Songs for the apocalypse: Paul Kelly “They Thought I Was Asleep”

Paul Kelly has more pathos in the index finger of his right hand than most songwriters do in their, er, heads – exhibit A is this track, the version of which you can watch below recorded with bluegrass band The Stormwater Boys. When I first heard this song it moved me to tears, partly because of the sublime melody but moreover because of the understatement, the humour and sadness, and Paul Kelly’s gift for storytelling, the story in this song of a journey home in the back of your parents’ car at night and the gulf there is between those rows of seats. Nobody does this more evocatively. I imagine one day this will be a song that I can never listen to again.

About Mark Whitfield 2007 Articles
Editor of Americana UK website, the UK's leading home for americana news and reviews since 2001 (when life was simpler, at least for the first 253 days)
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David Wedge

Morning Mark,

You may remember from our chats last year that I’m also a huge Paul Kelly fan, and have been lucky enough to see him play live a couple of times during my winter sojourns down under over the last few years. You told me that you used to live in Oz, so I assume that this is where you first discovered him? I have to say that the song you’ve selected here also moves me in the same way.

I think the man is an absolute genius, the Aussie Dylan if you will, although sadly very unknown/unrecognised over here. But what about his song ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ eh? Clearly it won’t have the same resonance with people here that it does in Australia (even those who take a dim view of Aboriginal land rights issues!), but his storytelling is just beyond equal in my view.

I used to think that Roy Harper had written the only and definitive song about my beloved sport of cricket, and then I discovered that Mr Kelly had gone and written two of ’em!