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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Is there a better song about an inanimate object than A Thing Well Made?

Don McGlashan wrote some great songs for the Mutton Birds but the best one is "A Thing Well Made". It's about a man who runs a sporting goods store. He's not getting on well with his wife. He opens his shop early so that men can come in on their way to work and "daydream around the rods and reels". He shows off a gun to a customer. "Look at the way this gun fills the crook of your arm. To make a thing like that you'd need to know what you were about."

Then what? The music gets more insistent, which invites us to wonder if he's taken the gun to the top of a water tower and done something terrible. There's nothing in the song that actually says so. That's one of the things I like about songs. They go in one ear and out the other. But then they come back long afterwards.

The Mutton Birds reformed earlier this year to play a tour of New Zealand wineries. I can't imagine anything much better than that. They're playing at the Shepherd's Bush Empire next Saturday. Here they are doing "A Thing Well Made" a few years back.