Saturday, April 22, 2006

Emma Townshend's WINTERLAND

It was in 1998 and much of life was tenuous and stressfull. A good friend of mine had lost both of his elderly parents within nine months and he himself was on his way out and in poor health due to severe substance abuse and depression. When I read that Pete's daughter Emma Townshend had released her first disc I was really intrigued and almost at once I was playing the disc round the clock. My friend also liked the music a great deal, especially "I Dream of Being Well" aka "Groundswell" which summed it all up. It would be a dream come true to hear Emma and Rachel Fuller sing/play together, as they are my two favorite female artists of recent years- actually ever. Winterland holds a very special place in my music collection.
Emma's disc starts out with a sweet Emily Dickinson poem "Better than Music" set to a easy, breezy ukelele and than segues into the ultimate stalker song (appropriate for some nutty bloggers)
"The Last Time I saw Sadie."

"You know how it is,
She's too much in The Sun
Something made me a little Hinckley
And now am saving bits of paper
For my psycho bedroom
I'll pick a writ with her
My goddess
Listening to jealousy
Put on her records
Sit in the darkness
Listening to jealousy"

The next three songs are very eerie and sad: "Walk At Night" ("Makes you a hunter even when your vegetarian makes you a burglar even if you're honest") , "Ghost Kitchen" and "My Angel Of Vertigo."
"Walk At Night" always reminded me of Arthur C Clarke's "A Walk In The Dark" where the main character walks a lonely patrol on a distant moon, fearing and enraged by that fear. He could have stayed where it was safe but instead he has to go out at night. He tells himself that he is not being logical and that it's simply nerves
yet the alien with jaws awaits him when he sadly is almost home.
This leads into the very romantic "The Ambition of My Heart"
"The ambition of my heart
Reveals itself to be
The desire to spend sometime
In your arms"

Such truth. "Groundswell" is a mini epic which includes lyrics from the gospel spiritual "By The Rivers of Babylon" (also a hit for Boney M)It was at that time in my life that I was discovering Paul Robeson and I thought of him lying there in state after his death. Not very cheerfull images I know but these were sad days.
But although Emma's disc has a spooky T-Rex feel, it's mostly optimistic music.
"Five Aside Football" is the great single and it will be a hit someday. It just says it all about leaving your carefree youth behind:

"I guess somewhere I signed something
forgot to read the little writing
Because when i got where i wanted to be
That place flashed by like lightning
Dream is going big time
James a Tailor
Five a side Football
Think of all the money we're making"

The last three songs, "Wish Finger", "How Gardens Grow" and "The Ladder" are very beautiful, lyrical and all are much brighter and sunnier than the songs at the start of the disc but oddly it somehow rounds out in the end like a song cycle (dare I say rock opera?) "The Ladder" talks about flying over the city like 'The Light Princess.'
I'm glad I remembered that six months when all I played was this disc, Pete, The Who, Entwistle and Paul Robeson music. Happiness and ease from all that strife seemed inconceivable but I came out of the dark tunnel, river Styx, Hades whatever you want to call it. I'm so glad I had music like 'Winterland' to make sure I made a safe passage even when others could not. According to Wikipedia, Emma is a Professor of Economics at Oxford, may she deign to record more music someday as it is very memorable what she's done so far. I recalled most of the lyrics off the top of my head.

This is a wonderful disc and deserves to be rediscovered by listeners and critics alike.(Thanks to Justin Kreutzmann for the photos)


Blogger ginab said...

Wow. A professor of math at Oxford. Amazing. I'm not familiar with Winterland, yet Amanda you have disclosed a musical epic, a journey, and I am curious.

Not sure what more I can say except I bet, safely, Emma would thank you for this.


5:31 PM  
Blogger lryicsgrl said...

Thanks, for putting forth this magical musical achievement, I had not heard of Winterland until I started blogging. Now, you have started the engine. I hope I do get to listen to it, soon. I think Amazon might have it, right?
I agree with Gina, Emma would surely thank you for this.

Take Care,


5:44 PM  
Blogger Elaine said...

I'm going to have to pull that CD out again and give it listen once more. It's been a while.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Justin Kreutzmann said...

cool post. I'm going to have to go out and buy her CD for sure.

10:05 PM  
Blogger rolywholyover said...

I tried looking for the V. Woolf poem but I couldn't find it. I wasn't aware that she had ever written poetry!

We are all creatures treading the River Styx sometimes. "Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me"!

10:56 AM  
Blogger Suesjoy said...

I love Winterland, and now I wish I had brought it with me to Taipei!
"The Last Time I Saw Sadie" is definately my favorite.
Well I can see why she isn't doing music anymore if she's an Oxford prof (gulp!).
I've already requested an appearance by her on ITA on Rachel's blog - maybe your lovely piece will be an impetus to have her on. I hope so.
Thanks so much for sharing. I've already gone on and on about your writing - but it is always a pleasure to read your posts/pieces.
PS I think the poem is by Emily Dickinson, not Virginia Woolf...

2:42 PM  
Blogger blue said...

Dear Amanda,

You made me rush to to order WINTERLAND.Thanks..

Tomoko xx

3:30 PM  
Blogger Amanda and SuperAmanda™ said...

Thanks Susejoy! It is Emily Dickinson but now blogger is doing it's fussy "I won't let you edit dance'
But yes! Emma's Winterland kicks of with 'Better Than Music' by Emily Dickinson NOT Virginia Woolf.
I really appreciate you clearing that up.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Amanda and SuperAmanda™ said... it!

7:38 PM  
Blogger lryicsgrl said...

I saw your comment over at Rachel's "Grief" post.
My heart is with you on the loss of your brother.
I wish you peace and comfort!


11:21 PM  
Blogger Amanda and SuperAmanda™ said...

Oh you are so kind. I think we can all agree and take comfort in the fact that music like Emma's and Rachel's makes loss so much easier to deal with.xo

1:37 AM  
Blogger Anne-Marie said...

Thanks for posting this about Emma. I knew she was in academia, not surprising given that her mother (I believe) is/was also a teacher. I will have to give the CD a listen sometime.
How sad about your brother- I hope you know we share your grief too.

Take care,

4:58 AM  
Blogger Claire Eliza said...

I am going to have to look into this! I've never heard her music although I've wanted to.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Great write-up on Emma Amanda. She has the most fantastic eyes doesn't she? I heard she was smart, but a professor at Oxford, hadn't heard that. I'll have to add that CD to my collection, I do not have it as yet. Doesn't matter when it was released really, good music is good music in my opinion.

3:58 PM  
Blogger grace said...

Thanks for the review on Emma's music. I'll have to go get it, sounds like a good one. Thanks for stopping by ....Grace

3:58 AM  
Blogger Fleur de Bee said...

WOW she has the Townshend eyes for sure!!

Very cool blog. I really do not know much about Emma, but have heard one of her songs on

I need a new nanny. Mine is my cousin and to be married...want the job..LOL

9:27 AM  
Blogger Fleur de Bee said...

Almost forgot....sorry about your loss! Belated wishes of comfort from me :)

9:28 AM  
Blogger Lucy said...

Hi Amanda,

I've been meaning to comment on this blog post for ages but kept forgetting to come back to it.

WOW, yes. About a year ago I picked up a 2-song promo CD for Winterland at a used record store and have adored it ever since (Sadie/Five-a-side Football). So the album occupies a topmost place on my want-list; one of these days I WILL order it.

Great write-up! I think Emma T. might actually be my first female idol. :-) I must confess too I've become (lurkily) addicted to her blog(s) They inspire me! She's so witty and intelligent and irresistibly interesting... yet down to earth. Like someone I'd be comfortable with as a friend in real life. Maybe one day I'll come out of the woodwork and tell her "hi."

Oh yeah, and We Can Fly Away -- my GOD it's gorgeous. I've had it off and on as my MySpace song for a while now. Anyone know if Emma wrote/composed it? If so, WOW. It's one of the loveliest pop songs of the decade, IMO.

Take care Amanda, and I'll have to remind myself to visit your blog again!

11:56 PM  

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