A tall glass of homesick for my fellow expatriate Maritimers.
I was first captivated by this song while sitting in the stands on the Halifax Commons, waiting for a concert to begin. Joel was a warm-up act, which wouldn’t seem to befit his stature in that neck of the woods, but the headliner was Paul McCartney, so, you know. It was still late afternoon, and the crowd was slowly assembling, with a patchwork of empty and occupied seats covering the field amid the general hubbub of people getting settled, while Joel did his thing, not quite ignored, on stage. I’d never heard of him. I’d no idea who he was or from whence he hailed, but one verse in and I sure wanted to find out. Love This Town is one of those songs, you know? You don’t need to recognize which town he means to love it along with him. There’s probably one back there in your own past that makes you feel just the same.
Joel is a good Nova Scotia boy, originally from beautiful Lunenburg, but this is a song about Halifax, my home town. Ah, that drunken stagger home after closing time at the Marquee, a bar with a “cabaret licence” which allowed it to stay open until 4 in the morning. We’ve all been there – and listen up kid, it’s not what you think. You ever want to see me cry like a toddler who just banged his head, give me a few shots of the blackest rum you can find, and play this at me.
I might not even need the rum.
Love This Town is perhaps Joel’s signature tune, but by no means is it the only gem in his catalogue. Another fine product of what I’ve come to view as a major talent is Beyond Beyond Beyond, from his superb album Three, an eligiac poem describing the perspective attained from the midst of a graveyard, in this case the Hillcrest cemetery on Gallows Hill in Lunenburg. The Liverpool Academy is built on the same hill, and kids still pass between the markers on the way to school, just as Joel did, decades ago. The crows line up on the power lines, like vultures just waiting for when your time comes, and if the sight of the old headstones gives you pause when you don’t know any of the names, it’ll surely take the wind right out of your sails when the time comes that you do. But there’s a beautiful view to be had from the Academy and its hill. Hold your loved ones close, look toward life instead of death, and it’ll take a million of those crows to blot out the clear blue sky above.