I have always loved this song. I spent ages playing it through to try to get all the lyrics. It wasn’t until I finally sat down with Roy that we managed to work them all out.
It is hard to believe that this is Roy’s first album recorded in rather primitive conditions. It sounds so good. It is also hard to believe that people saw Roy as a Folk singer. The evidence of this album is of a complete mixture of styles from Rock and psychedelia to acoustic.
The other element is Roy’s poetry and social comment. It is evident in this song in spades. Right from the onset Roy tore into a society that he saw as hypocritical and tasteless with people leading pointless, meaningless lives and talking through their arse (false teeth in the colon). Mount Street is a Mayfair business centre. The line came into being from a throw away remark. When Roy spent a period of time at her Majesty’s pleasure one of the other inmates was a very well-to-do chap who was in for fraud. He asked Roy if he knew the way to Mount Street.
These businessmen knew how to make money but did not know what life was about.
The hollow men echoes back to TS Elliott.
History – the idea of history being a series of crimes as the robber barons war, rape and pillage – A theme that would crop up later.
Salt sodas are speed.
Ending with the classic philosophical comment ‘everything is just everything because everything just is’. There is no god.
What a great song!!
Roy Harper – Legend
I heard the song birds singing in the trees above my bed
In the valley of the shadow of the sea of living dead
I see the same old smells aboard my ship of shapelessness
Meandering suspended in amorphous tastelessness
I hear the happy people striking down their matchless road
The false teeth in the colon partly sharing half the load
I know I cannot ask them so I leave their eyes to say
I know the way to Mount Street, but I just don’t know the way
I see the hollow buildings hanging in the winter sun
Throwing empty shadows that hide the hollow men
The world just isn’t real it’s built on endless timeless time
On land marks in the desert wastes of multicoloured crime
The maps stuck in the tube trains will tell you where’re you going
They’ll also tell you practically everything worth knowing
So if anybody asks me I’d say “take a few salt sodas”
If you don’t you stand the dirty chance of dying stone cold sober
And as I hear you breathing life’s last distant compliment
I know I can’t have said much of what I really meant
The sky desolates the sky and the snowflakes face to face
And everything is just everything because everything just is