The Southwest Train
The Southwest Train was a passenger railroad company, not a single train or single set of tracks. At one time Britain had a magnificent national railway system which was butchered into segments and privatized. Service and safety was degraded, prices rose, and unneeded further proof was provided for the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” A notable exception was the Southwest Train, which ceased operation in 2017 or so. I always had had a pleasant experience as a passenger. After the incident of the guitar case traveling on the tracks (see the notes to “At Waterloo”) I had my first Southwest Train ride. The names of the stations for which there were stops and connections appeared in colored lights on a monitor and I was delighted by the found poetry of how the names fit together. I wrote a few down and verses started forming. I also wrote down some of the things I saw from the train, on the train, and at Waterloo Station before boarding. Not long after returning home the song began to take shape.
Some explanation of the words is probably in order. Here we go, in order of appearance.
My ticket and reservation supposedly included an assigned seat but I couldn’t find “Carriage G”. I spoke to a kindly railroad employee who told me that my reserved seat wouldn’t fit me any better than any other. That was his humorous way of letting me know that since there weren’t many passengers riding at this hour I had my choice of seat. I quote him in the first verse. “Fat and thin and Nippon” were the other 3 passengers in my car as we left Waterloo. The fat guy took up 2 seats. In front of him was an extremely slim man. And then there was a Japanese tourist who spent the entire journey talking on her cell phone (what the Brits call a “Mow Bile”)
“Lookathere” is a reference to a version of the comic traditional English and American song “Three Men Went A Hunting”. There’s usually an Irishman, Welshman, and Scotsman. They see the same things but have different explanations, each wrong in its own way. In one version each verse ends with “look ye there” or “lookathere.”
Clifford Essex was a famous banjo brand. One of their models was called The Regal. The question in verse 2, “Is the Eagle Regal legal?” refers to a music shop which twice told me the Regal offered for sale on their website had been sold, and then subsequently told offered it to someone else.
Verse 3 describes a view from the train just outside the town of Totton. A house which was slanted every which way and looked like it could be knocked down by a kitten breathing too hard was just yards from a sign advertising Totton Timber.
The first line of verse 4 is a parody of the song “This Train Is Bound For Glory”. Beaulieu pronounced Bewley!
There are some some very strange looking large-headed ponies in the New Forrest. They wander everywhere (until they are harvested for dinners in France). When the train comes by they go berserk. Some chase the train and try to bite it, others get a wild look in their eye and jump and kick or stand on their front or rear legs. It’s a really a sight to behold.
“Izzly Widget” in verse 5 is how some English friends of mine deliberately mispronounce (the) Isle (of) Wight.
The final verse describes what I saw at Waterloo Station before getting aboard. Most of it means just what it says. The shaved heads of young English and Slavic males, and specimens of all genders making a fashion statement by wearing their knickers over their trousers were very much in evidence, and all that can be taken literally. It seems, however, that Americans are not familiar with pasties. Pasty rhymes with nasty but a good pasty is very nice. It’s a baked dough sealed pocket filled with meat and root vegetables. Cornwall has the louder reputation for the birthplace of the pasty but Devon, on the other side of the Tamar River, also lays claim. But as I was waiting for my train, a pasty concession at London Waterloo station doing a very brisk business was run by African immigrants. Thus my geography question at the end of the song.
The Southwest Train
© Jody Stecher, Vegetiboy Music (BMI)
Waterloo! better get on board
On Car G , 33? no one seems too certain
“Sit where you like sir, never mind your letter or your
Number, ‘t’s just a number & it will not seat you better”
33, cuppa tea, I think it’s gonna rain
And it’s fat & thin & Nippon on the Southwest Train
Lookathere! Sotheby warehouse
87,000 Clifford Essex’s piled together
Paragon:American, the Brit metal’s better
Paravox paradox, got banjr on the brain
Is the Eagle Regal legal on the Southwest Train?
Lookathere! House about to tumble
Crumble with a rumble as I stumble up my seat
Dorchester, Winchester, Winchfield, Fleet
Parkstone, Pokesdown, Upwey, Sway
And it’s rotten Totton Timber on the Southwest Train
This train, Bound for Beaulieu
Weybridge, — Redbridge, Poole
Ashurst, Brockenhurst, Knockwurst, Sauerkraut
New Forrest ponies ‘bout to knock the windows out
Wild eyed ponies jumping in the rain
And it’s Wareham, Wool, & Weymouth on the Southwest Train
Vauxhall, foxhole, passengers a ridin’
This train’s avoidin’ Croyden
Southeast Brockenhurst, Lymington Pier
Ferry drizzly Izley Widget, Yarmouth, clear across
Weymouth, Bournemouth, Motormouth, and Spain
Clear across the channel from the Southwest Train
Lookathere! underwear, out instead of inside
Men’s hair not there ,’ cept upon their chin
Got a cup Italian coffee from a Kosovar polyglot
Speaking Anglestani with a Pole and a Cypriot.
Pasties are popular judging by the traffic
But the Tamar runs through which part of Africa?
Jody Stecher: vocal and guitar
The band on the coda:
Suzy Thompson - accordion
Eric Thompson - mandolin
Chad Manning- fiddle
Keith Little- banjo
Paul Knight- bass
Jody Stecher -guitar and a very large banjo belonging to Bill Evans