Album: Element of Light
. . .
I somehow doubt that when Robyn Hitchock wrote “Lady Waters & The Hooded One” — a story song about a woman facing death via the Plague — he knew that it would ever have any kind of contemporary resonance. But here in the waning days of 2020, it kinda does.
“Will you dance with me, Lady Waters?”
And a bony hand plucked her gown
“Will you dance with me,” said the Hooded One
“For the plague has now reached this town.”
And so here we are, the week of Thanksgiving, over quarter-million dead and our do-nothing President having fully and completely checked out, focusing what scant focus he has on a coup to keep a job that he’s basically given up on doing. So that’s good. The plague is literal and metaphorical.
“No, I’ll never dance,” says Lady Waters
“For I see that your name is Death.”
And beneath her mask she was sweating
At the Hooded One’s fetid breath
Musically, “Lady Waters & The Hooded One” is peak Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians: Robyn’s guitars are lucid and fluid, Andy Metcalfe’s bass alternates propulsive thrums and melodic runs, and Morris Windsor’s drums move the song ever forward on his kickdrum while he flitters all around on hi-hat.
“Will you dance with me, Lady Waters?
For the fire dies in your grate
And your guests have gone and your lord’s asleep
And the plague has reached your estate.”
And so it goes: Robyn’s guitar starts swirling a single-note motif around the rest of the song, as Lady Waters begins to accede to Death’s demands — dancing and, er, submitting to him — but also making him promise to take “from me what is mine.” So pretty much everything. Because Death pretty much holds the, er, trump card.
But not this time!
“You must take from me all I have,” she said
“You must take it all with good grace:
For I have the plague on my body
And I have the plague on my face.”
It’s at this point where Robyn Hitchcock takes off with a fierce and terrific guitar solo, alternating mad riffing and spidery leads, before eventually getting back to the denouement.
Oh the Hooded One took her house and lands
He took every fork, every knife
And he took the plague and he left her there
Without anything but her life
After they all crash on the word “life,” it’s all Andy Metcalfe’s bass running circles around Roger Jackon’s synthesized horns, bringing “Lady Waters and The Hooded One” to its conclusion. And at some point you realize: all things considered, this is a happy ending! In a Robyn Hitchcock song! Well, happy-ish, which, all things considered, is probably the best you can hope for when dealing with plagues, both literal and metaphorical.
“Lady Waters & The Hooded One”
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