This Land Was Made For You And Me

It’s hard to get too bored when you pick the right two chords


I’ve always been faintly in awe of those who can play instruments. People who can play instruments are magic people, blessed with fairy dust from planet talent. Even people who use their power for evil, not good, like Keane or Coldplay are still mystically touched by the hand of God himself. It’s just they got touched in the armpit instead of the soul.

Finally a year ago I tried to come to terms with all my doubts, and with lovely encouragement was bought a beautiful ukulele –  made from something much nicer than plywood or plastic. Since then I’ve been messing around with it, writing a couple of silly songs, never picking it up often enough to get any good with it. I struggle with everything: forming chords, strumming, not forgetting what I’m doing.

But tonight I sat down and taught myself a couple of easy songs, then sang along, and I finally feel one with the universe. I played Blowin’ In The Wind by Bob Dylan, a song I understand has been covered a few times before. Then I played This Land Is Your Land, which contains a kind of mystical quality for me. My wife patiently listened and wasn’t too impressed – it’s a song she’s heard, and sung, and played probably a million times before. But for me to be able to play it made me feel like a magical shamen in tune with the universe. Which I don’t get from Guitar Hero.

The quote at the top of this post is from a song by Jeffrey Lewis, who made one of my favourite albums of the year. Jeffrey Lewis’ songs are full of regret, lame jokes, medication and late night thinking. I feel he’s a kindred spirit even though he can draw and write and play songs and all those other things I can’t do (I’ve got a better voice than him, though).

All the potential songs that float around my head suffer from the same problem my stories and even articles do: trying to stay serious till the end. I don’t know why I find it so hard to be serious, even when I’m really trying to be so. I guess I’m forever hanging on that final punchline. I blame England.

So I’m going to keep playing simple songs and try to find the right two chords. I won’t get bored, anyway.

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~ by jamboshoeshine on December 3, 2009.

5 Responses to “This Land Was Made For You And Me”

  1. “One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.” – Lou Reed

    This is good, this. But did you sing the two verses so commie that even Woody never dared commit them to record?

    • Which verses are those?

      I played Worried Man Blues last night. Do you think What’s Cookin’ would let me play if I did a set entirely composed of Woody Guthrie / Half Man Half Biscuit covers?

      • Nothing is more likely. I’d like to request that you chuck in a cover of Billy Bragg’s bluegrass version of Power in a Union, though.

        As I went walking I saw a sign there
        And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
        But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
        That side was made for you and me.

        In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
        By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
        And some were stumbling, and some were wondering
        If this land was made for you and me

  2. I can confirm that I DID INDEED sing those two verses. PHEW

    • Hooray! Have a red star and go straight to the top of the (working) class.

      Have you heard his son Arlo’s version? ‘s pretty good – contains yet another lost verse plus a bit in the middle where he breaks off to tell a lengthy and very funny anecdote which I would totally recount here if I wasn’t supposed to be working.

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