Lyrics & Analysis: Answer To Life

I’ve searched in the depths of my mind to find
The answer to life is be kind, not blind
Show love above all
And your life won’t be so hard no more

People may fight and make war and roar
The answer to life is make love, no more
Show love above all
And your life won’t be so hard no more

	I go with a gang called the Vegetable Men
	I smash up the hippies whenever I can
	They get on my nerves with their flowers and love
	They sit in Soho while I’m in a bar/pub
	Eating mince tart I’m playing my dart
	I see if there’s any crumpet near
	I don’t want nothing more than my beer

	I go with a gang called the Vegetable Men
	I like to kick cops whenever I can
	They say that I weren’t too bright in my school
	But if I can beat cops I can’t be no fool
	Breaking their bones
	Chucking round stones
	Spreading round fear and hate
	I don’t want nothing more than my beer
	(repeat last four lines)
Repeat first verse

Repeat third and fourth verse (with last four lines repeated twice)

Organ fade out

Jim Pembroke 1967

Artist: Blues Section
       Jim Pembroke, vocals, tambourine (probably)
       Hasse Walli, rhythm and lead guitars
       Måns Groundstroem, bass, piano, Hammond organ
       Ronnie Österberg, drums, backing vocals
Release: From the album BLUES SECTION, Love Records LRLP 3, 1967
Studio: Finnvox
Producer: Atte Blom, Otto Donner
Engineer: Erkki Hyvönen

General comment: This is the second track on Blues Section’s one and only ‘real’ LP. For more general comment see ‘Only Dreaming’.

The Music: The song shows a big step forward in Pembroke’s knowledge of chords, as he now incorporates both minor chords, sevenths and major sevenths (augmented chords). The many shifts between major and minor are reminiscent of the Zombies around the same time.

During part of the third and fourth verse the bass stays on the root note while the chord sequence features a chromatically descending note (starting on the root). Again, this is reminiscent of the Zombies and is a feature Pembroke would also use in later compositions such as ‘Just my Situation’. All these compositional ‘tricks’ feel natural and easy to play on a piano but not on a guitar. I therefore suggest that this is one of the earliest Pembroke songs to have been composed on piano.

Along with these harmonic changes, the shifts in time signature between 3/4 (waltz) and 4/4 (straight rock) reflect the changes in the narrative and the very different views on life presented by the two narrators featured in the songs.

As with many other Blues Section songs the drum sound is weak and takes a lot of energy away from the music. Otherwise the rhythm section has improved compared to the two first singles, but is still not entirely convincing. Walli is in a quiet mood, though there are both a rhythm and a lead guitar here.

The addition of organ and piano might lead you to expect a sound reminiscent of the Band or Procol Harum, both two-keyboard line-ups from around the same time (and Pembroke’s declared inspirations). However, those bands had ace keyboard players, while Groundstroem was and is primarily a bass player; his keyboard playing is merely adequate. Furthermore the abundant use of vibrato, presumably to make up for the lack of a Lesley cabinet, belongs more in cinema organ music than rock ‘n’ roll.

Otherwise a major feature is the absence of Koivistoinen’s sax. Österberg, who around this time released some solo singles, sings the harmony voice on the line ‘I don’t want nothing more than my beer’.

Like many other Blues Section tracks this isn’t bad at all. The song is interesting and the singing excellent, despite unnecessary double-tracking slurring the lyric (during the 4/4 verses). Still, there is also a feeling that a few improvements could have gone a long way to make this a real classic.

The lyric: This is the first ‘two-in-one song’ we know from Pembroke’s hand, a feature he would turn into one of his trademarks later on. We have not only two separate melodies with different time signatures alternating, but also two narrators, each representing one faction of youth culture at the time. As the place name ‘Soho’ occurs (a district of central London known for both fashion and pornography) we must assume that Pembroke is dealing with specifically English circumstances.

The hippies weren’t yet a part of the London youth culture scene that Pembroke left for good in 1966; that only came about a year later. But here we have a genuine hippie as one of the narrators, showing that Pembroke stayed in touch with developments in his home country.

The second narrator seems to be a rocker, but could also be a skinhead. By 1967 the London Mod scene (which Pembroke seems to have been somewhat involved with, or at least sympathetic to) had split down the middle, with ‘Soft Mods’ becoming hippies, and ‘Hard Mods’ going the other way to become skinheads – to put it roughly.

Each of the characters here have their own approach – or ‘answer’ – to life. The hippie is, of course, into love and peace, though not for the sake of others, only to ensure that his own life ‘won’t be so hard no more’.

The skinhead/rocker is in a gang called the Vegetable Men. To be a ‘vegetable’ is also slang for being brain dead. Still, Pembroke isn’t entirely blind to some kind of ‘social excuse’, mentioning poor schooling.

The idea of the skinhead/rocker seeing the police as his main enemy and someone he likes to ‘kick’ is also typical for the situation in England, where confrontations between police and different parts of the civilian population are often seen as gang wars in their own right.

‘Crumpet’ is time-typical slang for a good looking girl.

Pembroke seems to omit the plural ‘s’ on ‘tart’ and ‘dart’, which is puzzling. An influence from Finnish, perhaps?

All in all, this is an interesting and different lyric and another step forward towards the Pembroke we all know and love.

-- Claes Johansen with thanks to Nic Stayt, 2007