Hey people! 🙂
I feel like I haven’t shared anything from Cornelis in a while so thought I would today, especially that earlier this month (on 8 August more exactly) was his birthday, but sharing his songs usually means I have to translate them if I only can, well lol I don’t have to but I think it’s best to listen to them knowing what you’re listening to, and earlier this month I didn’t really feel like trying to translate anything more complicated cus sensory anxiety. I was actually quite sure that I must’ve shared this song in the past because it’s such a classic in Sweden (and I believe even Norway to an extent), but clearly I haven’t so it’s as good a time as any to introduce you people to this one finally.
In 1978, Cornelis released a double concept album called Felicias Svenska Suite (Felicia’s Swedish Suite), which focused largely on Felicia – a Roman character from the book Varulven (The Werewolf) by Danish-born Norwegian writer Axel Sandemose. Weirdly enough (at least for my little brain) no Swedish record label wanted to release it, if I understand correctly it was because of the connection to that book. I wonder was it a case of Scandinavian sibling rivalry and that Swedes didn’t want to release something that was based on a Norwegian book or is that book somehow anti-Swedish (I’ve always wanted to read it just out of sheer curiosity but I’ve never got to find an electronic copy in any language so I’ve no real clue what it’s about other than Felicia and that she has an affair while being married to another guy) or was there something more complicated going on? Anyways, as a result, he ended up releasing it in Norway. However, this very song I’m bringing you today ended up becoming very popular in Sweden, so eventually, two years later, one Swedish label did decide to release the second half of this double album, titled Turistens Klagan. Something about Varulven must have really put them off though because the songs from the first half were only released in Sweden in the 2000’s, so like almost twenty years after Cornelis’ death.
The song is narrated by a tourist vacationing in Oslo (near Karl Johan’s Street as you’ll find out from the lyrics) who’s quite depressed and tired, I’ve seen interpretations that he’s suicidal, but I guess “quitting” doesn’t necessarily have to mean as much as wanting to die, though it’s certainly possible. What pulls him out of his blues is hearing children singing outside.
Honestly, this is one of quite a few songs by Cornelis that I feel quite ambivalent about. Usually when I do, is because I love them musically or for some other small yet important aspects, but can’t agree with his point of view, since our views on such grave things like politics, for example, differ almost as greatly as they possibly can, which makes it feel a real irony in a way that I ended up developing a faza on him. 😀 But, this song is one of those with which it’s the opposite for me. I like the lyrics, but I just totally don’t care for it musically. It’s just so meh it’s a shame. I’m not sure it’s the right ENglish word to capture exactly what I mean, but I’d say it’s tacky. The melody is sure catchy but doesn’t really grab your attention, and these kids in there are pretty annoying. 😀 Oh yeah, and I think I’ve said on here already that I’m not a fan of the accordion in general, except perhaps for a few odd pieces by Maria Kalaniemi or Kimmo Pohjonen. So yeah, musically this song isn’t quite as frisson-inducing as some others from this album, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way about this song. But perhaps this arrangement is also part of why it ended up being so popular, I feel that a lot of Scandinavian music that was popular and at the same time kind of bordering on folky was a bit kitschy like that, in fact I suppose this was the trend in most of Europe. Some sources like the Swedish Wikipedia credit Franz von Suppé as the additional composer, so this tune must be “stolen” from him, but I don’t know from which piece though I’ve been mildly curious, but not enough to ever go hunting.
The translation below is by Bibielz, and it’s very likely that there are some weird errors in there, but not so much because I didn’t know what something meant or how to put it in English, rather, because I’ve always had a problem understanding what’s the second verse really about, I mean it seems highly metaphorical to me or else I must be ignorant or something. So I just translated it literally except for a couple odd words, as I didn’t know how to do it better. I’ve always been really curious what that verse is about, and thought now that I’d do a translation for you guys, perhaps my mind will open and I’ll figure it out somehow, but I haven’t. I was the best in my class at poem analysis, but overall I don’t think I’m all that good at it at all, my classmates just happened to be even worse. I found a forum thread where people discussed interpretations of just one of the lines in that verse, (about rubbing your skin with nettles so you’ll get warm) and everyone had a different idea. Someone said it could mean something like don’t complain about small things, like, just rub your skin with nettles if you’re cold so you’ll get warm and stop whining. But I don’t think it could be the case because, well duh, it’s a lament, he IS kind of complaining, even if he finds the presence of children to be hopeful, so that would be kind of illogical. Someone else said that it could be about solutions to problems that aren’t necessarily the best ones out there, but that still kind of solve the problem, like there are sure more effective and pleasant ways to warm yourself up than rubbing your skin with nettles but this will also work, for lack of anything better. This is an interesting option but I’m not sure I see how it fits into the whole of this song. And then others yet say it’s just supposed to be comical. Which I think is true, it is likely meant to be comical/humourous in a way, but I doubt it’s the main or only purpose of this verse, because the rest of this song isn’t really comical so my best bet is that the comism is supposed to emphasise something else more important here. And still, we have all those other lines in this verse. What’s the deal with language slipping because the snow is wet though it’s cold? And what’s skiing got to do with that? And, probably the biggest question here, why are fake (or literally “crooked”) nettles and people who sell them so very bad? I wish we could know…
Some children are singing on Karl Johan
They sound strong and nice as only children can
I myself am under lock and key in my hotel
An evening behind the barricade, an ordinary evening
Over my head hovers a jet black vulture
In the room next to mine a crazy lady is singing
And I am tired and doubtful but their song is happy
If there will be no kids, I’ll quit.
My lady, that language slips in some cases
[is?] Because of the snow that is wet though it is cold
Big deal, skiing has charm as well
Rub your skin with nettles, so you’ll get warm
But it should be nettles from the bayside
And no fake nettles from the brink of ruin
Deliver us from those who sell them
As well as these happy children out there.
When there are no children, everything is over
So what’s the point of standing out?
Certainly there has been chaos throughout history
But as long as there are children, there is hope.
4 thoughts on “Cornelis Vreeswijk – “Turistens Klagan” (Tourist’s Lament).”
There is a lot of “quiet quitting” going on at the moment, Emilia.
[especially in the workplace].
Cornelis might have understood that.
And his love of children comes through a lot in this track – especially the hope you talked about.
Sensory anxiety – I understand it!
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Yeah, there are all kinds of quitting out there which is why I’m not really inclined to agree with people who think the lyrical subject necessarily has to be suicidal. Quiet quitting could sure also be an option.
For example the quitting we all do to get out of our computer applications.
The same with shutting down.
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Lol yes, that too, although I’m pretty sure he couldn’t have meant that as computers weren’t much of a thing in the 70’s/80’s yet, and that wouldn’t have much to do with children. 🙂