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*7.30-KOEEOADDI THERE (Incredible String Band)

Robin Williamson
Robin Williamson

LISTEN

The natural cards revolve, ever changing.
Seeded elsewhere, planted in the garden fair, grow trees, grow trees.

     Tongues of the sheer wind--
     setting your foot where the sand is untrodden,
     the ocean that only begins.

          Listen. A woman with a bulldozer built this house now
          Carving away the mountains whose name is your childhood home.
          We were trying to buy it buy it buy it.
          Someone was found killed there--all bones, bones, dry bones.

               Earth water fire and air
               Met together in a garden fair
               Put in a basket bound with skin.
               If you answer this riddle, if you answer this riddle,
               You'll never begin.

                    Born in a house where the doors shut tight.
                    Shadowy fingers on the curtains at night.
                    Cherry tree blossom, head high snow,
                    A busy main road where I wasn't to go.
                    I used to sit on the garden wall
                    Say hello to people going by so tall:
                    Hello to the postman's stubbly skin
                    Hello to the baker's stubbly grin.
                    Mrs. Thompson gave me a bear.
                    Bridgette and some people lived upstairs.

          Skating on Happy Valley pond,
          various ministers and guards stood around.
          The ice was nice. Hello the invisible brethren!
          And there was a tent you played cards with the soldiers in.
          “Don't worry, we won't send anyone after you” they screamed!

                         But me & Licorice saw the last of them one misty twisty day
                         Across the mournful morning moor motoring away.

                         Singing ladybird, ladybird what is your wish?
                         Your wish is not granted unless it's a fish.
                         Your wish is not granted unless it's a dish.
                         A fish on a dish, is that what you wish?

               [Chorus]


Though almost a third the length of Mike Heron’s A Very Cellular Song, Robin Williamson’s Koeeoaddi There has an equivalent complexity. Whereas Heron’s song focused on a meditation that saw through materiality to spirituality (I can’t think of another psychedelic song with that theme, except perhaps Grace by Country Joe and the Fish), Williamson uses the surrealistic language of hallucinogens to return to childhood (in the manner of the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane). Both Heron and Williamson rely on the absurdity of children’s songs and riddles to create a koan, frustrating reason in an effort to reveal a spiritual reality. The medieval riddle of the chorus in Koeeoaddi seems to imply that if one knew the meaning of one’s life, in what manner one contains the four classic Greek elements, one would never begin the quest for knowledge of oneself, a quest that motivates living. There’s also a riddle about having one’s wishes granted, but only if the wish meets prescribed criteria.

Section A begins with a simple guitar and bell sound. The first line claims that the “natural cards” are various and ever changing, but they revolve, ever repeating themselves. The second line observes that seeds sprouted in a nursery can be the source of trees growing elsewhere. Section B introduces a sitar and arabesque singing for a few lines I dare not interpret, except that it seems to reflect the feeling that the poet has begun on an uncharted path. There follows a brief instrumental reference to Section F. Section C, continuing with sitar, adding jews harp, contemplates the transitory nature of things—a mountain is bulldozed and bones found beneath. The mountain seems related both to the poet’s “childhood home” and perhaps to the name of the song itself, if there were such a place as Koeeoaddi. Section D is the riddle that forms the chorus. Section E refers to more specific childhood memories, when snow was “head high” and the boy was forbidden to cross a busy main road. The bear that Mrs. Thompson gives him must be a kind of teddy bear. Then the listener is returned to the waltz of Section C again and there’s skating on a pond and card games with soldiers stationed near the boy’s childhood home. Section F follows, and brings the listener back to the present: Licorice and the poet have seen the soldiers move away. This section continues into the riddle mentioned in the previous paragraph about limited choices. Koeeoaddi resolves itself with a repetition of the riddle in Section D. Its admonition that in solving the riddle, you'll never begin (your life?) comes as the end of the song.

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