Smile Smile has just been added to rotation at WGRE! This band has an intriguing history (Broken up couple- remind anyone of The White Stripes?) and fantastic music.
The Hollies: “Crusader” (For Certain Because, 1966)
I’ve been thinking about this song recently and I’m not sure why. It’s been my favorite Hollies song since I heard it a couple years ago at a time when I hadn’t really given the group a second thought beyond enjoying a few of their old hits.
I grew up listening to those old hits—“Bus Stop,” “Just One Look,” Stop Stop Stop,” “On a Carousel,” etc.—because my parents tended to tune in oldies radio a lot. I hadn’t even really thought of them as a British Invasion group, though I knew that’s where they were from.
This was an album track, buried in the middle of side two of For Certain Because, the first of the band’s albums they wrote entirely themselves. Graham Nash and Allan Clarke usually wrote separately, but they co-wrote this, which is probably the most haunting thing the band recorded. That minor-key verse melody and the beautiful guitar part have a dream-like quality that makes the imagery of the lyrics easy conjure.
Interesting lyrics, too—the crusader of the title is a literal Christian crusader from the eleventh or twelfth century, returned from the Middle East to Britain, where he finds that nothing is quite as he left it. There’s even a hole in the roof.
History records so little about the individual stories of the people who left their homes to fight a religious war in a far-off Holy Land that they likely had no real conception of before they left, outside of what priests had told them. Surely many of them felt some sort of conflict about what they were doing, or at least about leaving their lives behind to do it.
Europe was such a different place then. Nearly everyone lived in crushing poverty, and almost no one had much education—it was a world where you lived to survive. So the idea that so many from successive generations went off, willingly or unwillingly, to fight for an abstract cause like the glory of Christendom is kind of amazing to me. I find, looking at history, that societies that place a high premium on honor tend to waste a lot of lives.
So here’s this song, and it has an unusually intimate and astute angle on what it must have been like to come back home after traveling thousands of miles to a place whose terrain and native culture might as well have been alien to fight, essentially, for the honor of having fought. Let’s say you were part of one of the crusades that actually accomplished some of its territorial objectives. Back home, what would that actually have meant to you?
Abstractly, you might know that this or that city was back in Christian hands. You might find the thought immensely satisfying. But then, there’s a hole in the roof, and you need firewood, and people who once were under your thumb seem to have forgotten about you in your absence, not to mention the fact that the old political disputes with your neighbor remain unresolved.
I’m sure that the intense piety of the crusaders (those that went willingly, anyway) mitigated some of the emptiness they must have inevitably felt on their return, but I just can’t imagine that any thinking person wouldn’t have felt at least a little of that emptiness. It makes me think of the the way Winston Churchill described England’s crusader king, Richard I The Lion-Hearted: “His life was one magnificent parade which, when ended, left only an empty pain.”
Laura Marling’s songs unfold in quiet ways, with lyrical depth that rewards repeated listening and a clear alto voice that gives her songs gravity. Watch her perform “Sophia,” from A Creature I Don’t Know, in a studio session from opbmusic.
Father John Misty - Nancy From Now On
New from Sub Pop, new from J Tillman, channeling serious 70s soft rock, in the best of ways. Sounds like Badfinger or something. In a good way.
“Yes, very few people could hang and get all-access today,” Diltz said. “You have to gain their trust, they have to really get to know you and accept you being there. You have to really know how to back off, sorta learn how to be a fly on the wall. And respect them. I don’t think you can be one of them, and like join in … because you’re not one of them. So that’s the wrong approach. I can’t be an aggressive type of photographer, just hustling to get the photo. You got to be cool, that comes first.”