Leaders of the Free World

Today, I feel like I might be going through a bit of Guy Garvey withdrawal.

Regular readers will know I find a lot of my new-to-me music through his program, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music. The latest episode of his show was almost a month ago, and, unlike other times he’s been recording or on tour, this time, the BBC hasn’t put a guest host or hosts to take his place in the same program format. In the past, there’ve been have been some fabulous fill-ins, most notably, music lovers and actors and Cillian Murphy and Jodie Whittaker, broadcaster Katie Puckrik, and others.

In place of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, BBC is putting on an Artist in Residence program and, granted, I haven’t given it much time, but it hasn’t reached me like Garvey’s show. Maybe I am just rebelling against the leaders of the BBC world.

Meanwhile, today I revisited an Elbow song I heard when YouTube was autoplaying tunes while I worked on my post of their piece, “Weather to Fly,” a month ago. A video that played in that session was “Leaders of the Free World,” from the album of the same name, issued in 2005. It’s not a song I remember, to be honest, though I also have to admit I’ve never sat with the entire album (note to self: do that soon).

The song is a cynical view of the leadership of the world, portrayed creatively in a video that has the band, under the command of Garvey — looking a bit like Super Mario with his cap and moustache — and travelling in a robotic machine that’s all too similar to the AT-AT Walker fighting machines from the Star Wars films.

Anyway, I’ve found a “new” addition to my Elbow favourites. There’s a definite thrash to the song, and the beat is a departure from some of their slower, more thoughtful and pieces and a more rocking vibe than even some of their most upbeat works; it’s just really different, which grabbed my attention a month ago, and here we are again today. Even the vocal style is markedly different as Garvey dramatically (and as if urgently) adds a “well” or an “oh” quite often as a surprising filler or connector; together, these all stitch together the verses and chorus into an absolutely stunning piece of music.

I’m sick of working for a living
I’m just ticking off the days till I die
Oh, I miss you Louise, yeah
And the sickest little pleasures keep me going in between pulling teeth

Oh, periscope up
I’ve been looking for a ladder
I need to see the Commander In Chief, ooh
And remind him what was passed on to me, oh

Well, your mum don’t sleep, oh
And the friends you keep
I didn’t raise a thief
I didn’t raise a thief

But the leaders of the free world
Are just little boys throwing stones
And it’s easy to ignore
Till they’re knocking on the door of your homes, oh yeah

My thinking isn’t driven, oh
But the music always gives me a lift
I’m so easy to please, yeah
But I think we dropped the baton like the 60’s didn’t happen, oh no

Your mum don’t sleep, oh
And the friends you keep
I didn’t raise a thief
I didn’t raise a thief

But the leaders of the free world
Are just little boys throwing stones
And it’s easy to ignore
Till they’re knocking on the door of your homes

P-p-passing the gun from father to feckless son
We’re climbing a landslide where only the good die young

(Passing the gun from father to feckless son)
Oh, periscope up
I’ve been looking for a ladder
(We’re climbing a landslide where only the good die young)
I need to see the Commander In Chief, ooh
And remind him what was passed on to you and me, oh
(Passing the gun from father to feckless son)

(“Leaders of the Free World,” by Pete Turner, Richard Jupp, Craig Potter, Mark Potter, Guy Garvey. Lyrics provided courtesy of the good folks at AZLyrics though at the time of writing this blog post, their version had some inaccuracies for which I’ve submitted a change that is awaiting moderation. The corrected version is what I posted above.)

Again, I have to thank my dear Liverpudlian cousin who’s now living in “Welsh Wales,” as he calls it; he introduced me to Elbow’s music back in 2008 when he welcomed my Sweety and me to his homeland (my second time seeing him and the Liverpool/Birkenhead family… he and I first met as boys when I visited Liverpool with my parents in 1973). It would be an amazing thing to be standing in the crowd at an Elbow concert with him, rocking it out to this song… oh yeah… Love and miss ya, la’!

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Elbow’s official YouTube channel:

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