Pick of the Political Pops: John Cale “Buffalo Ballet”

The track ‘Buffalo Ballet’ taken from John Cale’s 1974 album ‘Fear’ describes the scene in Abilene, Texas, the sparse piano-based sound lulling you into a deceptive ease as it starts off describing the town as “young and gay” with “cattle roaming.” Idyllic ay! The next verse goes on to describe a sleepy, almost decaying scene before the killer bridge: “We all joined in and all joined hands; All joined in to help run this land; Then soldiers came, long long ago; Rode through the town and rode down those who were sleeping in the midday sun.” The scene describes the US cavalry’s defense of landowners against peasant populations, often immigrants, while nowadays the peasant populations often form the cavalry. Cale himself called the song a “European version of the Old West.” (Paul Kelly’s version is better than the original imho but not available outside of Australia on YouTube sadly.)

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Author: Mark Whitfield

Mark Whitfield has been the Editor of Americana UK for the last 17 years and still feels like this is his pretend job, mainly because it is.

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