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This article is taken from PN Review 175, Volume 33 Number 5, May - June 2007.

The Abandonment of Song: Taking the Popular Song Seriously Adrian May

'Strange how potent cheap music is'
                                                         Noel Coward

In the school, on the bus, on the holiday
When coming, when going, when the world's in the way
At the end of the night, in the morning's cock crow
When you know what you feel, when you feel you don't know

Drunk or sober, it won't be long
Before you resort to a simple song

That was one way I tried to express the ubiquity of song and the sense of song being something we abandon ourselves to at moments that still seem to require a song from us. Why do we have to sing when drunk? When sad? When happy?

Later in the same song, I described feeling 'Like the mad old girl in the ward I saw/ ... glad to be singing Five Minutes More'. This was an elderly woman I knew from my own village in south Essex, shortly to die and suffering from the abandoning of reason that can come with great age, singing an old song from the 1930s that says, 'Just give me five minutes more/ Five minutes more/ Five minutes more in your arms'. It was as if she was asking for five minutes more of life from the depths of her abandonment of self.

Arthur Koestler, in The Act of Creation (1964), points out how laughter, as a physical thing, ...


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