Martha

by Martha

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about

Martha is Daniel, Naomi, Jonathan and Nathan.
Recorded by Johannes Rowlinson (January 2012).
marthadiy@gmail.com
marthadiy.bandcamp.com

credits

released February 10, 2012

Discount Horse Records (Durham, UK)
Win Htein Records (London, UK).
Odd Box Records (London, UK).
Thanks to Gary, Johannes, Neringa, Joe, Will and Lucy.

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about

Martha Durham, UK

Martha is a pop band from Durham city.

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Track Name: 1978, smiling politely
1978, a poem born in New York state,
A hire car, the license plate read FL502,
Destinations muddled in a constant petty struggle,
If I stop to fill the tank then that's the last I'll see of you,

Cause you're no good at reading maps,
And I'm so bad at keeping time,
I'm sure that every night will be our last,
A downfall we designed,
I'll keep one foot on the gas,
So say goodnight.

Audre, can't you see? This lousy luck is killing me,
I'm scared as fuck that this might be,
A one way journey South,
Is this the best that we could manage,
'Cause there's barely surface damage,
It's a massive disadvantage to live in the master's house,

Cause you're no good at reading maps,
And I'm so bad at keeping time,
I'm sure that every night could be our last,
A downfall we designed,
I'll keep one foot on the gas,
So say goodnight.
I'll keep one foot on the gas so say goodnight,

For fourteen years my body betrayed me,
The one I cannot live without must live on without me,
Unread books on dusty shelves tell a story of their own,
I know in time we all find peace of mind,
When optionless we do what we must do,
But that was barely good enough and you,
You stole my heart and then you stole my tools,
You stole my tools, you stole my tools.

Oh Audre.

***

Audre Lorde was born in New York in the 1930s. She began writing poetry at an early age and went on to become an icon of critical literature. In her own words she was a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet". Lorde died in 1992 after a fourteen year battle with cancer; this song is a fictionalized account of her journey south to the Caribbean (her parents’ home), where she spent her final days. This song references Lorde’s poem ‘Hanging Fire’ which describes the problems of a fourteen year-old girl struggling with a typical set of teenage anxieties, and the prospect of her death revealing the ‘truth’ about her feelings. It begins with the line “I am fourteen/and my skin has betrayed me/the boy I cannot live without/still sucks his thumb/in secret”. There is a morbid symmetry between Lorde’s age in the poem, the length of her illness, and her body’s betrayals, first through acne, then through cancer. The song also references what is perhaps Lorde’s most infamous work “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. Lorde famously said of her work "what I leave behind has a life of its own". This song is a tribute to a truly inspirational figure and everything she left behind.
Track Name: Gretna Green
I said “I don’t believe in marriage,
It’s a Patriarchal scam”.
You said “meet me at the station,
Train departs at 6am”,
I packed my bags and left my politics in bed,
And I waited on the platform,
With your smile stuck in my head.

So we went through the rain to the place where we found our hearts.
They were buried under shit and old debris.
And I swear that I had something,
And I know you felt it too,
But that commute at Quintinshill defeated me.

In spite of everything I’ve done,
I’ll knuckle down, I’ll carry on,
In spite of everything that’s wrong,
I’ll try to write a hopeful song,
No matter where I go,
No matter what I do,
My heart will always be at Gretna Green,
Waiting there for you.

At Gretna, I wait for you.

***

The Quintinshill Rail Disaster happened in Scotland on 22nd May 1915. It remains the worst rail crash in UK history in terms of death toll, killing 226 people and involving five separate trains. It having occurred just a couple of miles from Gretna Green, a place symbolic of young love and recklessness, lends another layer of bittersweet tragedy to the disaster. This song is about a couple ripped apart by the crash, and deals with the idea of enduring love. In that sense, if no other, it’s a love song.
Track Name: Standing where it all began
Standing where it all began

Shove me down these narrow stairs,
I’m nowhere even close to being scared,
This grim fiasco’s growing stale,
A plastic mask to hide the frown,
I’m rumbled and the only way is down,
Let’s ditch this joint and get away,
Lightning shouldn’t hit me twice,
Hemingway survived two fated flights,
Then found salvation in himself,
Oh the disarray that it creates,
You left me like a jester spinning plates,
I’m suffering a dizzy spell.

The rent gets paid.
My wheels rotate,
And everyday I want to tell you things that I can’t bring myself to say.
What’s that? The sound of falling plates,
Yeah well I’m the one to blame,
I’m the one to blame, I’m the one to blame.

Keep doing what you’ve always done,
Keep getting what you’ve always got,
Still standing where it all began,
Still living in the town that time forgot.

“I want to tell you how I feel, but I don’t want you to know”

***

In his relatively short life Ernest Hemingway managed to survive two separate plane crashes, before eventually dying at his own hands.
Track Name: 1848, yawning discreetly
Liz Cady Stanton had the signature to beat,
So complex and beautiful and yet quite neat,
And with 99 beside her,
It still wasn’t hard to find her,
Hope and anger in the ink and on the streets,

He has deprived, he has withheld,
He has usurped, he has compelled,
He has denied, and that’s not right.
But when standing side by side,
This pattern doesn’t seem so permanent tonight,

Old Freddie Douglass had a word or two to say,
And as oratory goes well his was great,
He could speak the truth to power,
He could do it in an hour,
And that’s really not a talent one should waste,

They have deprived, they have withheld,
They have usurped, the have compelled,
They have denied, and that’s not right.
But when standing side by side,
This pattern doesn’t seem so permanent tonight,

So take me to Seneca Falls,
And let me drown in it all,
Such onerous privilege,
Take me and make me sing,
Come on baby make me sing.

We’ve got a little bit of time,
And I’m ashamed to let mine slip away,
Into the listlessness and apathy and boredom that’s engulfing everything.
So take me to Seneca Falls,
And let me drown in it all,
Such onerous privilege,
Take me and make me sing,
Come on baby make me sing.

***

The Seneca Falls Convention took place in New York State in 1848. The ‘Declaration of Sentiments’ was signed by 100 of the convention delegates; it reimagined and subverted the US Declaration of Independence to include the female pronoun. It demanded civil, social and political rights for women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first signature on the declaration. Among the other names was former slave and civil rights activist Frederick Douglas. That both of their signatures should appear together is an extremely powerful symbol of the need for a holistic approach to resistance. The chorus is based on the actual ‘sentiments’ listed in the document. But further to that, this song is about privilege and responsibility. A person’s gender, ethnicity or sexuality should not preclude them from raising their voice in opposition to the injustice they see and experience in the world. Together we are stronger, just like Liz and Freddie. Popular punk-rock band, ‘The Distillers’ also have a song about Seneca Falls.
Track Name: The ballad of Lucy Connor (Part 1)
Lucy was a shit hot sci-fi writer,
With a penchant for a story awfully gory,
and she'd certainly killed off a lead or two,

But when the money got tight,
She started working nights,
At a bar on Denmark Street,
And the bouncers were pricks, and the punters were thick,
And when the yuppies tried to chat her up she'd always tell them,

Don't waste your time, your time on me,
Cause it's clear that I'm not your ideal company,
Don't waste your time, your time on me,
Because it's clear that you've got somewhere else that you would rather be…

Waiting at a pelican crossing,
She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window of passing car,
It scared her stiff, how ill she looked,
She hadn't written ‘owt in days, cause she was stuck at the bar,

And then that evening at work,
She had to deal with this burke,
Who kept on asking her about her sleeve tattoos,
This inarticulate fool,
She grabbed his collar, pulled him close and she said,

Don't waste your time, your time on me,
Cause it's clear that I'm not your ideal company,
Don't waste your time, your time on me,
Because it's clear that you've got somewhere else that you would rather be…

***

This song is about a talented writer whose passion and creativity is being sapped by an awful job. It’s the first part of a two-part story.