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A cool song needs a groove. Check. The singer needs to sound cool and the musicianship effortless. The lyrics tell a story with no judgement and we are encouraged to see it as we wish. This is the kind of song that works perfectly as background for a party. Not too serious, grandiose, or complicated.
You get a shiver in the dark
It’s raining in the park, but meantime
South of the river you stop and you hold everything
A band is blowin’ dixie double-four time
You feel alright when you hear that music ring
Setting the time and the mood, and the theme “you feel alright”
And now you step inside, but you don’t see too many faces (good music but small audience?)
Comin’ in out of the rain, you hear the jazz go down
Competition in other places (question or answer?)
Oh, but the horns, they blowin that sound (but it’s good stuff..)
Way on down south, way on down south, London town
A joke, because we are expecting New Orleans. But the fact that it’s south London makes it more interesting. Of course, a hot Creole band plays in London whether they hail from NOLA or are indigenous Brits.
The narrator is a fan of music. We can tell he’s got his own band (which is playing the song) He is reporting his observations.
You check out guitar, George
He knows all the chords
Mind he’s strictly rhythm
He doesn’t wanna make it cry or sing
Yes, and an old guitar is all he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing
The lyrics make a fine use of the second person. “You” are experiencing these things as they happen. You can see it and feel it. ‘You’ become the narrator with the cool voice. Okay, I’m there…
And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene
He’s got a daytime job, he’s doin’ alright
He can play the “Honk Tonk” like anything
Savin’ it up for friday night
With the “Sultans”
With the “Sultans of Swing”
Filling out the scene there are some who are underwhelmed…
And a crowd of young boys, they’re fooling around in the corner
Drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles
They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playing band
It ain’t what they call rock and roll
And the “Sultans”
Yeah, the ‘Sultans’ played Creole, Creole
This is a perennial problem with playing live music. Genre. If people don’t like or accept the genre, they will not be taken with musicianship. This is even worse if the genre is considered “uncool”.
And then the man, he steps right up to the microphone
And says, “At last”, just as the time bell rings
“Goodnight, now it’s time to go home”
And he makes it fast with one more thing
We are the “Sultans”, we are the “Sultans of Swing”
The players know they are making good music, but it’s hard to remember when you’re playing in front of a small audience, some of whom are ignoring you.
Regardless, he’s saying we are proud of our music and playing, in the humility that musicians are relentlessly guided into with public performance. The ‘man’, the singer and bandleader, is acknowledging his bandmates just by announcing the name and allowing the musicianship to play out.
Every professional musician has encountered these types: ‘Guitar George’ who’s adept at finding tasty chords (we here a couple right after that line) and he’s uninterested in being a wailing lead-player, Harry who’s got a day-job, “doin’ alright”, playing out for fun. Almost every band in the world has these types, and any seasoned musician can recognize the band dynamics instantly.
This song is timeless.
What are your “cool songs” and why?Published in