Peter Hammill - "What, now?" 2001

  1. Here Come the Talkies
  2. Far-flung (across the sky)
  3. The American Girl
  4. Wendy and the Lost Boy
  5. Lunatic in Knots
  6. Edge of the Road
  7. Fed to the Wolves
  8. Enough

    Here Come the Talkies

    Hair in the gate, let's take a minute
    to find out where this character's lost his way...
    unless I'm much mistaken I'm at the limit
    of what I can and can't say.
    Something untoward seems to be occurring,
    the best that I can do is play along
    for much as I deplore it the camera's still turning...
    you don't have to be bad to be in the wrong,
    you don't have to be bad to get it all wrong.
    Fighting the light,
    there's not much time...
    What future bright is mine?
    In the course of that scene you looked right through me,
    though I was holding your attention as best I could.
    I feel I'm dropping down the credits of my own movie....
    Even when you're in the right you could be gone for good;
    take a look at these shoes where the understudy stood.
    Fighting the light,
    there's not much time...
    What future bright is mine?
    With uncertainty as a constant companion
    yeah you'll never be alone if you're open to your own self-doubt...
    better let it out.
    This is no time for you to stutter in dismay
    as frame by frame all your references unlock;
    wired up as anything, the future's on its way
    like electricity, you judder with the shock.
    You judder with the shock,
    until you're utterly unblocked;
    yeh, you judder with the shock.
    Time to get a grip, we're all mummers in a freak show,
    come on, read my lips and then maybe you'll acquire a different taste.
    Take another tip, find a method in the madness...
    when everything is stripped I see no fortune in your face.
    Oh, look out!
    Walking on the coals your star was never brighter,
    good as solid gold, but that standard's not so relevant today -
    typecast in the role, is your strength all in your silence?
    Here come the talkies - what's that you say?
    Fashion what you make from the clay of your experience;
    you might deserve a break but the longer you go on the less it's fair;
    you be sure to claim your stake, but the ground below you's shifted.
    Just like Rudy as the Sheikh do you feel there's something alien in the air?
    Here come the talkies,
    obsolescence guaranteed;
    here come the talkies, don't you see?
    And you never thought you'd feel so absurd,
    but now you're fluffing your famous last words....
    Thank you and goodnight.
    Fighting the light,
    there's always time
    to stand and fight your decline...
    Hair in the gate,
    that Klieg light, dim it.
    Let's find out how this character acts at bay:
    If he's strong in his belief there'll be no limit
    to what he can and can't say,
    to what he can and can't....
    Fighting the light,
    in tune with time...
    what future bright will be mine?
    Will, be mine.

    Far-flung (across the sky)

    Alone beneath a foreign sky I wonder
    could I be any further flung than this?
    Against the winds which cast me to this distant shoreline
    I can still blow a kiss
    to fly off in migration, heading homeward
    with all my thoughts upon the wing to you.
    Though all our dreams and wishes seem so distant
    this much we can always do....
    If we just raise our eyes
    we'll share the sky.
    The evening sun upon my cheeks already
    the glimmer of a dawn approaching you;
    across the curvature of earth
    invisible connections bind us true.
    If we just close our eyes
    we'll be together in a little time...
    if we just raise our eyes
    we'll share the sky.

    The American Girl

    She doesn't eat, she doesn't sleep
    for if she slept then she would dream about this:
    a place where she'd be treated with respect and sympathy.
    The American girl
    set her sights on the old world,
    thinking in the old world she'd find honesty.
    And so she blew in like a breath of fresh air,
    captivating all around her;
    and as she passed she left a trail of heartbreak in her wake.
    The American girl
    cut her teeth on the old world,
    all at once the old world hers upon a plate
    and fascinated by her face
    the old world sealed her fate.
    She felt she'd come home across the sea,
    this was where she was meant to be.
    She didn't understand the potency of envy 
    so ingrained in the culture
    and soon she found contempt had grown from her familiarity.
    She doesn't eat, she doesn't sleep,
    she lies awake and wonders how this happened.
    The American girl 
    stubbed her toe on the old world
    and the old world's unforgiving rigidity.
    Well times got hard
    and talk came cheap;
    she found that finally
    something wasn't right across the sea...
    now she's stateless in all but her memory.

    Wendy and the Lost Boy

    Dear Wendy, I still believe the promises
    we swore upon when we were magic.
    This came to me as in a dream:
    my heart was in your hands.
    Wendy, do you believe in promises?
    The problem is the boy became a man.
    Wendy - mother, child, lover - everything
    you meant to me lives on in memory;
    to think of how we broke each other's hearts
    is more than I can stand.
    Wendy, were we in love eternally
    or were we just in never-never land?
    Sometimes the boy denies the man,
    sometimes the boy defies the man,
    flying in the shade of Peter Pan....
    Oh, Wendy, maybe you still remember this:
    a touch, a kiss that lasts forever...
    but time and tide rush in conspiracy:
    all love is damned.
    Wendy, I still believe the promise is
    the boy's alive, 
    the boy is in the man.

    Lunatic in Knots

    Unchain me from this lunatic
    before he drags me to my knees;
    I'd have to be some kind of Houdini
    to unpick knots like these.
    While I was sleeping half a lifetime away
    someone moved the scenery,
    all my blocks went astray.
    So I awoke uneasy
    and, as I spoke, grew queasy....
    I don't remember much about last night
    but I suspect I went too far,
    became just a passenger in my actions,
    asleep at the wheel of the car.
    While I was sleeping someone stole in my room,
    rearranged the pictures 
    and threw my bookmarks away.
    The shadow's swiftly deepening
    in the tidepull of the moon
    while the lunatic
    does his party tricks
    but what makes him tick
    he's still most reluctant to say.
    Before the facts there's no pat explanation...
    only this Other implies
    whatever I did was Not I.
    While I was sleeping
    off the wake of the wake
    I was less at home in my dreams than in my mistakes.
    The lunatic's been creeping
    settling and setting on my face
    and we're bound together
    we're tied and tethered
    I don't know whether
    the bond is one I can break.
    After the act there's no hidden intention,
    just fumbling around for the plot,
    tying myself up tighter and tighter in knots.
    So many angels,
    however many can there by, ghosts and djinns
    dancing on the head of a pin?
    How many questions are left unresolved?
    Exactly where do I begin
    now that the walls are closing in?
    Who's the lunatic
    and who's the sensible soul deep within the skin,
    hanging on and listening in...?
    Unchain me from this lunatic
    restrain him in his cage
    keep him away from me
    keep him away from the stage.
    Unchain me from this lunatic
    whose every action shouts me down;
    keep him away from me,
    keep me away from this clown.
    Unchain me from this lunatic
    restrain him in his cage
    keep him away from me
    keep him away from me
    keep me away from his rage
    While I was sleeping 
    the lunatic stirred.
    I've no alibi
    for his beady eye.
    Oh, I talk my head off...
    he's a man of few words.

    Edge of the Road

    The lady was in waiting
    for whatever story might unfold
    anticipating that somehow base metal would turn into gold
    yeh, she was always looking for a brighter spot,
    eager to tap into the motherlode
    at the edge of the road.
    A world of separation,
    treasuring each pleasure and each pain
    distance is arching between them,
    a rainbow, no gold in the frame
    until the boy with a smile like forget-me-nots
    will finally come in from the rain.
    But he's out there still:
    in the hourglass a sandstorm has stripped his sails,
    only wanting to fill up his pockets
    with the dust of all the bygone trails.
    Someday he'll make his way home.
    But will the man of the moment finally make himself known
    and lay down his load
    at the edge of the road?
    The woman was in waiting
    less in expectation than in hope;
    maybe he'd come to his senses in a little while
    if she just paid out plaits of flaxen rope.
    But he never will,
    in his heart there's the murmur of an alien disease,
    waking up to the chill of the knowledge
    that his travel's brought him to his knees.
    Nowhere is safe from all harm;
    so will the man of her memory fall finally into her arms
             (will the man of her memory be charmed?)
    before he explodes
    at the edge of the road?
    All is suddenly abandon,
    all his planned accommodation failed,
    all his actions and reactions are random,
    hot on the scent of a stone-cold trail.
    And though she burns a candle to his memory
    all of her patience was bound to fail
    for he's out there still
    with a thousand-mile stare falling on his face,
    chasing after a thrill
    that'll take him out beyond all sense of time and place.
    Head on into the unknown,
    here's the man chasing mystery finally missing his own.
    But that's how it goes
    at the edge of the road.
    There's a cutting edge to the road
    at the end of the road,
    at the edge of the road.

    Fed to the Wolves

    And they said "They shall all be fed,
    all the weak and powerless shall be comforted....".
    The Church's arms are open to embrace its orphans
    but this unholy priest's an earthly sod
    with his cock thrust casually through his vestments
            behind the screen of the confessional.
    Father's fumbling in the vestry,
    lip-service to the sermon even while his fingers fiddle;
    blind-eyed nuns ignore the soiled habits....
    For the innocents there's no escape -
    what hell on earth (in the name of Christ) was this they'd entered?
            Oh, they said "They shall be fed"
            and meant that this young flesh
            should be devoured.
    The lambs were to be led
            to be fed to the wolves,
            fed to the wolves. 
    (They should be safe in God's House.
    Does it get any worse than this?
    The children are in their power
    and power is naked.
    They should be safe in God's House
    but here's no mercy, just abuse.
    And the damage that is done
    is worse than unholy.)
    They said "They shall be fed"
    but they're abused rather than comforted
    by the very ones who pose as their protectors
    and to complain would only bring a beating down upon their backs
    for their own imagined wickedness.
    No escape from such unholy earthly powers:
    the lambs shall be devoured,
    the lambs shall all be fed to the wolves.
    They shall be fed to the wolves.
    Pray for the prey, 
    fed to the wolves.
    (And the damage that is done
    is worse than unholy.)


    To live, to be alive and to consider
    the plane that shapes the smooth out of the rough...
    when every expectation is delivered
    will that be enough?
    This alone will have to be enough.
    Not that but this,
    not why but how,
    not if but when,
    not soon but now.
    To wait, to be elated and awoken...
    when every love's less tender than it's tough
    and all the flood defence is finally broken
    will this be enough?
    This alone will never be enough.
    Not that but this,
    not why but how,
    not if but when,
    not soon but now.
    Not that, not this.
    Oh, why? Oh, how?
    What if, what then?
    Not soon, not now.
    Not that, not this.
    But why, but how?
    What if, what then?
    Too soon, not now.
    So soon...what now?

    Lyrics and music by Peter Hammill

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