I write about songs.

Archive for the ‘Robert Wyatt’ Category

Robert Wyatt, “Shipbuilding”

My friend J.J. sent me this yesterday. I didn’t know it, though I knew of it, and at first I was like, meh. I wrote back that I preferred the Elvis Costello version. (Elvis wrote the song—which is about the Falklands War—for Wyatt, and later recorded it himself.) You must be drunk, J.J. said, which I wasn’t, though actually I had a touch of fever (gone now). He said, Wyatt inhabits the song in a way that Costello can’t quite. I watched it again, and then watched this clip of a Costello performance of the song …

… and I still liked Costello’s oozier rendition better, though admittedly I’ve heard it a hundred times. Then watched Wyatt again, and now, I don’t know. I’ve had his version in my head all day—the clipped way he sings “Dad, they’re going to take me to task.” Actually, I’ve had the two versions playing in my head, looping one into the other. Anyway, there are worse ways to spend a half-hour than toggling back and forth between two interpretations of this majestic song, trying to decide which is better, and then deciding that the answer is “neither.”

Written by peterterzian

February 25, 2010 at 5:50 pm


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