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The Annotated Bell x1 – Blue Lights on the Runway

The final part of my Annotated Bell x1 series is fourth album Blue Lights on the Runway from 2009. Read the previous three sections here:
Neither Am I
Music in Mouth
Flock

THE RIBS OF A BROKEN UMBRELLA

She was only just a girl in a picture
But he thought if I could only make her smile1
Then she’d be mine
He’d folded it, re-folded it so many times,
He’d already lost some of her to the creases
Precious pieces
He wondered how close he’s ever been to her
In this ebb and flow of the distance between us
Maybe she got the same bus
And he left a trail of string wherever he went
When he was sleepin’, he tied it to his toe
If she crossed it, then he’d know

But he knew
That all was unravelling
And he was bare
Stripped of his skin
Like the ribs of a broken umbrella
Sticking out of a bin

He’d pull his collar up against the wind,
Against those who said that trying was the first step to failing
Oh he was railing
And filled with new found purpose and pride,
He’d make something out of this heady glow
Now where would she go?

But what do I know?
Cause all is unravelling
And he was bare
Stripped of his skin
Like the ribs of a broken umbrella
Sticking out of a bin

But he knew how to fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza2
With time’s great elixir, dear Liza, dear Liza

She was only just a girl in a picture,
But he thought if I could only make her smile
Then she’d be mine
Oh the thought of being faced with her
Gave him the fear and sometimes in the morning a tent3
Oh Lord give him strength

Cause he knew
That all was unravelling
And he was bare
Stripped of his skin
Like the ribs of a broken umbrella
Sticking out of the bin


1 Likely reference to Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452-1519) ‘Mona Lisa’ (1503-1506). Perhaps the most famous painting in the world, it’s not actually that great. Sure she’s curious looking, but have you seen it up close? Probably not, it’s a tiny painting and there’s usually too many fat tourists in the way at the Louvre.
2 Main character in the children’s song ‘There’s a Hole in My Bucket’. It actually reached #32 in the UK Singles Chart in 1961, proving that even back then, people would buy absolute rubbish.
3 Not an actual tent, but rather the pole used to hoist it.

HOW YOUR HEART IS WIRED

My tongue is scaling the north face of your neck
And we’re glaring like warriors but,
I’ve a feelin’ you won’t look at me that way in the morning
Cause lately you seem less sure of this thing
You’re like Bambi on Ice1
And there’s something in the flash of your arms
A certain longing

Kick the can2 I can’t see you now behind that temper and ire
Mister Wolf knows what time it is3
He says it’s dinner time
I don’t know what you’re carrying or how you’re heart is wired
But there’s a dangerous ticking.

I cut the red one, No, the Blue one4
I cut the red one,
I cut the blue one
Raking over the embers and what I come across?

Is that you, combing your hair?
Is that me, eating an egg?

And are we there
Like John Boy said?5

My tongue is scaling the north face of your neck
And we’re glaring like warriors but,
I’ve a feelin’ you won’t look at me that way
I’ve a feelin’ you won’t look at me that way
I’ve a feelin’ you won’t look at me that way
in the morning.

Is this how it goes,
In these, the final throws?


1 Skating-based recreation of 1942 Disney children’s film Bambi. These “on Ice” spectacles are usually cheap imitations of the real thing, with costumed actors playing different roles. Said actors are usually skaters who didn’t have the ability to do it professionally, so instead are stuck inside what is essentially a cheap football mascot knock-off. How’s that for being proud of your job?
2 Kick the Can (also called Tip the Can) is usually an outdoor game that is a cross between tag, hide and seek, and capture the flag. On wikipedia, it’s part of the category “Children’s Street Culture” which sounds like something more Colombian than European.
3 What Time is it Mister Wolf? is also a children’s outdoor game, but one without a wikipedia page. This is a huge omission that must be rectified. I’d do it myself, but this stuff isn’t going to annotate itself. And anyway, it’s dinner time. Raaarrr!
4 References to the wiring of a bomb. What I don’t get is: Why don’t bomb makers make all the wires the same colour? No-one could diffuse it then. (Dear terrorists, if you’re reading this, please gloss over that last part)
5 Character in American homestead drama (1972-1981). John Boy was played by Richard Thomas from season 1 to 6, but came back as Robert Wightman in Seasons 8 and 9. Do parents not recognise their own children? What is this? LOST?

THE GREAT DEFECTOR

I am the defector
And you’re the farmer’s daughter
You been teasing us farm boys
Til we start talkin’ about those rabbits, George1
Oh won’t you tell us ‘bout those rabbits, George

I am the defector
I give it what it need
Let’s make a new world order
Let’s make it rhyme

You’re the chocolate at the end of my Cornetto2
I love the way your underwire bra
Always sets off that X-ray machine3

Comin’ into land and
Now I love the colour of it all
Blue lights on the runway
I love the colour of it all

I am the defector
‘Cause someone stirred my soul
With that great big stick of hers
Kinda looks like an oar

The accountants have taken the movie
Yeah, they’re on set
The people from the mobile phone company
Say who gets to play and who gets to not

You’re a picture of the check out girl
Hand me a plastic bag
I got the sweats trying to open it
As it all piles up, I wish I didn’t bite my nails

Comin’ into land and
Now I love the colour of it all
Blue lights on the runway
I love the colour of it all
Getting ready to spill my guts and
I love the colour of it all
To the waitress on roller skates
I love the colour of it all
Oh the colour of it all

I am the great defector
So I must affect an air
Of a man who’s maybe seen too much
But still just manages to care

Still you’re the chocolate at the end of my Cornetto
I love the way your underwire bra
Always sets off that X-ray machine

Comin’ into land and
Now I love the colour of it all
Blue lights on the runway
I love the colour of it all
Getting ready to spill my guts and
I love the colour of it all
To the, to the waitress on roller skates
I love the colour of it all
Oh the colour of it all

Waitress on roller skates
Love the colour of it all


1 George Milton and Lennie Small are the two main characters in John Steinbeck’s (1902-1968) depression-era novel Of Mice and Men. Lennie is mentally disabled and dreams of having pet rabbits. It’s a fantastic novel, you should check it out.
2 Chocolate ice-cream in a cone made by Wall’s, HB, Hazelbrook Farm, Algida, Frigo, Streets, Frisko, Tico Rico, Good Humor, Kibon, Lusso, and about twenty other names. However, they’re all the same company. Something fishy about that.
3 X-ray machines are used in all airports to detect suspicious devices or packages. However, what Paul Noonan means to say here is “metal detector”, but that wouldn’t have the same ring to it, would it?

BLOW INS

I should know my time and place
I’m Tuesday’s child without the grace1
bring your canary, bring your flame
there’s a rich seem of wind in my coal mine2

We’re just blow ins
On the storm of time
Yeah we’re just stoppin’
For a while

Bucket of water to separate
Those horny dogs of church and state
God of ego and god of light
Pushes us to the corner of our own life

We’re just blow ins
On the storm of time
Yeah we’re just stoppin’
For a while

I’m like a magpie with all that’s shiny and new3
I can’t help myself, I pick a pocket or two4
And if our time was, but a day
We’d show up around midnight, and say hey

Cause we’re just blow ins
On the storm of time
Yeah we’re just stoppin’
For a while


1 Children’s rhyme which tells about a person’s character based on what day of the week they were born. About as accurate as astrology. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19526. I’m sure someone finds that last bit interesting.
2 A canary is often used as an animal sentinel in a coal mine. The canary was an early-warning system for leaks of dangerous gases. This gave the miners a chance to escape before they became sick. In 1984, the canaries joined together in a union and began the UK Canaries’ Strike of 1984-1985, which is well documented.
3 Magpies are often attracted to shiny objects – jewellery is often found in their nests. cf. eggsforgold.com
4 Song from the musical Oliver!, based on Charles Dickens’ (1812-1870) Oliver Twist, which focuses on a group of pickpockets in Victorian London. In 2005, Roman Polanski (1933-) directed a film version of the novel, which is questionable, given his past history.

AMELIA1

I’d say life’s a different story when you’re facing certain death
I wonder did they kick back when they knew the game was up
Static on the radio ain’t no soundtrack for this end
Stick on a bit of anger and we’ll go down
Let see if we skim

Maybe there’s no time, for grand exits and pause
Twistin our propellers, dropping at the froth
And as she turned to Fred she saw the fear in his eyes
And whatever was between them, was heavy in the last word he said

Amelia

Or maybe they went on to grow oranges and pears
On their own island, Amelia and Fred2
She’d dance for him in the evenings as the red sun fell
he’d sit there smiling up at her thinking this is just swell
take me

Some say she resurfaced as a Tokyo rose
Talking on the radio, telling sweet lies
But remember when the farmer asked have you flown far
She just smiled back at him and said
‘I’ve come, from America’

Amelia

Time has cast its shadow3, the story lost its legs
Our favourite missing person, still rears her head
Not on the milk cartons4, just some bones on a beach
That just might be a tall white girl called Amelia

Just might be a tall white girl called Amelia

Oh Amelia

It’s just like flying


1 Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) was an American aviator, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She went missing when trying to fly around the world, and was later declared dead.
2 Fred Noonan (1893-1937) was Earhart’s navigator on her last voyage, where they disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. The following numbers were inscribed on their plane: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. Fred Noonan probably stands out to Paul Noonan as they share a last name.
3 Time not only pulls faces, but also casts shadows.
4 In North America, missing persons are often displayed on milk cartons to aid in the search. In Ireland, we get a local farmer on some of the cartons. Although the Avonmore ones have a great cow barcode thing going on. Check it out.

A BETTER BAND

Is this room getting smaller,
or is it just me?
I pace myself, brace myself,
trying not to breathe.
All these walls are closing in on me,
like the Death Star bin,1
Oh that’ll learn me,2
That’ll squeeze out all the sin.

Ths world is bearing down on me,
like a ‘fish eye lens’
and when it comes down to it,
do I have any real friends?
How long were those monkeys typing,
to make all Billy’s work?3
I’ve some way to go yet,
I’ll finish this one first.

Something’s got to give.

I’m a failing restaurant,
all expectant and sad
with one eye on the door,
playing cards out the back
I’m love me love me love me,
I’m a small bit of a prick
I got the meat sweats
from this realpolitik. 5

Sometimes I can see you
shining in the night
There’s Polly, and Gillian,
and your man in the big suit
spitting out confetti that wallops with a kiss
and I’m left thinking

I wanna be a better band

This is it, what are you crying for?
This is it, were you expecting more?

I wanna be a better band
and shoot fire from my hands
Fire from my hands…


1 A trash compactor on the Death Star, a spherical space station featured in George Lucas’s (1944-) series of Star War films (1977-1983). It is used to destroy waste on board the ship, however, it cannot be used to erase all memory of the prequel trilogy.
2 Backwardization of the verb to learn, used here to mean “to teach”.
3 Reference to William Shakespeare (1956-1616) and the Infinite Monkeys Theorem which states that if a monkey is given a typewriter and an infinite amount of time, it will eventually produce the entire works of Shakespeare. Although my guess is that there would probably be some cyborgs and oatmeal-based-lifeforms mixed in there somewhere. It’d be like the best fan fiction ever.
5 A form of politics based on practical rather than moralistic thinking. Since it was used by Henry Kissinger (1923-) and Richard Nixon (1913-1994), I strongly would advise against it. It didn’t go too well for them.

BREASTFED

You’re so pretty and I’m so lame
You’re ever changing, I stay the same
You give good sermon, I say bad grace
My food for the soul it leaves a bad taste

You save yourself, I’m saved by the bell
Never left my head, I’ve no story to tell
You save yourself, I’m saved by the bell
Never left my head, I’ve no story to tell

I was doing fine when I was breastfed
Blame it on the milkman on my deathbed
I was doing swell when I was breastfed
Pasteurise, homogenise, he said

You’ve got convictions, I’ve got fence-arse1
I’m nowhere near the cliff but I can see the drop
I’m all sound and fury, I’m smoke without fire
I see your watermark when I hold you to the light2

You’re so pretty, I’m so lame
Cleanliness is closer to godliness they say3
well now what does that mean?
If you can be God, well I can be clean

I was doing fine when I was breastfed
Blame it on the milkman on my deathbed
I was doing swell when I was breastfed
Pasteurise, homogenise, he said


1 From “sitting on the fence” or taking neither side in an argument. It’s what agnostics do. Either believe or don’t. I don’t know is never an answer. It’s like people who spoil their votes on purpose at an election. What a waste of time. Just don’t vote, you’re not making a point. You know what happens to those votes you deliberately spoiled? Nothing, cause no-one cares. [/rant]
2 When a modern banknote is held up to the light a watermark can be seen. This is used as a prevention for forgery.
3 c.f. Emptiness is loneliness and loneliness is cleanliness and cleanliness is godliness and God is empty, just like me.

LIGHT CATCHES YOUR FACE

The dog-eared Disprin1, in your handbag
A gathering of crumbs and, twenty fags2
I’d steal some chewing gum, a few stray coins
I’m sure you noticed but didn’t much mind

aaah
and so it goes
aaah

Here I am, in the condiment aisle
I’m worried about my basil from Israel3 and New World4 wine
I need to lose these poses, reset my charms
to when I left the factory in your arms

singing aaah
aaoh
and so it goes

But the words on the page start to swim
As light catches your face you’re smiling
This must be what all the fuss is about

aaoh

You’re trying to talk to me, all grateful and smiles
I’m glued to the TV giving one word replies
It’s small and shameful it’s a poor show
Beat myself up on the way home and go crying to my girl

And so it goes
Yeah so it goes
Yeah so it goes

But the words on the page start to swim
As light catches your face you’re smiling
This must be what all the fuss is about


1 Disprin is an over-the counter paracetamol tablet used for aches and pains. It’s probably just sugar in a capsule which induces a placebo effect. Or maybe not. I’m sure there are complicated studies someplace.
2 Fags are cigarettes in Irish slang. It’s something else entirely in US slang. A bit like Sunday’s child.
3 Basil is a condiment used in cooking, especially in Italy. It is native to the Middle East and Asia (thus the Israel reference).
4 The New World is a name for the continent of America, which was found in the fifteenth century, and became the new world. Europe and Asia being the old world. It was a land of opportunity, where many Irish went in the 19th century to escape having to eat poor quality potatoes. Now, 150 years later, there is a McDonald’s on every block.

ONE STRINGED HARP

A safe pair of hands
A reason to stand
Some guns to stick to
Rational demands

Come on now ladies
They1 won’t fertilise themselves
Get into the ball game
Let’s clear those shelves

That’s what I read in that Sunday magazine
The anvil is falling, falling on your head
You’re just picking your knickers from your arse
Like you’re playing a one stringed harp2
Like you’re playing a one stringed harp

Like Wile E Coyote3
As if the fall wasn’t enough
Those bastards from Acme
They got more nasty stuff

Salt in my wounds
Sticking in the boot
We’re all bulimic
But keep forgetting to puke

That’s what I read in that Sunday magazine
The anvil is falling, falling on your head
You’re just picking your knickers from your arse
Like you’re playing a one stringed harp
Like you’re playing a one stringed harp

Chalk it up, and write it down

The hand of history
Is clawing at my back
The iron fist of she
Cupping at my sack

Grip is tightening
My voice is heightening
This orange alert
Is beginning to crack

That’s what I read in that Sunday magazine
The anvil is falling, falling on your head
You’re just picking your knickers from your arse
Like you’re playing a one stringed harp
Like you’re playing a one stringed harp

Chalk it up, and write it down


1 If you don’t know what “they” is here, it’ll take more than me to explain it.
2 This is perhaps the best simile in the history of music. A one-stringed harp would be fairly useless, unless it was tuned to a B, and then you could play one of Tenacious D’s most famous songs.
3 Wile E. Coyote (1948-) is a character from Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes series of cartoons, who tries to capture the Road Runner through a series of over-elaborate traps. It has many latin names, one of which is the splendid Famishus-famishus. He uses Acme brand products to try to catch the Road Runner, all of which fail spectacularly, particularly anvils. His greatest enemy, however, was gravity. Much like the bosom of Kathy Bates.

THE CURTAINS ARE TWITCHIN

The curtains are twitchin, this house is getting bored
The newborn is itchin to have a go at the cord
The curtains are twitchin by grubby little paws
that darken the stitching for a good gawk
The curtains are twitchin, and we can’t help but look
Feed our bitchin at who gave and who took
The curtains are twitchin on these windows of the soul
Some call it blinking
Eyes open, eyes closed

All these gestures, like flowers
Feed ties and affections, like ours
My love, like ours

The curtains are twitchin, an involuntary tick
A nosey affliction, afraid of what you might miss
The curtains are twitchin at Mrs.Carey’s limp1
A minor operation, or was she beaten by her pimp?
The curtains are twitchin at all who pout and preen
The director is screaming for less drama and more queen
The curtains are twitchin, please don’t pick me last
give me a star on my forehead, make me top of the class

All these gestures, like flowers
feed ties and affections, like ours
my love, like ours


1 Is this an allusion to someone in particular, or is Paul Noonan just going all Rear Window on us? Can anyone clarify, if so, leave a message in the comments

Related posts:

  1. The Annotated Bell x1 – Part One: Neither Am I
  2. The Annotated Bell x1 – Flock
  3. The Annotated Bell x1 – Music in Mouth
  4. Watch: Bell x1 – Mister Benn at the Olympia Theatre
  5. Download: The Chapters – Videotapes (Lights remix)

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