Thursday, 11 May 2017

With profuse apologies to Tom Robinson

I have long been a fan of Tom Robinson. Hope and Glory was the first of his albums I bought, back in the mid eighties after seeing some tracks from it on TV. (I still have my TRB 1977-1987 tenth anniversary tour t-shirt too). And on Hope and Glory my favourite track was often 'Back in the Old Country' Surprisingly - and sadly - I couldn't find a video of a live version.* If you want to check out the lyrics, they're here.

Anyway, ever since we decided to go to Brownhills and Walsall for our Easter trip this year, I couldn't get the idea of 'Back in the Black Country' out of my head. Gradually, before we left, during the trip, and afterwards, a new version began to take shape.

I like to think that the timeless tale of a young innocent seduced by spurious glamour into leaving their roots, becoming disillusioned, and returning wiser, but also richer in experience, translates seamlessly from the 1980s Berlin gay scene to the world of historic narrow boating.

So, ladies and gentlemen, with the profoundest and most sincere apologies to Tom Robinson (I rather hope he wouldn't mind really; he's not averse to the odd pastiche himself), I give you...

Back in the Black Country

Had tea with a historic narrow boater
In a pub in Dudley Port
He wore a neckerchief and a big white beard
Showed me pictures of loaded joshers
And a middle Northwich tug
And all the rivet counters stood around looking weird

I met a Friend of President
In his engine hole
Had smuts all on his face, beneath his bowler
He wore pristine moleskin trews
And his collarless shirt was new
It was twenty seventeen but he looked a century older

But that was back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country*
Back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country

Two days on the Jam 'Ole
Mikey hadn't been near a bed
He was knocking back buns and tea just to keep awake
He wore a stained t-shirt
And a lot of dirt
And he looked so tired and tetchy we kept away

Headed down to London on the Bottom Road
In an unconverted Woolwich with no knees
Moored four deep on Vicky Park
But we slipped off after dark
When it was our turn to empty the Elsan and pay the fees

Wish I was back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country
Back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country

Empty pounds on a cold wet day in Brownhills
Carpet on the prop in the Walsall flight
We were stuck half way across
The cill of the second lock
When a van pulls up and the man says 'Yow'lroight?'

Yes, I'm back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country
Back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country



*The reason I wanted to do this was that I seem to recall that the live version often had a triangle part, after the first line of the chorus, which could profitably be played on a piling chain.

1 comment:

  1. There's another boating connection with Tom Robinson. He was the headline act at the Crick Boat Show last year. I confess the only song I knew was 2-4-6-8 Motorway (for which he made us wait until the end).

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