With the return of the sun this week, I’ve had a hankering for a little of what soundtracked the last time I was in its rays. Well the hottest part of last summer (in England at least) was undoubtedly Glastonbury for me, and it was Loudon Wainwright III who became a major part of that particular warm weekend for me.
In a bit of downtime amongst my militantly self-enforced schedule, a friend guided me to the acoustic tent to watch the man who I simply knew as the one half of those who spawned Martha and Rufus. What I heard was the work of a man who knows how to spin a fantastic tale – ranging from comedic rant to the most heart-warming stories of fatherhood, Wainwright can hold an audience completely captive with his (surprisingly youthful) voice alone. But it was the simple two and half minutes of a single song, ‘The Picture’, that transformed this performance from an engaging one to something altogether more meaningful. As the sun warmed my back, this memorial snapshot of a song permanently installed itself as a memory in my own head. The simple description of the context of a photograph of Wainwright and his sister as children could seem irritatingly personal, but the nostalgia is haunted just enough by the final lines (‘In forty years the world has changed as well as you and I‘) to reflect itself on anyone who’s had a similar experience in thinking about the past. There’s no great theory at work here, just simple, timeless feelings expressed perfectly, and it was shown in the sheer appreciation of the audience for him having played it.
This is no ‘summer song’ in the more traditional sense, but its connection to my summer is as nostalgic as the song’s content itself.
Loudon Wainwright III – The Picture (YSI)