David Sylvian's "The greatest living Englishman" - about Moz?

King Leer

Leering since '97
We know that Morrissey is often referred to as "the greatest living Englishman". This recent track by David Sylvian may even refer to him, especially the parts about "too much self in his writing".

As a one-time Japan/Sylvian obsessive i'm interested to catch up on Sylvian's recent albums. Any opinions? This song was from "Manafon".


The greatest living Englishman

Here we are then, here we are
Notes from a suicide
And he will never ever be
The greatest living Englishman

It's such a melancholy blue
Or a grey of no significance
Plastic coated surfaces
A space to place his suitcase
As he's bussed from A to B

But it's such a melancholy blue
The curtains round the bed are drawn
Broadcast voices from the ward
The humming of machines are heard
But there are distances between
Yes, there are distances between

His aspirations visited him nightly
And amounted to so little
Too much self in his writing
Now he will never ever be
The greatest living Englishman

The engine shifts into second gear
They're all aboard accounted for
It's a journey he must make alone
The black sheep boy is leaving home

It's been rehearsed a thousand times or more
He's well prepared of that he's sure

But still it's such a melancholy blue
He's erased a page of history
Much as he'd intended to

He wouldn't speak or show you he was happy
Though you'd meet him with your eyes
There was a wall that always stood between you
He'd shut himself outside

And the love that he engendered
Would never be enough
For him to feel alive
Warm and tender
He'd shut himself outside

Not a fake nor a sham
But dug in deep and fighting
The world could not embrace a man
With so much self in his writing

Well he was never gonna be
The greatest living Englishman
He had ideas above his station
Minor virtues go unmentioned

Little England you fit like a straightjacket
Hemmed by the genius of others
He said "to conquer the world is not to leave a trace
Remove even the shadow of the memory of your face"

A grey of no significance
 

Bigmouth

Scandinavian
Re: David Sylvian's "The greatest living Englishman". About Moz?

I've been "a fan" of David Sylvian the last couple of months. I recently heard his Secrets of the behind and Brilliant Trees, which is exceptional with songs like Red Guitar and The boy with the gun. But, to be more precisely I think more highly of "experimental" albums like Approaching Silence or Alchemy - An Index Of Possibilities.

I think The greatest living Englishman represent themes and temperaments of the island folks, grayness, suicide, melancholy etc. in a manner which Morrissey fits perfectly well into [altought I don't know if he likes Morrissey] - but it could also be about some stereotype Anglo-Irish writer/poet [like James Joyce or William Butler Yates]. Sylvian have these kind of themes in other songs, Emily Dickinson is one from the album you mentioned. When the poets dreamed of angels could well be about Rainer Maria Rilke or any “spiritual minded”:


She rises early from bed
Runs to the mirror
The bruises inflicted in moments of fury
He kneels beside her once more
Whispers a promise
Next time I'll break every bone in your body
And the well-wishers let the devil in
And if the river ran dry they'd deny it happening
As the card players deal their hands
From the bottom of te deck
Row upon row of feudal houses blown away
Medicine for the popular complaint
When the poets dreamed of Angels
What did they see?
History lined up in a flash at their backs
When the poets dreamed of Angels
What did they see?
The bishops and knights well placed to attack
 

King Leer

Leering since '97
Re: David Sylvian's "The greatest living Englishman". About Moz?

Glad to hear you recently discovered David Sylvian. You have a big back catalogue to explore (go all the way back to Japan's Adolescent Sex if you really want to be shocked). He's a really interesting example of an artist who's endlessly been accused of being a magpie (Dolls, Bowie, Scott Walker etc.) but eventually found his own rightful place in modern music history.

As it's "living Englishman" I think Joyce et al are out of the question, but then again maybe the song is set in the past!

On a tangent Morrissey did mention Japan positively in his very early days as a wannabe music critic (I'm surprised he didn't hate them in principle for riffing so heavily on the Dolls). Then recently someone dug up what seems to be the only other mention Moz has made of DS and his "foggy moans". Had to laugh.


I've been "a fan" of David Sylvian the last couple of months. I recently heard his Secrets of the behind and Brilliant Trees, which is exceptional with songs like Red Guitar and The boy with the gun. But, to be more precisely I think more highly of "experimental" albums like Approaching Silence or Alchemy - An Index Of Possibilities.

I think The greatest living Englishman represent themes and temperaments of the island folks, grayness, suicide, melancholy etc. in a manner which Morrissey fits perfectly well into [altought I don't know if he likes Morrissey] - but it could also be about some stereotype Anglo-Irish writer/poet [like James Joyce or William Butler Yates]. Sylvian have these kind of themes in other songs, Emily Dickinson is one from the album you mentioned. When the poets dreamed of angels could well be about Rainer Maria Rilke or any “spiritual minded”:


She rises early from bed
Runs to the mirror
The bruises inflicted in moments of fury
He kneels beside her once more
Whispers a promise
Next time I'll break every bone in your body
And the well-wishers let the devil in
And if the river ran dry they'd deny it happening
As the card players deal their hands
From the bottom of te deck
Row upon row of feudal houses blown away
Medicine for the popular complaint
When the poets dreamed of Angels
What did they see?
History lined up in a flash at their backs
When the poets dreamed of Angels
What did they see?
The bishops and knights well placed to attack
 
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