, gone with the wind !
Joe DiMaggio’s done it again !

Some folks thought Big Joe was done !
Some jus’ figgered Joe was gone !
Steps to the platter with a great big grin
Joe DiMaggio’s done it again !

I’m a gonna tell ya jist th’ way I feel
Man can’t run without his heel
Watch that raggypill split the wind !
Joe DiMaggio’s done it again !

All three fielders jumped their best
Tryin’ ta climb that highboard fence
They all growed whiskers on their chins !
Joe DiMaggio’s done it again !

Up along them clouds where the eagles roam
Joe cracked that ball to whine and moan
His buddies laugh as they trot on in
Joe DiMaggio’s done it again !

Grandma’s home by the radio
On the tellyvizion awatchin’ Joe
She jerks the beard offa grandpa’s chin
Joe DiMaggio’s done it again !

Puppydog barked at the pooseye kat
How does it look from where you set ?
Looks like a cyclone slidin’ in
Joe DiMaggio’s done it again !

If the folks next door to me wasn’t so good
I’d do all the mean things anybody could
I’d drink and I’d gamble and I’d louse around
I’d be the meanest man in this whole town

If I hadn’t seen the light in that old lady’s eyes
I’d try to be a man you would hate and despise
I’d rave and I’d rant and I’d scream and yell
And I’d chase my neighbours from here to hell

If I hadn’t heard those kids laugh playing games
I’d have nervous fits, I’d go insane
I’d turpentine cats and tin can dogs
And I’d smother people to death inside of holler logs

If the people around me wasn’t so nice
I’d freeze my heart into a cake of ice
I’d steal money from soldiers and working folks too
I’d lend you a dollar and I’d take back two

If my wife didn’t kiss me the way she does
I’d carry four or five daggers and three or four guns
I’d shoot craps and ramble and hang out late
And I’d steal baby buggies and Cadillac Eights

If my friends didn’t write me those letters I get
I’d be a dictator, the worse one yet
I’d be the only smart bird, you’d all be fools
Send you all away to war and I’d set home and rule

If it wasn’t for them old songs I hear y’all sing
I’d put a crown on my dome and I’d say I’m your king
I’d kidnap some,I’d blackmail others
I’d peddle black market stuff, rob sisters and

brothers

If it weren’t for your talking I hear along the street
I’d be the orneriest man that you ever did meet
I’d preach the gospel of hate and I’d drink your blood
But I can’t be this bad because my folks are too good
No, I can’t be this bad because my folks are too good

My flying saucer where can you be
Since that sad night that you sailed away from me ?
My flying saucer I pray this night
You will sail back before the day gets bright

My flying saucer fly back for home !
You will get lost in the universe alone !
My flying saucer end all my fears
Sail back tonight, love and kiss away my tears

Paul Robeson he’s the man
That faced the Ku Klux Klan
On Hollow Groves golfing ground
These words came sounding
And all around him there
To jump, and clap, and cheer
I sent the best, the best I had
My thirty thousand

Well the Klansman leader said
That Paul would lose his head
When thirty five thousand vets broke up that concert
But less than four thousand came
To side with the Klan
But around Paul’s lonesome oak
My thirty thousand

And this old brassy band
Did start around the ground
Four hundred noblest souls
Westchester’s manhood
And they looked exactly like
The fleas on a tiger’s back
Lost fish in the waters of
My thirty thousand

When Paul had sung and gone
And the kids and the babies home
The cops came with guns and clubs
And they clubbed and beat ‘em
But I’d hate to be a cop
Caught with a bloody stick
‘Cos you can’t bash the brains
Out of thirty thousand

Each eye you try to gouge
Each skull you try to crack
Has a thousand, thousand friends
Around this green grass
If you furnish the scars someday
I’ll pass out the clubs and guns
For the billion hands that love
My thirty thousand

Each wrinkle on your face
I know it at a glance

You cannot run and hide
Nor duck nor dodge them
And your carcass and your deeds
Will fertilise the seeds
Of the men that stood to guard
My thirty thousand

The words were like notes in the wind
And beckoned me
Back to living

And her thoughts were more my thoughts
And I listened more
Than to myself

For what could I ever give except myself
To pay her
For salvaging my wreck

But I must not talk hopeless because
It is hope, I’m sure
That she sees in me

Hopes she has sown in a ground I thought rotten
On a hill
I thought was eroded

These are my new hopes now to work
Clearer
Faster and better

This is written so you won’t
Underestimate
The value of your women

Because they run the men
That run the world

Ten hundred books could I write you about her
‘Cos I felt if I could know her
I would know all women
And they’ve not been any too well known
For brains and planning and organised thinking
But I’m sure the women are equal
And they may be ahead of the men

Yet I wouldn’t spread such a rumor around
‘Cos one organises the other
And sometimes the most lost and wasted
Attract the most balanced and sane
And the wild and the reckless take up
With the clocked and the timed
And the mixture is all of us
And we’re still mixing

But never, never, never
Never could have it been done
If the women hadn’t entered into the deal
Like she came along to me

And all creeds and kinds and colors
Of us are blending
Till I suppose ten million years from now
We’ll all be just alike
Same color, same size, working together
And maybe we’ll have all of the fascists
Out of the way by then
Maybe so

I done spent my last three cents
Mailing my letter to the president
Didn’t make a show I didn’t make a dent
So I’m swinging over to this independent gent
Stetson Kennedy
Writing his name in
Stetson Kennedy
Writing his name in

I can’t win out to save my soul
Long as Smathers-Dupont’s got me in the hole
Them war profit boys are squawking and baulking
That’s what’s got me out here walking and talking
Knocking on doors and windows
Wake up and run down election morning
And scribble in Stetson Kennedy

I ain’t the world’s best writer, ain’t the world’s best speller
But when I believe in something I’m the loudest yeller
If we fix it so you can’t make no money on war
Well we’ll all forget what we were killing folks for
We’ll find us a peace job equal and free
We’ll dump Smathers-Dupont in a salty sea
Well this makes Stetson Kennedy the man for me

To the rich man’s bright lodges I ride in this wind
On my good horse I call you my shiny Black Bess
To the playhouse of fortune
To take the bright silver
And gold you have taken from somebody else

And as we go riding in the damp foggy midnight
You snort, my good pony, and you give me your best
For you know, and I know, good horse
‘Mongst the rich ones
How oftimes we go there an unwelcome guest

I never took food from the widows and orphans
And never a hard working man I oppressed
So take your pace easy
For home soon like lightning
We soon will be riding, my shiny Black Bess

No fat rich man’s pony can ever overtake you
And there’s not a rider from the East to the West
Could hold you a light
In this dark mist and midnight
When the potbellied thieves
Chase their unwelcome guest

I don’t know, good horse
As we trot in this dark here
That robbing the rich is for worse or for best
They take it by stealing and lying and gambling
And I take it my way, my shiny Black Bess

I treat horses good and I’m friendly to strangers
I ride and your running makes my guns talk the best
And the rangers and deputies
Are hired by the rich man
To catch me and hang me, my shining Black Bess

Yes, they’ll catch me napping one day
And they’ll kill me
And then I’ll be gone but that won’t be my end
For my guns and my saddle will always be filled
By unwelcome travellers and other brave men

And they’ll take the money and spread it out equal
Just like the Bible and the prophets suggest
But men that go riding to help these poor workers
The rich will cut down like an unwelcome guest

Last night or the night before that
I won’t say which night
A seaman friend of mine
I’ll not say which seaman
Walked up to a big old building
I won’t say which building
Would have not walked up the stairs
Not to say which stairs
If there had not been two girls
Leaving out the names of those two girls

I recall a door, a big long room
I’ll not tell which room
I remember a deep blue rug
But I can’t say which rug
A girl took down a book of poems
Not to say which book of poems
And as she read, I lay my head
And I can’t tell which head
Down in her lap, and I can mention which lap

My seaman buddy and girl moved off
After a couple of pages and there I was
All night long, laying and listening
And forgetting the poems
And as well as I could recall
Or my seaman buddy could recollect
The girl had told us that she was a niece
Of Walt Whitman, but not which niece
And it takes a night and a girl
And a book of this kind
A long long time to find its way back

I lived in a place called Okfuskee
And I had a little girl in a holler tree
I said, little girl, it’s plain to see
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me

She said it’s hard for me to see
How one little boy got so ugly
Yes, my little girly, that might be
But there ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Way over yonder in the minor key
Way over yonder in the minor key
There ain’t nobody that can sing like me

We walked down by the Buckeye Creek
To see the frog eat the goggle eye bee
To hear that West wind whistle to the East
There ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me

Oh my little girly will you let me see
Where over yonder where the wind blows free
Nobody can see in our holler tree
And there ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Way over yonder in the minor key
Way over yonder in the minor key
There ain’t nobody that can sing like me

Her mama cut a switch from a cherry tree
And laid it on to she and me
It stung lots worse than a hive of bees
But there ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me

Now I have walked a long, long ways
And I still look back to my tanglewood days
I’ve led lots of girls since then to stray
Saying, ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Way over yonder in the minor key
Way over yonder in the minor key
There ain’t nobody that can sing like me

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© Billy Bragg 2019