Making Can Catch

Can Catch image: street scene from Cuba

photo: Molesworth

The Cubans are crazy for baseball, and it’s the game the kids play in the street

Santiago da Cuba, January 2001

(It’s a game)

Sometimes you just wake up in the morning with something on your mind, without any preparation or hard work.  This one was on travel day, finishing a holiday in Anguilla by catching the ferry to St Martin and on to New York.  For some reason, I woke up with a story about the parallel slipperiness of some politicians and some lovers. Maybe it was from dinner conversation with the friends with whom we were staying. The salsa rhythm on the TV show in the terminal was initially part of the idea, but that just melted away as the music built up. Rhythms have their own way of emerging from spoken or sung lyrics.

Street scene from Cuba, illustration for 'Can Catch'About sort of saying the right thing but ducking out of saying the real thing: forget the politicians, especially the contemporary can catch crews in London and Washington DC (Tony Blair and George W Bush).  The machinations of politicians and lovers run in parallel, as I’d thought when I woke up, but in our personal lives we’re far more interested in lovers having everything work out after contorted communications.

The third element comes from the schoolyard. Jumping rope there has largely lost out to more technological and sedentary diversions. A generation ago, there were endless rhymes to be recited in rhythm to the beat of the rope hitting the ground, which would keep the jumpers going. Another game, from a more innocent time. Don’t forget it: it still persists away from the hi-tech world most of us live in, as this recent schoolyard scene in Haiti verifies.

The final song was a co-write with all three members of BETTY.  I initiated the lyrical story, although that twisted creatively as the four of us made the plot a little more poetically clear, embellishing the while.  More hands make light work and take you to places you might not have imagined. Yes: you can make it up as you go along. On mic, among other noises, Lene Lovich picked up in a whisper some of the left-over lyrics that hadn’t been sung by BETTY, giving them another twist (and a turn).

The recording contains some of the most inventive solo performances on the CD, from Uptown Horns members Crispin Cioe (alto saxophone) and Bob Funk (trombone). The photo, above, is of Cuban kids playing baseball in the street, the prime local pastime which has resulted in many expat stars in the US. There, they seemed to get the innocent game.