We are used to the idea that a poet is someone who takes a pencil and some paper and starts to write line after line of little texts that he or she calls 'poems', and then expects other people to read them and be interested in them, and very probably will try to enter poetry competitions to get money and recognition and will probably be quite happy to join the literary elite and be friends with fellow 'poets', until being recognized as one, capital letters, a POET, but in my humble opinion, poetry is something different, it has to do more with rhythm and music than with the uninteresting world of those who think of themselves as poets. I'm tired of reading the poetry books written by my friends or by mediocre writers; I think I won't take any more of that. Dear poet: I won't read your poems! At most, Ill listen to them, especially if they're sung, but I don't care anymore about your verses on the white page. Poetry is music. Joaquín Sabina is a fine example: he's got the ability to create beautiful poetry and sing it. Two or three of his verses are enough to describe a state of mind or a chain of events in someone's life or a litany of broken dreams. He's a master, a poet, someone who doesn't call hismself a poet!
Pop music is also full of poetry. Well, it's full of many things, but if you search for poets you'll find them. It is also true that pop lyrics are generally frustrating: you think they must be wonderful, equaling the wonderful music, but more often than not the lyrics look as if the've been written by a teenager. But there are exceptions. I fell in love with English and English pop music at the same time, at the beginning of the eighties, listening to The Smiths and other groups. John Morrissey the poet, the artist. Sometime in 1984 or 1985 I bought a record by a nearly unknown group called The Sound. I was simply impressed when I heard the songs in that album (Heads and Hearts). It was not only the music, it was also the genius behind the lyrics. And the name genius was Adrian Borland.
Some years later, in fact many years later, I re-discovered The Sound, this time thanks to the Internet, and I had the chance to listen to more of their songs and also to follow Borland's solo career after the band broke up. One of Borland's solo albums, Beautiful Ammunition (1994) is a real masterpiece of pop music and English poetry. Maybe I could copy and paste some of his lyrics here but I don't think it makes much sense to separate the lyrics from the music. I'll just use a little example from a song called Weekender Berliners. These are the first four lines:
I'm just a moment in your life
And you're just a flicker in my mind
I didn't need you, as much as I needed sleep
So how can such a passing thing, seem to go so deep
Or these two lines from Kissing in the Dark:
Beneath the bluest of skies with the brightest of eyes
We tell the whitest of lies to keep on kissing in the dark
I feel like translating them into Valencian. Here's the result:
Sota el cel més blau, amb els ulls més clars,
contem les mentides més piadoses per seguir besant-nos en la foscor.
Borland's songs are also the creation of a troubled mind. My re-discovery of The Sound coincided with my discovery of Borland's death. Afflicted by serious mental problems, he commited suicide in 1999. Another tragical end in the long list of pop's tragical biographies. I was shocked. One of the most original and sensitive voices in the history of pop music was silenced for ever. His band (The Sound) had gained some recognition in the early eighties but it never really became as popular as other bands of their time (U2, Simple Minds: the brighter, successful side of this type of music). He formed other groups which were not very successful either. His solo career did not reach the mainstream channels of pop music and it was confined to some circles of connoisseurs or admirers, many of them in countries like Holland, where he was really appreciated. Also in Spain, where he always had some fans. In the following video, for example, we can see a live performance in Madrid, in 1984. The song is called Silent Air and it was performed in a concert that was broadcast in the famous programme La Edad de Oro, presented by Paloma Chamorro (do you remember her hair-style?). The song is simply beautiful, and if you listen carefully you'll notice that it is dedicated to Ian Curtis, another suicidal pop singer.
I read somewhere that this song was played at Borland's mother's funeral, but this information must be wrong, as Borland's mother was still alive by the time I read that. Maybe it was played at his own funeral, but I'm not sure. Adrian Borland's relationship with his parents is not typical of a pop star. He never really had a house of his own (much as Ian Curtis) and when he came back from his tours he usually stayed with his parents in Wimbledon. They believed in their son's talent and encouraged him to go on. Some years after Adrian's death, his father opened a web-page which is a real tribute to the lost poet. It's called Brittle Heaven, and it hosts a lot of information about Adrian Borland, including a book of condolences where people can pay their own tribute to his memory. I wrote a couple of lines there, and realized that many of the people who'd contributed had a similar trajectory as mine: they had discovered The Sound in the eighties and had felt there was something special in that music; years later, in the era of Internet, they had gone back to those early day memories to find out about the tragical end of a wonderful poet.