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Robb Johnson, A Break in the Clouds

Metro Lyrics

Tracks:
MetroDon’t Close The Bar
The Golden Boys
Boulevard Des Hommes
Stand Clear!
Greeneland
A Desperate Man
$45 & Lunch Thrown In
Name Rank & Number
Gypsy Music In The Underground
Whatever Happened to Paris?
Making Sense of Manhattan
The London Eye
The Fairest City
Picking Up the Pieces
The Last Train Tonight
Here Comes That Miracle Again


Don’t Close The Bar

Open the curtains, let in the cat
Put out the black bags, & that will be that,
The sun will still shine or the rain will still fall
The clouds will pass by still & that’s about all,
When it’s my funeral, springtime won’t wait
You’ll always be beautiful, & I’ll always be late,
Put on your best dress or come as you are
But whatever you do, don’t close the bar...

There’s De Kroeg & Cross Lances, the Beconsfield Arms,
The Bell & the Nelson, the Cafe Notre Dame,
The Gasthof Zur Post & the Cafe Ronsard,
The Hare & The Hounds & the Stove & the Star,
The lights on the harbour, your old friend the moon,
A full pint of Fullers, a new Pelforth Brune,
A half of Retsina, a good cafe noir
A handful of peanuts, a nightful of stars
Don’t close the bar....

Here’s some suggestions of things you could do
Put on some punkrock & dance round the room,
Put on some Piaf, then have some Brel
& the best sex you can think of in your favourite hotel,
Don’t go to Tescos, blow it all in FNAC
But wherever you do go it won’t bring me back
So just keep on going, take this guitar,
Recycle my songs with the bottles & jars
Just don’t close the bar...

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The Golden Boys

What I remember is a golden afternoon
A summer fete a playing field
The big boys all smart hair & batman gowns
Sold me this book I couldn’t read.
My mum & her mum smiled & held my hands,
& we walked home in time for tea,
They said if I was good & I worked hard
There’d be a batman gown for me.

The Golden Boys...

They lined us up in ranks to say our daily prayers,
& Mondays we’d clap the 1st 15,
& carved in oak there were the names of all the players
Capped for their King & Country.
We had this latin motto, no-one understood,
You did your best, well played, well done,
I did my best & made the 2nd 15
We lost more than we ever won.

Sometimes I felt like I was drowning
In all these Sunday afternoons
The houses safe & neat as headstones
Boy scouts & steam trains, the sins of other people...

We all wrote poetry & tried to fall in love
With golden girls with names like Sandra,
We all grew our hair long & tried to learn guitar
I thought the summer would last forever.
Outside the golden leaves were falling from the trees,
Outside the blue sky turning bloody
Outside the rent was due, & all our poetry
Meant fuck all next to business studies.

The Golden Boys....

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Boulevard Des Hommes

If you think you’re tough enough
You can drink the night away
With Alain Delon’s chauffeur
At the SerieNoire Cafe,
There’s Jean Gabin in the shadows
& the young turks at the bar
But the talk’s still always football
& how fast you drive your car
& your mamas in the back seat,
Cos that’s where the bitch belongs
Look at all the little boys lost
On the Boulevard Des Hommes.

If you’re outside on the pavement,
You’ll be counting every cent,
How much to feed the family
How much to pay the rent
How much your dreams of glory
Came nowhere nearly true
How it’s all the same old story,
From Verdun to Dien Bien Phu,
& your mother at the weekend
& the TV always on
& the waitress doesn’t notice you exist,
On the Boulevard Des Hommes.

& when you worship Mary,
Is it the virgin or the whore?
So you learn to laugh at fairies
& you don’t cry anymore,
You’re still someone’s little soldier
Playing with his toys,
Whistling in the darkness,
Blues for a boy, Blues for a boy,
With your nose against the window
Where there’s all these uniforms,
It’s hard to be to be your own man here
On the Boulevard Des Hommes.

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Stand Clear!

It’s Ladies Day at Ascot, look at all the posh hats,
Standing on the platform waiting for the train
To come from Clapham Junction & whisk them off to Ascot
So they can have their little flutter with their Moss Bros men.

But Brenda’s in the RMT & an orange safety jacket
She knows how to blow the whistle & shout “Stand clear!”

Here comes the train for Ascot, “Five minutes late!” complain the posh hats,
They climb aboard the First Class as fast as high heels will allow.
Just then a final posh hat in matching pastel lilac
Comes trotting down the stairs as fast as high heels will allow.

But Brenda’s in the RMT & a pair of tatty trainers
She knows it’s time to blow the whistle & shout “Stand clear!”

Ignoring Brenda, posh hat trots on across the platform,
Brenda squares her shoulders & shouts “I said: stand clear! You!”
This is not a voice you argue with, the universe itself stops dead,
Till Brenda slowly nods her head & the train rolls clear.

Brenda’s in the RMT & a red shirt from the Co-op,
She knows how to blow the whistle & shout “Stand clear!”

Our train arrives a minute later, we wave goodbye to posh hat,
Brenda wears the grim smile of a job well done.
It’s Ladies Dday at Ascot, but the trains keep rolling
Toffs nil, workers one…..

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Greeneland

This might look like any old sunny afternoon to you,
With its old blunt church
& its old blunt cornerstone
Remembering the dead
But this is where the map starts, sure enough.
This might look like any old sunny afternoon to you
With its straight & narrow houses
& its straight & narrow streets
& its straight & narrow shops
& its straight & narrow people
But this is where the map starts, sure enough.

Greeneland
Where the left hand charts
All the crooked roads of hell,
Havana & the human heart,
& Harry Lime is selling you the moon
In the shadows of this sunny afternoon
In Greeneland.

The burnt-toasted, steamed-up, stale-caked shabby tearoom
May be all turned into a shining continental cafe bar now
But the large unshaven cook is pure old English hostility
When he tells you “We’re closed now”
Despite what it says on the door.
& passing the Crown in the High street, you notice how
the sunlight dies in the doorway
& the darkness rattles like bones
with casual laughter, heartless as dice
& the absence of God.

Greeneland...

& the sunlight on the immaculate grass
Is betrayed by the jagged shade cast by the headstones
& the respectable words of the well respected dead
Are undermined by worms, little accidents like love.
Though both the faithful wedded wife
& the red-headed latino love affair
look pretty much history,
You would still recognise
How the furies belch
& the fugitive struggles with an old suitcase
Full of doubts & secrets
Across the cold common
Headed for the border
On the Stamboul train.

Greeneland...

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A Desperate Man

Woman in a doorway smiles at me,
As we make our way through Soho, my guitar & me
She’s got a very nice smile, I smile politely back,
& on we go, my guitar & me,
Thinking
Do I look like a desperate man?
How does she know that’s what I am?
A desperate man?

It’s like the way that beggar zeroes in on me
Like I’d know what it’s like, to have nowhere to go
She’s got these cigarette burns, I smile politely back
With my ticket in my pocket, waiting for the last train home

& the woman in the doorway, is she happy in her work?
Standing in a doorway, smiling for the desperate men.
All your nice girls & your good wives they never smile like that,
& you ask yourself: why don’t they smile like that for me?

Does anybody ever get the dream they want?
You do the day job... the crap gig..., whatever pays the rent...
& the doorways full of women, & the pavements full of men,
All struggling through Soho with our air guitars....

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$45 & Lunch Thrown In

Welcome to my house, isn’t it nice?
Look and do not touch and guess the price,
It’s amazing what a girl can do
While her husbands earning millions with a credit card or two.

All my own ideas & my designer’s,
Maurice insisted on the Congo pinewood,
& I agreed, the kitchen, Afghan white,
& you can tell at once if Carmencita’s cleaned it properly.

Welcome to my house, welcome to my house,
$45 dollars & lunch thrown in.
Welcome to my house, welcome to my house,
One day every year you’ll be welcome in my house.

This is Bradley’s room, isn’t it neat?
This is where he plays & goes to sleep
When he’s not at Carmencita’s or in school or camp,
Everything is labelled twice and video monitored.

This is Daddy’s Den, here’s where the master
Kicks back with his favourite Stratocaster
A fridge of beer, the game & his investments
The vibe is like the Oval Room meets Michael Douglas.

Though like today my husband sometimes phones
“Sorry hon, you’ll have to dine alone,”
How could I be lonely in this house?
& there’s always Carmencita, who made us that nice lunch.

I know you’ll all rush out for Congo pine,
While I will call Maurice to redesign.
Now where did Carmencita leave your coats?
Carmencita? Carmencita? What’s this note say?

“Welcome to your house, welcome to your house,
$45 dollars & lunch thrown in,
Welcome to your house, welcome to your house,
Me & Michael Douglas have gone off to Tijuana,”

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Name Rank & Number

When it was Christmas, I always got guns,
We watched all the war films, where we always won,
schools all had uniforms, & rules you obeyed,
Thou shalt not fight, but to kill for your country’s okay,
Cos you’ve got a name, rank & number

& I grew up on Engerland, & how we won the war,
three nil, 66, Winston Churchill, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore,
You get out of school & you go down the pub & the dole
& there’s too many Saturdays & not enough goals
So I got my name, rank & number.

& they train you do what you’re told & they teach you the skills
how to keep your head down & mouth shut, & the best ways to kill,
& you think won’t the girls be impressed as you swagger by
& the punks that they’re with, they’re all careful they don’t catch your eye,

& when we sailed for the south Atlantic, how we cheered for Maggie
& when that ship full of conscripts went down how we cheered for Maggie
& on the cliffs at Goose Green we made our prisoners
fight for their lives
like goldfish in tanks of piranhas
making bets on how long they’d survive
& we were your heroes

& when you come out, with those pains in your head,
the jobs are all crap, & some days you don’t get out of bed,
then this bloke in this pub, you think that he’s looking at you,
& when the cops come for you, you know what to do,
you give them your name rank & number.

& when you get out, with bad dreams in your head,
they give you some pills, but most days you can’t get out of bed,
two hundred & fifty five killed in that nice little war,
you reach for the bottle of pills & you make it one more
name rank & number

As the son that you never knew you had ships out for Iraq
You swallow the last of your pills, & you stare at the dark
with your name, rank & number.

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Gypsy Music In The Underground

The train rolls through the tunnels
With its load of busy lives,
There’s always somewhere else for you
To go when you arrive,
A further destination,
The office & the shop,
The meeting & the airport,
the journey never stops.
But pausing at this station
the silence fills with sound,
An accordeon is playing
Gypsy music in the underground.

This is where the buskers meet up
When the boys take five
Waiting on the platform
For the next meal to arrive.
The man with the accordeon knows
Gypsy doesn’t pay,
But he takes out his accordeon
& he plays it anyway,
& the tunnel is a cold night
& the buskers gather round,
& they’re dancing in the firelight,
Gypsy music in the underground.

& the cops & their computers
pop songs & razor wire
all the trains that run to Auschwitz
can’t put out this fire.....

The doors close, the wheels groan
With their load of busy lives,
& the buskers will be back at work
On the next train that arrives,
With their hand me down accordeons
& their battered old guitars,
Churning out a melody
That reminds you of the stars,
A melody that reminds you
Of the things you never found
& the love you left behind, like
Gypsy music in the underground.

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Whatever Happened to Paris?

Whatever happened to Paris?
When did it fill up with tourists?
With their tour guides & guide books
& maps for the blind
That say what you look for
Then say what you find,
Whatever happened to Paris?

Whatever happened to Paris?
When did it turn into postcards?
A few souvenirs you can
Hold in your hand,
The Musee D’Orsai
& then Disneyland
Whatever happened to Paris?

But the crowd pushes on down the Barbes Rochouart
& there on the corner, or here in the bar
The working girl dreams & the little man waits,
& it could just be luck, or it could just be fate,
& the sparrows still sing of the stars up above
We still fool ourselves & we still fall in love.

But us singers are always complaining
Of the death of old friends & old quarters
Now we fill our lives up with this cheap crap because
Everything’s crap, but then it always was,
As us singers are always complaining.

But the crowd pushes on down the Barbes Rochouart…

& it never comes back, like that first cigarette
The way that it was, Paris, the first time you met.

But the crowd pushes on & it tears us apart
But there on the corner, or here in the bar
the working girl dreams & the little man waits,
& it’s not all just luck, economics or fate,
& the sparrows still sing of the stars up above
We still fool ourselves & we still fall in love.

& the sparrows still sing of the stars up above
We still fool ourselves & we still fall in love...
& we’ll always have Paris....

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Making Sense of Manhattan

Downtown, uptown, midtown, crosstown,
Starbucks won't do it.
It could be anywhere in a Starbucks.
It could be Phoenix in a Starbucks.
But if you can find a dark brownstone bar
In the mid afternoon, things are likely to be ok.
It doesn't always have to be
Kenny’s Castaways on Bleecker Street,
Where Yoko Ono used to play, but it helps.
& then you can start
Making sense of Manhattan...
Uptown, midtown, crosstown, downtown
Where the very skyline wants to
Gershwin you with jazz,
& every streetsign wants to
Warhol you with cool.
Midtown, crosstown, downtown, uptown
Where blue sky is kept in its place, like me & you,
By the Rockerfellers, the Chryslers,
& all those other Empire Staters
Who like their building blocks
Crew cut, square jawed,
An architecture as mathematical,
& rectangular as dollar bills.
All except for Broadway, all except for Broadway,
& its inebriate sideways shuffle,
Like an old drunk staggering homewards
& not quite making it before the bars open up again.
Making sense of Manhattan...
Crosstown, downtown, uptown, midtown
A rattle of wheels in constant motion, & then some,
A rapsody of voices in constant commotion, & then some,
A Jackson Pollack that only makes sense, & then some
After full & careful consideration in some
Dark brownstone bar in the mid afternoon...

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The London Eye

You can see the whole of bloomin London
The bloomin palace of the bloomin queen
You could almost see the squats in Hackney
If it wasn’t for the office blocks in between.
You can almost hear the cheerful cockneys
Singing “Knees-Up Mother Brown” all day
& weasels going pop down Walford Market
It’s just Canary Wharf gets in the way.

When you’re riding on the London Eye
When you’re riding on the London Eye
You’ll be flying high in the sky
Riding on the London Eye.

The bloke who’s tired of London’s tired of living
It’s Jack The Ripper every other day,
There’s pubs & clubs & pubs, & big red busses,
& France is just a Eurostar away.
When it comes to culture, why there’s Wembley,
& when it comes to farce, well there’s Whitehall,
& when it comes to show-biz, there’s Lloyd Webber,
‘Course once you’ve seen one show you’ve seen ‘em all...

Up here even Parliament looks pretty,
& the gherkin it looks good enough to eat.
You can’t see what they’re up to in The City
& the consequences sleeping on the street
This must be what it’s like to be old Nelson,
Stuck with the hoi-polloi below
& also it reminds you of the M25,
The way the bloomin thing goes round so slowly

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The Fairest City

The fairest city I have seen
Was Beirut when I was seventeen
& just before my governments backed
Her long years of catastrophe...
By day, Beirut was a puzzle
Of grand boulevards
& endless narrow streets
Ending suddenly in squares
Buzzing with people & traffic
& cafes & posters
All in a language I couldn’t ever understand.
By night, Beirut was a crescent of light
Between the water & the sky,
The curve of a silverwork bracelet
Caught by the moon.
It was the first time I knew for sure
How small I really am.
I was just a tourist, though,
& to my shame
I drank the sweet black coffee
The old man offered me
& pretended not to understand
I had to pay him for it.
We do a lot of that,
Us western tourists,
Pretending not to understand
We might have to pay
For the things that we have stolen.
Old man, I give you this poem,
Can you forgive me?
Beirut, I give you this poem,
Can you forgive me?
But fairest city
Please don’t ask
What use is poetry
Against catastrophe.
The fairest city I have seen
Was Beirut when I was seventeen...

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Picking Up the Pieces

We ride the train to work & read the news The news is bad again, what else is new?
The pensioner who’s murdered on page 4
Page six has more bombs in a far-off war.
But then you see the skyline & the river in the sunlight
& every day, it takes your breath away,
& you look at all the faces with their stories and their secrets
Getting through another working day.

& our leaders making speeches,
They’re very good at making speeches,
How our soldiers have to be there,
& how we will not surrender,
But you never see them riding on your train.

We ride the train back home & read the news,
There’s not much on TV, what else is new?
The beggars hold out hands to catch the night,
The smart hotels and cafes shine so bright.
But then you see the skyline & the bridges with their lamplight,
& even now, it takes your breath away,
& you look at all the faces with their stories and their secrets
Winding down another working day.

& our leaders making speeches...

We ride the train to work & read the news,
You thank your lucky stars it wasn’t you,
It wasn’t you in Baghdad or Madrid,
Or on the train from King’s Cross when the bombs came home.
Picking up the pieces, picking up the pieces,
Picking up the pieces, picking up the pieces,

& our leaders making speeches
How our soldiers have to be there
& how we will not surrender
& you’re picking up the pieces
But you never see them riding on your train
When the bombs come home.

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The Last Train Tonight

You check the timetable,
You look at your watch,
You make your decision,
The beer or the scotch,
The queens & the princes
Gossip & laugh,
& the barmaid smiles through you
As she pulls you your half.
You check the timetable,
You time it just right,
For the last train tonight.

With your hands in your pockets
You walk through the door,
& no-one takes notice
You’re not there anymore.
The night’s full of sirens, singing
Bring out your dead,
As you go down the tunnels
With a ghost in your head.
& the smile of the barmaid
Switches off like a light,
On the last train tonight.

& she’ll turn off the jukebox, where the ghost of
This boy sang, who wanted to be
Somebody other than me…
Who reached out with both hands
To catch every last touch of stardust,
While you only caught
The last train home again tonight...

5 minutes to midnight
& it comes down to this:
A half-empty train home,
& a few suits half-pissed…
The most you can hope for
Is the lights that you pass,
But you smile at the window
& the face in the glass,
Cos that ghost keeps on singing
As you ride through the night
On the last train tonight.

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Here Comes That Miracle Again

Nothing is lost
Hearts always win
Kicking up through the frost
Like a crocus in spring
& here come those daffodils
Like a bunch of best friends
Just when you weren’t looking
Here comes that miracle again.

A patch of blue sky
& the whole world wants wings
That look in your eye
The way those hips swing
Hit me again
Hearts always win
Just when you weren’t looking
Here comes that miracle again.

It will always be there
Like a crocus in spring
Just when you weren’t looking
Here comes that miracle again.

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