The lecturer held up an LP cover. It was Supertramp’s 1975 album, Crisis? What crisis?. The sleeve pictures a man reclining with a drink under a beach umbrella, but instead of a beach he is set against a bleak factoryscape, a nightmare of grey industry spewing pollution. What, the lecturer wondered, does this mean, exactly? Does it, in truth, mean anything? He was not dismissive, not scornful, just raised the question: is this, maybe, a problem?
This all happened longer ago than I care to tell, in my first year at university. The lecturer’s name was Jack Clancy. He was a pioneer in the study of communication in Australia. He was also a lovely man: I came to know him slightly, and remain friends with his son, Rob. Sadly, Jack Clancy departed this life a couple of years ago.
But Jack’s question has stayed with me. Does it matter if communication may, or may not, mean anything? I was an earnest literalist back then. Too earnest all round, actually. But I have mellowed and relaxed with time. I have no problem now with stuff which might not mean very much. Art which is ambiguous demands that the audience bring its own meaning. That requires searching your heart, which is never a bad thing.
This reminiscing came because the Planet Vinyl shuttle has landed on a Supertramp single, “It’s Raining Again”. This was released in 1982, and I remember it from the radio – indeed, anyone who was a teen at the time will know it, as it was a top ten hit almost everywhere.
Frequent visitors to the Vinyl Planet will know that usually we favour the rarity, the B-side, the obscure. In this case, though, we are going with the hit. Reason being? The B side, “Bonnie”, is a love song addressed to a girl of that name. Planet Vinyl is a broad church, but it is fair to say that “Bonnie” is a lyrical clunker:
Yes I got my fortune read
And here´s what the gypsy said
That we´ll live and love and share eternity
That, and rhyming “please be nice” with “paradise”, and “golden skies”? Nup.
However the A-side stands up well as pop song. No, it isn’t really clear what is means. Vaguely about the end of a relationship, but you can kinda read it how you want to, and the music is great: lovely sax and electric piano.
Sending this out to the late Jack Clancy. Scholar, thinker, teacher, footballer and fine man. Thanks for your teaching.
- Artist: Supertramp
- A Side: It’s Raining Again
- B Side: Bonnie
- Format: 7”, 45 rpm, vinyl, stereo
- Label: A&M
- Made in: Australia
- Catalogue: K 8910
- Year: 1982
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