I remember the sheer panic which characterised the internet response of some fans to Swan Song, immediately after Spirit Trail was released. To be sure, I was in two minds, not being sure if this was just a fictional love song of some sort, or was it a signal that Bruce was having some doubts about his musical career? I even began interpreting the line “I will miss the times when we were so right” as a veiled reference to Bruce’s times with The Range.
Happily, it seems that things are still ticking over in Bruceland, with a live album planned and no sign that the gigs are seriously slowing down. Though I do wonder if we will be able to use the words “Hornsby”, “tour” and “Europe” in the same sentence ever again? There – I’ve just done it!
I note on Si’s polls that Swan Song is unofficially the most popular song on the album. Perhaps this is something to do with the vote of Hornsby “traditionalists”, who favour the classic blend of piano, background synth/guitar, and steady “bonehead” drum rhythm.
This is not a criticism – my own favourite album will probably always remain Scenes from the Southside, because of my own individual configuration of time, place, the musical arrangements and lyric ideas (sorry, that’s a bit heavy! see lyric interpretations of SfSS if you wish to fathom my brain out!) This is another powerful song in terms of its lyric content. Once again, the use of imagery is quite breathtaking:
“Sometimes it’s the right thing to cut the chord / You’ve been holding on hard but your hands get sore / Sometimes it’s worth it / But sometimes you wonder what for.”
In terms of musical arrangement, Swan Song is also one of my favourites on this album. It’s beautiful. However, its position as the last item on the CD leaves the long-term Hornsby fan with a bitter-sweet feeling. As he fades out, claiming he’s “gone, gone”, you feel like shouting out “Don’t go, Bruuuce!!! Please don’t go!!!” It’s all heartbreaking stuff, and conjures the same sort of emotions, I suppose, as the time E.T. left earth behind in his spaceship way back in 1982.
In E.T., I seem to remember that Elliot was left with a little pot plant to remind him of his new friend. Similarly, we’re left with “Variations on Swan Song & Song D”.
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Band show; audience recording
August 5 2004