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10.11-JOB'S TEARS (Incredible String Band)

Incredible String Band

LISTEN

We're all still here.
No one has gone away.
Waiting.
Acting much too well
And procrastinating.

        The cross of the earth:
        (Let me go through)
        The four winds point them
        (Let me go through)
        Body to body
        (Let me go through)
        Seas to anoint them.
        (Let me go through)
        The reed they brought him
        (Let me go through)
        Sponge and vinegar
        (Let me go through)
        Fiery serpents
        (Let me go through)
        Spitting gold and cinnamon.
        (Let me go through)
        The moon was bleeding
        (Let me go through)
        And stars were shallow
        (Let me go through)
        And the sword that killed him
        (Let me go through)
        Was a sword of willow.

                Hello, I must be going.
                Well I only came to say
                I hear my mother calling
                And I must be on my way.

                O I remember it all from before…

        The winter and midnight
        (Let me go through)
        Could not hold him
        (Let me go through)
        The fire could not burn him
        (Let me go through)
        Nor earth enfold him.
        (Let me go through)
        Rise up Lazarus
        (Let me go through)
        Sweet and salty;
        (Let me go through)
        Brother soldiers
        (Let me go through)
        Stop your gambling and talk to me.
        (Let me go through)
        The thieves were stealers
        (Let me go through)
        But reason condemned him
        (Let me go through)
        And the grave was empty
        Where they had laid him.

                [Refrain]

                        Why heroes die at sunrise?
                        Why the birds are arrows of the wise?
                        Why each perfumed flower?
                        Why each moment has its hour?

                        It's you!
                        It's all true!

                                Stranger than that we're alive
                                (O happy man!)
                                Stranger than that, stranger than that!
                                (O happy man!)
                                Stranger than that we’re alive
                                (O happy man!)
                                Whatever you think it's more than that, more than that!
                                (O happy man!)
                                O happy man, happy man
                                (O happy man!)
                                Doing the best he can, doing the best he can!
                                (O happy man!)
                                O happy man, happy man
                                (O happy man!)
                                Doing the best he can, doing the best he can!
                                (O happy man!)

                                        Keep on walking where the angels showed
                                        (All will be one, all will be one)
                                        Travelling where the saints have trod
                                        Over to the old golden land.

                                                In the golden book of the golden game
                                                The golden angel wrote my name.
                                                When the deal goes down I'll put my crown
                                                Over in the old golden land.

                                        I won't need to kiss you when we're there
                                        (All will be one, all will be one)
                                        I won't need to miss you when we're there
                                        Over in the old golden land.

                                                [Chorus]

                                                [Break]

                                        We'll understand it better in the sweet bye and bye.
                                        (All will be one, all will be one)
                                        You won't need to worry and you won't have to cry
                                        Over in the old golden land.

                                                [Chorus]


Though Job’s Tears begins the album Wee Tam, it is surely one of the “huge” songs, clocking in at just under seven minutes. By this time the Incredible String Band had developed an impressive technique whereby various songs were strung together under one theme which would be a cut on an album. [See previous such ISB works: The Mad Hatter’s Song (Williamson); A Very Cellular Song (Heron) and Koeeoadi There (Williamson).] On Wee Tam & Big Huge there were more of such songs than previously: Maya (Williamson) begins Big Huge as if a compliment to the song now under consideration, running over nine minutes, a length similar to Ducks on a Pond (Williamson), which closes out Wee Tam. It is a technique that impressed Paul McCartney and was probably influential in the composition of the sixteen minute medley that closes the Beatles’ Abbey Road. But up until this point of the Wee Tam’s release, to my knowledge, the only other spliced together songs of similar length and thematic cohesion outside the works of ISB were Brown Shoes Don’t Make It by the Mothers of Invention, and The End and When the Music’s Over by the Doors.

One of the methods by which ISB strung together songs was with the use of simple tunes written as if for a congregation, not very different from the stand alone Air which Heron composed for the album. Mike Heron had used call and response in Koeeoadi There, and on Wee Tam & Big Huge this worked particularly well with the angelic voices of their girlfriends added. “Over in the old golden land” in Job’s Tears sounds heavenly; it’s an interesting contrast with Van Dyke Park’s The All Golden, in which the golden land seems to be Hollywood and the “eternal life” consists of being captured on film for the movies.

The tone of ISB on this album (and previously) was decidedly spiritual and otherworldly. Although Job’s Tears uses a lot of Christian imagery with a lack of irony rare in popular music of the time, the import is not so much religious as visionary, the product perhaps of LSD enlightenment rather than an established liturgy. Up to this album, ISB had been quite content to draw from Hinduism, astrology, Greek legends, anything that indicated a greater reality than the mundane. They had used archaic and exotic instruments to suggest other ways of being. But Job’s Tears relies only on voices and acoustic guitar. Being simply alive is strange enough. But life after death is even stranger than that! Attempting to contemplate the mysteries of suffering and death, the group made no attempt to form a rational argument, leaving it all to awe and wonderment. ISB was content to say of their symbolic muddle derived from the Bible that “We’ll understand it better in the sweet bye and bye.” There seems more blessed assurance in Licorice’s voice than words could possibly convey.

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