Tuesday, April 12, 2011


A direct link to the above video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKyvO90iPek

We're continuing to look at some of the songs from my 1983 vinyl LP, Rob Bryanton - Alcohol and Other Drugs. When we looked at Gimme a Beer!, I described how the play that these songs were written for toured the high schools of Saskatchewan back then, and how the project started with an intensive workshop of brainstorming and improvisations with a collective of actors all in their twenties, really not long out of high school themselves.

This song in particular owes a lot to that workshop, where one of the actresses came forward and told an intense and moving story of how she ended up painting her initials with an old gym sock outside the principal's office in the middle of the night, but what drove her to commit that act was never dealt with because people just wrote the event off to "that's what happens when kids get drunk". The final verse states its message strongly:

But you’ve really got to be there / With nothing else in your way
If you want the world to listen close / To everything you say

Is this overstating the point? Some commenters on YouTube are unhappy with what they perceive as the "preachiness" of some of these songs, which, when you come right down to it were written for a play sponsored by the Saskatchewan Alcoholism Commission: these songs were written for a high school audience, and are intended to nudge people into examining their own attitudes towards alcohol and other drugs. The commenters who loved We All are Chemicals or Gimme a Beer! (two songs which at first glance appear to joyously celebrate overindulgence) are not impressed with songs like these which end up arguing for sobriety. What truth works for you? No matter how you feel about these matters, it still takes courage to state an opinion that goes against those around you, which should be the final message of this song: have the courage to stand up for what you believe in.

I also mentioned in a previous entry that both this song and Just a Shy Guy were playlisted by our local FM rock station Z99 back then: I've always been grateful to program director Ed Walker and morning personality C.C. for their support of this project, which at the time was highly unusual: recording music in your living room or basement and getting it on the radio was pretty well unheard of back in 1983.

Here's the lyrics:

COURAGE - music and lyrics by Rob Bryanton (SOCAN)

Sometimes I get angry
Sometimes I wanna shout
Sometimes it’s so hard to find a way
To let my feelings out
Wanna tell off all the teachers
When they don’t try to understand
Can’t they see that I’m just me
Doin the best I can

I say, give me some courage
I need some courage
Give me the courage
To say what I want to say

Last night I was angry
My friends they told me what to do
They said “Take a drink of courage
Get into something new”
So we took a drink of courage
And we emptied every glass
And don’t you know my courage grew and grew
As every hour passed

I said “Give me some courage
I need more courage
Give me the courage
To do what I want to do”

The next thing I remember
It was three or maybe four
Broke into the school and headed
Right for the principal’s door
I was swimming through a dream world
So far gone I couldn’t talk
I was paintin my initials
With an old gym sock

But you’ve really got to be there
With nothing else in your way
If you want the world to listen close
To everything you say
Cause even though I know the reasons
For what I did last night
Everybody chalks it up to alcohol
And nothin’s ever made right

So I say, give me the courage
I need some courage
Give me the courage
To be who I want to be

And I say, give me the courage
… to never do that again.

Other songs from this album:
We All are Chemicals
Gimme a Beer!
Just a Shy Guy
Trying to Escape
Insidious Trends

Next: Turtles and the Tenth Dimension

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