Welcome to another Song Lyric Sunday post! This week we have been given the prompts of Carnival, Festival, Gala, Jamboree and Party suggested by Lady A.
I have chosen a song that I have liked for some time called “Carnival” by Natalie Merchant. It has a moody sound that appeals to me so hope you like it.
Just for fun, and because I have not used a Van Morrison song in a long time, I am indulging myself today. His song, “And It Stoned Me” begins with the line “Half a mile from the county fair” Albeit just one line referencing a carnival but it fits the prompt. It is also one of my favorite Morrison songs, Enjoy them both!
Natalie Merchant grew up in rural Jamestown, New York, which is in the western part of the state south of Buffalo. That’s where she formed 10,000 Maniacs in 1981, a group she was with until 1993 when she left to go solo. This track from her first album is what she calls her “New York song,” as it’s written about New York City.
Merchant explained in a VH1 Storytellers appearance: “‘Carnival’ really evokes for me what it’s like to walk down any avenue in the City. I grew up in the country, so the nearest thing I ever experienced to walking down the street in New York before I was 16 and I came here for the first time was a carnival – the Stockton Gala Days actually. I’d never seen people walking down the street eating before – that was a bizarre experience. We in the country sit down to take our meals – that just blew me away.
Something else I’d never seen before were the gentlemen with the two-sided placards that hand out invitations to peep shows, but I never seemed to get one – they always picked the guys around me. It’s an amazing city, but what I love about it even more than places like Los Angeles is that everybody at sometime has to deal with other people. It’s not a car culture here. I like that: people have to rub against each other. I like to take the subway, I like to study people’s faces, try to imagine their stories. In the song, I see the city as a stage, as a spectacle, as a carnival, and as a madhouse, because sometimes it is that, it’s a totally insane place to live. When I was 16 and I visited for the first time, I said, ‘I’m going to live here someday.’ You’ve got to be careful what you wish for because sometimes it comes true.”
This song was played at the funeral of serial killer Aileen Wuornos as part of her final request. She had listened to the song and the entire album Tigerlily continually while on death row. When confronted with this, Natalie was initially shocked but gave permission to use the song in the documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, saying that “It’s very odd to think of the places my music can go once it leaves my hands. If it gave her some solace, I have to be grateful.” Wuornos was also the subject of the film Monster.
Merchant performed this song, along with “Wonder,” on an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by David Schwimmer in 1995.
Well, I've walked these streets A virtual stage, it seemed to me Makeup on their faces Actors took their places next to me Well, I've walked these streets In a carnival, of sights to see All the cheap thrill seekers vendors and the dealers They crowded around me Have I been blind have I been lost Inside myself and my own mind Hypnotized, mesmerized by what my eyes have seen? Well, I've walked these streets In a spectacle of wealth and poverty In the diamond markets the scarlet welcome carpet That they just rolled out for me And I've walked these streets In the madhouse asylum they can be Where a wild-eyed misfit prophet On a traffic island stopped and he raved of saving me Have I been blind, have I been lost Inside myself and my own mind Hypnotized, mesmerized by what my eyes have seen Have I been wrong, have I been wise To shut my eyes and play along Hypnotized, paralyzed by what my eyes have found By what my eyes have seen What they have seen? Have I been blind Have I been lost Have I been wrong Have I been wise Have I been strong Have I been hypnotized, mesmerized by what my eyes have found In that great street carnival Have I been blind Have I been lost Have I been wrong Have I been wise Have I been strong Have I been hypnotized, mesmerized by what my eyes have found In that great street carnival In that carnival Writer/s: PETER ANDERS SVENSSON, MAGNUS SVENINGSSON, NINA PERSSON Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group, Downtown Music Publishing Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind Courtesy of Songfacts
The song is about an experience Morrison had when he was 12 years old. After a day of fishing outside a village named Ballystockart in his native Ireland, Morrison and his friends stopped in one of the village’s houses, where they saw an old man sitting inside. In Steven Turner’s Van Morrison: Too Late to Stop Now, Morrison describes him as “dark weather-beaten.”
Morrison and his friends asked the man for water, and he gave them some he’d gotten from a nearby stream. As Morrison drank the stream water he slipped into mystical experience. “Time stood still,” he says in Too Late to Stop Now. “For five minutes everything was really quiet and I was in this other dimension. “That’s what the song is about.”
“And It Stoned Me” is the first track on Van Morrison’s third album, Moondance. He recorded the song at Warner Publishing Studio in New York City in the summer of 1969.
In the chorus, Morrison sings, “stoned me just like Jelly Roll,” most likely referring to jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton. Morrison listened to Morton with his father while growing up.
“Jelly roll” was also once common African American slang for a women’s genitalia, which is what Morton’s name covertly referenced.
On the back cover of the original vinyl release of Moondance, the song is incorrectly presented as “Stoned Me” rather than “And It Stoned Me.”
Morrison made at least one other song that mentions Ballystockart with “A Sense Of Wonder,” though in that case he refers to the road rather than the townland.
Half a mile from the county fair And the rain came pourin' down Me and Billy standin' there With a silver half a crown Hands are full of a fishin' rod And the tackle on our backs We just stood there gettin' wet With our backs against the fence Oh, the water Oh, the water Oh, the water Hope it don't rain all day And it stoned me to my soul Stoned me just like Jelly Roll And it stoned me And it stoned me to my soul Stoned me just like goin' home And it stoned me Then the rain let up and the sun came up And we were gettin' dry Almost let a pick-up truck nearly pass us by So we jumped right in and the driver grinned And he dropped us up the road Yeah, we looked at the swim and we jumped right in Not to mention fishing poles Oh, the water Oh, the water Oh, the water Let it run all over me And it stoned me to my soul Stoned me just like Jelly Roll And it stoned me And it stoned me to my soul Stoned me just like goin' home And it stoned me On the way back home we sang a song But our throats were getting dry Then we saw the man from across the road With the sunshine in his eyes Well he lived all alone in his own little home With a great big gallon jar There were bottles too, one for me and you And he said Hey! There you are Oh, the water Oh, the water Oh, the water Get it myself from the mountain stream And it stoned me to my soul Stoned me just like Jelly Roll And it stoned me And it stoned me to my soul Stoned me just like goin' home And it stoned me And it stoned me to my soul Stoned me just like Jelly Roll And it stoned me And it stoned me to my soul Stoned me just like goin' home And it stoned me Writer/s: VAN MORRISON Publisher: Warner Chappell Music, Inc. Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind Courtesy of Songfacts