The Blackbird

Monday, 28 March 2011
I was trying to avoid doing a big-hitter, but..well, sometimes you just HAVE to. The Blackbird was a 1976 release - it's the best year, don't you know? - for the boys, and the tune is an old, West-country folk song, but apparently the Wurzels couldn't find the original words, so wrote their own version.

iPod? Bah, humbug.
On the surface, this is a pretty average sort of song - a man who feels he's being persecuted by a songbird. An idea that seems rather ridiculous in it's own right, but could possibly have maybe been the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock when he directed the classic The Birds.  Certainly, it's not impossible that Adge and the boys took their inspiration from the 1952 novella The Birds by Daphne du Maurier - by itself, a warning that there is only so much nonsense that Mother Earth will take before she unleashes her battalions upon us. 
Oh noes! Birdies!
Could this seemingly simple song foresee our destruction at the hands of an animal nation?

No.

Could it be a chilling message about our delicate ecosystem, and the thousands of songbirds who are threatened by loss of habitat, pesticides, predators and an increasingly inhospitable environment?

"Where be it Blackbird to?"

No.

Could it, perhaps, be a metaphor for a person of unsound mind, sinking further into paranoia and insanity, convinced that a simple blackbird is persecuting him, targeting him, and mocking him?

"No longer can I sleep at night/get peace of any kind/That bird'll be the death of me/he's prayin' on me mind"

No.
Oh no. It's WAY deeper than that.

Let's see it in it's full glory:


Chorus:
Where be that Blackbird to? I know where he be,
He be up yon Wurzel tree, And I be after he!
Now I sees he, And he sees I,
Buggered if I don’t get ‘en
With a gurt big stick I’ll knock ‘im down
Blackbird I’ll ‘ave he!
La la la la la la
La la la la la la
‘Ow’s ‘E Father?
 - Alright!

All me life I’m on the farm, workin’ for me keep
Tendin’ pigs and chickens, and they cows and sheep
But everywhere I’m workin’, there’s one who always mocks me
He hidin' somewhere in the trees, blackbird I’ll ‘ave ee!

Chorus goes here.

Underneath the open sky in spring we loves to dine
We likes to ‘ear the flappin’ of the missus washin’ line
We listens to a tuneful song, a blackbird or a tit,
But on me vest and underpants he scored a direct hit!

More chorus!


If I goes out poachin’, a creepin’ through the fields,
With me old retriever, a followin’ at me heels.
If I aim me shotgun at a pheasant in the hay
That bloody blackbird starts his row and frightens him away!

Zomg, chorus.

No longer can I sleep at night, get peace of any kind,
That bird’ll be the death of me, he’s prayin’ on me mind!
If I chase him long enough, I’ll get ‘en by and by,
And celebrate me vict’ry with a girt big blackbird pie!


I SEE IT!
The lyrics are in fact structured to bring about a fuller understanding of our own thought processes and to enable us to realize shortcomings in our egocentric thoughts. By using the signifier blackbird, repeated in each of the verses, we are guided through a process of self questioning. Separately, the verses are similar to Zen koans, designed to shatter your method of thinking to bring about enlightenment. Yet as a whole this piece seems gently to nudge you into the Wurzel's way of thinking, rather than shoving as Zen propounds.

As the chorus states: Where be it Blackbird to?

According to the words, the blackbird resides in the wurzel tree, watching us, perhaps mocking, yet unreachable through force and confrontation.

The Wurzel's blackbird represents ourselves - our true selves - the soul, the spirit, call it what you will. Always in the background, always demanding our attention - but just as we believe we are close enough, it takes flight, to higher branches.

This seems strongly to suggest a trinity of the conscious mind, perhaps such as Freud suggested, the id, ego and superego. Adopting this reading, we may go further on to say that the tree represents the framework of our mind - the physical body, our brain, perhaps even knowledge.

Why, yes. I did just compare the Wurzels to Freud.
The blackbird represents what we cannot have, cannot touch - and urges up to keep reaching for it in order to reach our true potential - whether through work - "All me life I'm on the farm/Workin' for me keep/Tendin' pigs and chickens/And they cows and sheep."

However work is not the answer - and the ever-elusive blackbird takes flight as the farmer tries to reach it.

Perhaps through the appreciation of the world around us? "Underneath the open sky/in spring we loves to dine/We likes to 'ear the flappin/of the missus/washin' line/We listens to a tuneful song/a blackbird or a tit"

Perhaps a little closer?

"But on me vest and underpants/he scored a direct hit!"

Bullseye! ..actually, bird poo.
Perhaps not.

The farmer once again, attempts to connect with him, taking to the fields - returning to his more, basic, hunting instincts, in the hopes of achieving his goal.

"If I goes out poachin/a creepin' through the fields/With me old retriever/a followin' at me heels/"

However, much like in The Deerhunter, the 'blackbird' starts his 'row', and the hunter does not get his kill. He hails the blackbird as an equal or even an influence to the outcome of the hunt - a powerful tribute to the blackbird, and to nature.

Oh God, BAMBI! NOOOOO!

"If I chase him long enough/I'll get 'en by and by/And celebrate me vict'ry/wit a girt big blackbird pie"

And there the farmer finally realises the key to his goal. To capture the blackbird he will need learning, experience, enlightenment, dedication, perseverance and understanding. Until we are living to our full potential, the blackbird of our soul will not be silenced, and will continue to sing and mock at us - small, insignificant, but impossible to ignore.

The Blackbird is a a song deeply involved with philosophical problems as they relate to man and his universe. It urges us to reevaluate our mindset in relation to living in an ordinary, mundane world, and counsel us in using an open mind and creative visualisation in order to bring about a conscious bond between the causal and seemingly acausal relationships enjoyed by every object and living being involved in the dance of life.


Wheeeee!
It urges us to be true to ourselves, to keep reaching for the impossible and to keep pushing ourselves.

For are we not all searching for our own blackbird?

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