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The Telegraph Road

Well a long time ago, came a man on a track
Walking thirty miles with a sack on his back
And he put down his load where he thought it was the best
He made a home in the wilderness

He built a cabin and a winter store
And he ploughed up the ground by the cold lake shore
And the other travellers came walking down the track
And they never went further, no they never went back

Then came the churches, then came the schools
Then came the lawyers, then came the rules
Then came the trains and the trucks with their loads
And the dirty old track was the Telegraph Road

Then came the mines, then came the ore,
Then there was the hard times, then there was a war
Telegraph sang a song about the world outside
Telegraph Road got so deep and so wide
Like a rolling river

And my radio says tonight it’s gonna freeze
People driving home from the factories
There’s six lanes of traffic
Three lanes moving slow

I used to like to go to work but they shut it down
I’ve got a right to go to work but there’s no work here to be found
Yes, and they say we’re gonna have to pay what’s owed
We’re gonna have to reap from some seed that’s been sowed

And the birds up on the wires and the telegraph poles
They can always fly away from this rain and this cold
You can hear them singing out their telegraph code
All the way down the Telegraph Road

Well I’d sooner forget, but I remember those nights
Yeah, life was just a bet on a race between the lights
You had your head on my shoulder, you had your hand in my hair
Now you act a little colder like you don’t seem to care

But just believe in me, baby, and I’ll take you away
From out of this darkness and into the day
From these rivers of headlights, these rivers of rain
From the anger that lives on the streets with these names
‘Cause I’ve run every red light on memory lane
I’ve seen desperation explode into flames
And I don’t want to see it again
From all of these signs saying “Sorry, but we’re closed”,
All the way down the Telegraph Road.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous October 12, 2021, 1:34 PM

    The longer version of “A Short History of America” added 3 panels showing 3 possible futures. We are at that point now. http://www.artnet.com/WebServices/images/ll17750lldyGjGFgpFeR3CfDrCWvaHBOcuJ7C/robert-crumb-a-short-history-of-america.jpg

    • Anonymous October 12, 2021, 1:35 PM

      never mind. I see you got it all now. stupid puter

  • Francis W. Porretto October 12, 2021, 2:15 PM

    There haven’t been many genuine geniuses in contemporary music. Mark Knopfler is one.

  • gwbnyc October 12, 2021, 3:05 PM

    we so seldom hear guitar playing…

  • Dirk October 12, 2021, 3:14 PM

    If you haven’t heard “ On Every Corner” from DS, get it, you will be glad you did.

    Talent on loan from god right, to Mark. This ones magic. Whoever mixed it, is exceptional.

    VI

  • Lance de Boyle October 12, 2021, 3:35 PM

    Dirk, you mean “street”?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_atRLSxfg_0
    His melodies are so simple, but seem to resonate with something inside. What, I dunno.

    • Dirk October 12, 2021, 6:12 PM

      Lance, I stand corrected, Street, it is

      Dirk

    • Tom Hyland October 12, 2021, 7:40 PM

      I just watched the performance “On Every Street.” Thanks for the link. To apply only one word to describe it… sublime.

    • Boat Guy October 14, 2021, 12:59 PM

      Pedal steel and alto sax make that version one of the best. MK always has great folks with him and and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
      The “All the Road Running” band was amazing and Richard Bennett is the
      best sidekick ever.

  • Mike Austin October 12, 2021, 4:57 PM

    The lyrics read like a history of civilization, from a joyful exuberance of a freedom to live as one desires to a melancholy sadness of decay and loss. It was once thus here. A man who tired of “living by another’s leave” could pull up stakes and head west. “Go west young man!” folks said. “Gone to Texas!” folks said. It even had a fancy name, “Manifest Destiny”:

    https://www.thoughtco.com/thmb/PVu9oszxvkF23fxc3NBwm1YQEhI=/3000×2119/filters:fill(auto,1)/American-Progress-painting-Gast-3000-3x2gty-5685a13e5f9b586a9e1e3eb0.jpg

    All that was done by 1890. Barbed wire, the railroad and the defeat of the Plains Indians finished it off. To read of those wild and woolly times is to marvel at a civilization long gone. It is to remember the way we were: the freest people in History. All gone. All gone.

    “And he’d tell you a tale of the old days,
    When the country was wild all around,
    Sit out under the stars of the Milky Way,
    And listen while the coyotes howl….

    Now the long horns are gone,
    And the drovers are gone,
    The Comanches are gone,
    And the outlaws are gone,
    Geronimo is gone,
    And Sam Bass is gone,
    And the lion is gone,
    And the red wolf is gone.

    Well he cursed all the roads and the oil men,
    And he cursed the automobile,
    Said this is no place for an hombre like I am,
    In this new world of asphalt and steel.”

    • Skorpion October 12, 2021, 5:20 PM

      I searched those lyrics, and found the wonderful song “Coyotes” by Don Edwards.

      • Mike Austin October 12, 2021, 5:23 PM

        I cannot listen to that song—or even read the lyrics—without tears running down my face.

      • Tom Hyland October 12, 2021, 7:05 PM

        First time I heard that song it was included in the Werner Herzog film “Grizzly Man.” True life story… and true death… of Timothy Treadwell and his escapades to Alaska to film and hang out with the grizzlies. This film is an adventure, a biography and a psychological study of a confused, conflicted and ignorant dude. The film will stick with you for a long time.

        • Mike Austin October 12, 2021, 7:19 PM

          Gerard and his commenters dealt with bears and Treadwell here:

          https://americandigest.org/regarding-what-those-bears-have-really-been-doing-in-the-woods-all-these-years/

          Treadwell had the disease of actually believing his own fantasies about bears in particular and the wilds in general. Most environmentalist-types have never set a foot in the actual jungle. But Treadwell had the courage—if that’s the right word—of his convictions, such as they were in his deranged mind. He lived in his fantasy world until a bear—literally—dragged him out of it. His girlfriend too.

          Treadwell and those like him cannot really deal adequately with the real world. Usually this only makes a man into a crank, a weirdo. With Treadwell’s case it made him into a fanatic. His fanaticism was ended in the belly of a bear.

          A warning: At that link is a minute or so of Treadwell as he was being devoured—no video, only audio thank God. It is not pretty. Why should it be?

  • Dirk October 12, 2021, 6:16 PM

    Could it be the simplicity of Dire Straights stuff which makes it/them genius? .

    Well don GV, music truly is the language of our world.

    VI

  • Fletcher Christian October 13, 2021, 1:54 AM

    Some say that the problem of Western, and especially American, civilisation is that there is no longer a frontier for young, rambunctious men (and these days women as well) to risk getting killed on.

    To cut a long story short, Elon Musk (who is American by choice BTW) is doing his best, with all his waking hours and all his money, to fix that problem.

    • Mike Austin October 13, 2021, 4:13 AM

      That was indeed the thesis of historian Frederick Jackson Turner. He wondered why Americans were so different from Europeans—independent, violent, democratic, indifferent to established aristocracies and culture, egalitarian—-and believed that it was the constantly moving frontier that allowed the formation of the American mind and soul.

      Turner published his thesis in 1893, three years after the frontier had disappeared.

      Nowadays people talk about a “cyber frontier”, but this is just nonsense. No cattle barons, no wagon trains, no Indian wars, no Doc Hollidays or Wyatt Earps, no open land, no horses, no Winchesters or Samuel Colts, no endless forests—in fact, nothing but staring at a machine all day and clicking a mouse.

      Better to die in a gunfight in 1870 Dodge City than die sitting in a cubicle.

    • Dirk October 13, 2021, 3:51 PM

      Few amonths ago I’d shared the short version of a old friend, A PHD, psy, Micheal Leeds, out of Eugene Oregon. He was in depth researching the “ coming of age” different cultures celebrate for their young boys and girls.

      Being the knucklehead I can be, I refused to entertain the possibility of Mike’s research. Slowly ever so slowly I came to the uninformed conclusion, most,,,,,,,will many,,,,,, races do celebrate their youth coming of legal age.

      Use to Remove the confusion of early life, and signal maturity, by the adults daily in their lives. Interestingly White Americans are one of the few whom do not celebrate this passage.

      Every generations gone thru similar issues, this is just history repeating itself.

      Heck, I forgot my point!

      VI

      • Mike Austin October 15, 2021, 7:55 AM

        White folks in general and white Americans in particular have had no need of a public “coming of age” ceremony. Such a ritual has been one mark of tribal cultures. Latinos still celebrate a quinceañera:

        “A celebration of the fifteenth birthday of a Hispanic or Latina girl, typically including a Roman Catholic Mass and often serving as a social debut.”

        The North American Plains Indians had a ritual for boys that stressed drug use, isolation, physical torture and demonic possession. The more gentle, thoughtful and intellectual Indian boys could not survive such a “ceremony”. Their kind was weeded out in a dysgenic fashion, leaving only the brutal, the physically strong, the indifferent and the cruel. If you ever wondered why the wars of the whites against the Plains Indians were so horrifically violent, well now you know.

        African tribal societies were quite similar, again stressing isolation and pain. Both boys and girls had to suffer sometimes extreme genital mutilation without make a sound. Imagine what type of lad or lass would survive such an ordeal. That explains why Africa is, well, Africa.

        In America the coming of age was more subtle. A boy would exchange his shorts for trousers. He might begin work in the fields. He might be sent off for a formal education. He might be introduced to his father’s business associates and allowed to drink and smoke in their presence. In rural areas he might be given his first rifle.

        As for American urban youth of today: In black and Latino gangs rape and murder serve to indicate tribal acceptance. Among urban whites “coming of age” has been pushed back so late that it is no longer uncommon to find a 30 year-old man-child still living with his parents.

        Ad what kind of society is created by such soft, weak, irresponsible and effeminate creatures? You should know. We live in one.

  • ghostsniper October 13, 2021, 8:17 AM

    I’d pay $1000 cash to sit in front of Knopfler one on one and watch him play an unplugged Martin D28 for 1 hour.

    I do tim too, fingerpicking, but not nearly to the level as he and it doesn’t come intuitively to me as it seems to to him.

    tim = thumb index middle (fingers)

  • Uncle Jefe October 14, 2021, 11:16 AM

    Saw him play an acoustic set with Clapton decades ago, and once saw Dire Straits live…
    If you haven’t heard the album he did with Chet Atkins, “Neck and Neck”, you’re missing out.

  • Boat Guy October 14, 2021, 12:49 PM

    Privileged to see MK and this line up a Red Rocks. Best there is – except for nearly everything else he’s ever done. Genius. Whoever wrote ” from God to Knopfler” had it right.
    See “Guitar Stories” from SKY 1 with John Ilsley asking Mark about six of his guitars.

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