Archive | February, 2013

Skaldowie: Dojeżdżam (Muza, 1969)

21 Feb

Skaldowie’s Malowany Dym has already featured here and some background on the band can be found on that post. This song, Dojeżdżam (The Commute), hails from the same period in the band’s history but offers a jazzier proposition and a song that describes the familiar scenario of people travelling to work in the early hours. The song divides into two voices,  with the verses voiced by a young man and the choruses by a young woman – or, to be more exact, by the vocal ensemble of young women otherwise known as Alibabki. Dojeżdżam offers a kind of lyrical narrative, contrasting the sleepy early hour trudge narrated by the young man with the sunnier observations made about him by a girl on the same commute, and the story told is that all-too familiar one, in which two people who are attracted see one another on the same train every day but neither ever quite manages to speak to the other to make the attraction known. A fairly straightforward deferred love story, then, but also, perhaps, not unlike Nick Drake’s Poor Boy, from his second album Bryter Layter (1970) in its use of the uplifting choruses as a wry commentary on the slightly self-pitying verses. The music and arrangement is by Skaldowie founder Andrzej Zieliński while the lyrics are contributed by Agnieszka Osiecka (pictured), a Warsaw born writer who collaborated on songs with many key Polish artists, including Maryla Rodowicz (some of whose material will hopefully begin appearing here soon). Osiecka also worked as a poet,  prose writer and journalist alongside a broad ranging career in theatre, film and television. A transcription of the original Polish lyric for Dojeżdżam can be found here and the song itself can be listened to here.

Dojeżdżam (The Commute)

(after Agnieszka Osiecka/Andrzej Zieliński, 1969)

When I wake up the roosters are still asleep.
My cold bedclothes are buried in early grey light.
I yawn. Girls might ask me: Are you sad or feeling low?
You know, the way nobody ever does.

And it’s such a strange thing to be already out,
to be still asleep in this night-dazed dawn.
I’m stiff-limbed, aching, scan a rock-pool of gutter sky
for the starfish following me on this commute.

He’s trudging aboard this first morning train.
Exhaustion will seep through his whole long day.
Others smile at chessboards, read magazines.
He nods off on a seat right opposite me.

What else can we say when our minds don’t work?
The train’s shaking and we’re sitting still.
He’s bored, but has only himself to blame,
caught in the rain after leaving his umbrella at home!

I’m not afraid of these long dawn nights anymore.
I see her across the carriage almost smiling at me.
Yes, I commute. Can she tell me what a morning’s like?
We barely sleep between the last train and first.

And don’t tell me the summer’s almost here,
I once held its flowers in my hands for hours.
Tell me what makes her happy, those brown eyes clear?
Their warmth almost wakes me when I look at her.

Has he sensed the sunlight that’s not here yet,
the summer flowers – maybe a friend in me?
Look how late it is! We won’t speak now or say goodbye.
We know tomorrow we’ll both commute again.

I’m not afraid of these long dawn nights anymore.
I see him across the carriage almost smiling at me.
Yes, I commute. Can he tell me what a morning’s like?
We barely sleep between the last train and first.

Agnieszka Osiecka (1936 - 1997)


Skaldowie: Malowany Dym (Muza, 1969)

14 Feb

Malowany Dym is the first track on Skaldowie’s 1969 LP Cała Jesteś W Skowronkach (the title is translated on the sleeve as There Are Skylarks All Over You, presumably an idiomatic phrase meaning something like ‘You’re Happy’ or ‘You’re All Smiles’). Formed in Krakow around 1965 by Andrzej and Jacek Zielinski, Skaldowie quickly became one of the better known Polish bands of the era, with a softer sound than some of their peers, often comparable to the Beach Boys, but with a tone coloured by Polish folk melodies (particularly those of the Podhale region) rather than the American doo-wop that was Brian Wilson’s primary influence. Malowane Dym (Painted Smoke), is fairly typical of main composer Andrzej Zielinski’s defining approach, blending these highly distinctive Polish folk sounds with pop arrangements and instrumentation. It’s an odd mix, more subtle in its blend of Polish and Western influences than some of the era’s more immediately appealing (to Western ears, at least) Polish groups were creating at the same time. That said, it’s also worth noting that, as with some of the more ‘Baroque Pop’ sounds being made in the UK and US between the mid sixties and early seventies (think of, say, The Four Seasons’ Genuine Imitation Life Gazette LP, or the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society) the later 1960s recordings of Skaldowie, which can be seen retrospectively as a transitional phase between the group’s earlier folk-beat based songs and Zielinski’s developing progressive leanings, have a layered and ornately textured quality that retains a lot of staying power. The Polish lyric of Malowany Dym can be read here, and the song itself can be listened to here.

Malowany Dym (Painted Smoke)
(after Leszek Moczulski/Andrzej Zielinski, 1969)
I paint the wheels of my car but the brush goes on,
my eyes are fixed on all the wide sky above.
No-one knows I’m painting the pavements too,
all the trees, their leaves, the grass and bark.
I’m lighting fires, painting flames and chimney-stacks,
watching smoke rise: a letter sent to the sky.
Turn around. Look up through the rain,
then come to me, whenever you want, like smoke.
Watch the heavy cloth-clouds begin to disperse,
dark curtains draw back to reveal the stars.
I’ll be there and – look! – start to paint again,
colour in roof and thatch, gutter-pipes and slates,
every echo sounding on this deserted street
till all the air and its warm drifting winds alike
carry colours from my hand to your sight.
Keep your eyes fixed on the wide sky above
because I’m painting smoke and setting it free.
This smoke drifts through the world, for me.
Look up. The sky can be any colour you like.
Come to me. Be wherever you want, like smoke.