T.Love, top Polish rock band paying tributes to Bob Dylan

By Filip Lobodzinski

Dear Untolders, today you’re going to learn  some Polish. I know, Christmas is not every day.

For here I’ll introduce you to one of the top Polish rock bands called T.Love. They’ve been on hiatus since October 2017, but for the last three decades they were one of the most popular, and yet relevant artistically, bands on the Polish rock scene.

They formed in 1982 in Częstochowa, a city in south-central Poland, known broadly for its Pauline monastery, home to the Black Madonna painting and a Virgin Mary shrine. But Częstochowa [pronounced tchenstoHOvah] is also home to many fantastic musicians, playing jazz, rock and pop.

The band was formed around Zygmunt Staszczyk, their leader, frontman, lead vocalist, main lyricist, occasional composer and spiritus movens – and their only constant member throughout. Originally, they called themselves Teenage Love Alternative, soon abbreviated to T.Love Alternative. They played strongly punk-infused pub rock and street rock, with rebel lyrics and tunes inspired by both punk rock and rockabilly.

In 1989 they once again shortened their name to T.Love, broadening their stylistic palette with pure rock’n’roll, country, pop, blues etc, and as such they still function, albeit recently only as a dormant band.

Zygmunt (popularly known as „Muniek” since his teens when some school teacher called him that) Staszczyk [pronounced MOOnyeck STAshtchick], born in 1963, is an instantly recognizable, nearly cult figure on the Polish music scene. If I had to compare him to anybody known in the Western rock music, I’d suggest Shane MacGowan, although Muniek is much less self-destructive.

This is what Muniek – whom I’m proud to have known in person since the late eighties – told me about his Dylan fascination:

„I first heard Dylan around 1979 on the Polish radio. I was very into punk rock and new wave and Dylan’s harsh voice appealed to me a lot. The songs I heard then were those classic tunes like Girl from the North Country and The Times They Are a-Changin’. Soon afterward I was given a copy of Desire album which was rather unusual back then, being an average boy from a Częstochowa playground. In 1975, my beloved grandma had given me English lessons and thanks to that Bob Dylan’s Desire songs were the first rock songs I tried to translate into Polish. I began with Hurricane. Years later I wrote a song inspired by the way Dylan tells the story in that song”.

It was called King and told a romantic outlaw story. To this day, King remains one of relatively very few Polish rock songs with a storyline, much in the Dylan vein.

Dylan has always been the most important artist for Muniek. He saw him live on numerous occasions, the first one was in East Berlin in 1987 where Dylan performed with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and the last time in July 2019 in London’s Hyde Park, co-headlining with Neil Young.

„We’ve played Dylan songs live many times with our band – says Muniek. – Mostly The Times They Are a-Changin’ in different versions, including reggae. The first time we tried something Dylanesque in the studio was Lucy Phere”.

 

The song appeared in 2012 on their double album Old Is Gold. Before they started writing music Muniek made the band members listen to Bob Dylan a lot so the album is very Dylan orientated. And among the songs we have Luce Phere, musically based loosely on Huck’s Tune from the Lucky You soundtrack. Muniek wrote Polish lyrics:

Więc Lucyfer rzekł do mnie
Pogadajmy spokojnie
Hej chłopaku, jak chcesz dźwignąć swój los?
Nawet głupi ci mówi
Nie podskoczysz królowi
Lepiej ze mną nabijaj swój trzos

Chodźmy razem więc w drogę
Będziesz mówił o Bogu
Ja ci zrobię fantastyczny PR
Kiedy trzeba się schowam
Kiedy trzeba zachowam
Jestem Lucy, a ty będziesz big star

Popatrz jak tu jest pięknie
Już czekają dziewczęta
Mówią słodko, wielbimy dziś cię
Moja trawa zielona
Kokainy ramiona
Mogą pomóc jeśli będzie ci źle.

Me królestwo jest wielkie
To co ludzkie jest piękne
Możesz mówić, że Bóg to twój dar
Mocno ściśnij me dłonie
I pamiętaj o żonie
Ja ci zrobię fantastyczny PR

Mój alkohol ma power
Na twe smutki i żale
Teraz dobrze to czujesz i wiesz
Nawet Jezus pił wino
Więc się napij z dziewczyną
A po kłótni najlepszy jest seks

Patrz kobiety cię pragnę
Coraz mocniej cię łakną
Jesteś królem dziś większym niż Bóg
Ja to wszystko sprawiłem
Ja ci dałem tę siłę
Teraz chłopcze, czas spłacić swój dług

Teraz należysz do mnie
Ja cię srodze upodlę
Możesz mówić, ze Bóg to twój wódz
Będziesz taplał się w błocie
Kiedy trzeba pomogę
Ale potem upodlę cię znów

Lucy, ja już nie mogę
Wolę chyba być z Bogiem
Czemu na mnie uparłeś tak się
Nie wymiękaj dziecino
Jesteś moją ptaszyną
Będę z tobą na dobre i złe

Jestem najlepszym kumplem
Posmutniałeś okrutnie
Ja zachcianki potrzeby twe znam
Powiedz czy chcesz do baru
Czy do konfesjonału
Jeśli trzeba zaprowadzę cię tam

Chodźmy razem więc w drogę
Będziesz mówił o Bogu
Ja ci zrobię fantastyczny PR
Kiedy trzeba się schowam
Kiedy trzeba zachowam
Jestem Lucy Phere a ty będziesz big star

Kiedy trzeba się schowam
Kiedy trzeba zachowam
Jestem Lucy a ty będziesz big star

The verbatim translation follows:

So Lucipher told me
Let’s talk and keep calm
hey boy, how do you want to hoist your fate?
Even fools will tell you
you can’t stand up to a king
you better fill your pouch with me

Let’s walk this road together
you’ll be telling people about God
and I’ll do a fantastic PR for you
I’ll be hidden when needed
I’ll save when needed
I’m Lucy and you’ll be a big star

Look it’s beautiful here
the girls are waiting
they say sweetly We adore you now
my green grass
cocaine’s arms
they can help you when you’re down

My kingdom is great
what is human is beautiful
you may say that God is your gift
hold my hands strongly
and don’t forget your wife
I’ll do a fantastic PR for you

My alcohol is powerful
for your sorrows and grieves
now you feel it and know it so well
even Jesus drank wine
so have a drink with a girl
and sex tastes best after a fight

See, women want you
they need you more and more badly
today you’re a greater king than God
I’m the one who made it
I’m the one who gave you this power
now boy, tome to pay your dues

You belong to me now
I’ll debase you severely
you can say God is your chief
you’ll be drowning in mud
I’ll help you when you need me
and then I’ll debase you again

Lucy, I can’t bear it any more
I think I prefer to be with God
why does it have to be me
Don’t let up baby
you’re my little bird
I’ll be with you for better or worse

You’re my best pal
you’ve become suddenly sad
and I know your whims and needs
tell me do you prefer to go to a bar
or to a confessional
I’ll take you there if yu need it

Let’s walk this road together
you’ll be telling people about God
and I’ll do a fantastic PR for you
I’ll be hidden when needed
I’ll save when needed
I’m Lucy and you’ll be a big star

I’ll be hidden when needed
I’ll save when needed
I’m Lucy and you’ll be a big star

As you see, it’s a temptation story, apparently without a happy ending.

Four years later the final, (at least so far), T.Love album was released, their eponymous album. The special edition brought a bonus CD with five extra songs. The last one of them, done apparently as a side concept, is called Preria (Tribute to Bob Dylan). The album was recorded in summer 2016 but the album was released in autumn, and since that October Dylan was announced as a Nobel-awarded poet, the band decided to include the song in this special edition.

As Muniek says, „Preria is just an appendix, a supplement, perhaps not as much lyrically but more chronologically. The song itself is not very Dylanesque but we wanted to wink our eyes and say We remember and we respect”.

 

The music is written by the band’s keyboardist Michał Marecki and the lyrics are penned by both Muniek and the band’s drummer (and a renowned singer and performer of his own) Jarek „Sidney” Polak. The lyrics were written in April 2016 and are as follows:

PRERIA (TRIBUTE TO BOB DYLAN)

Aaa ale dzisiaj żar
znów spiekota w ustach mych
znów gardło pali jak
za najlepszych moich dni
to słońce grzeje tak
że roztapia każdą myśl
każdą inną oprócz tej
że się znów nawalę dziś
to słońce wie
to słońce wie
jak trudno być poetą
gdy upałem bije mnie
to słońce złe
a ja się muszę przecież schronić gdzieś
zaraz chyba coś wprowadzę
i napiszę słaby wiersz
a moją prerią
znów popłynę za horyzontu kres
a moją strzelbą dziś
zaopiekuje się kulawy pies 

Ref.

Powiedz mi
co znaczy kochać
co znaczy kochać cię
tatuaż na łopatce
w laptopie życie twe
jesteś lekko depresyjna
to tak cudowne jest
bardziej winna niż niewinna
w tym kołowrocie serc
nad rzekę chodźmy dziś
to miasto w słońcu drży

Aaa więc idę dalej
choć już w bani trochę mam
mijam Centralną Street
gdzie się pasie stado dam
ja rzucam lasso swe
zagaduję ile sił
ona mówi – Jesteś menel
gdzie ty byś poetą był
moją prerią ona nie popłynie ze mną gdzieś
i moją strzelbą się niestety
nie zaopiekuje też

And now, the translation:

PRAIRIE (TRIBUTE TO BOB DYLAN)
Aaa oh it’s so hot today
my mouth is scorching once again
and my throat is burning as
during my best times
this sun is heating so much
that it melts every thought
every thought except that
I may get hammered today
this sun knows
this sun knows
how hard it is to be a poet
when it beats me with its heat waves
this bad sun
and I need somewhere to hide
I think I’ll pour something in
and I’ll write a weak poem
and across my prairie
I’ll flow past the horizon
and my gun today
will be taken care of by a lame dog (a dog with a lame leg = nearly nobody, a metaphor for being abandoned)

Chorus:

Tell me
what it means to love
what it means to love you
a tattoo on your shoulder blade
your life in your laptop
you’re slightly depressive
it’s so wonderful
more guilty than innocent
in this turnstile of hearts
let’s go down to the river today
this city trembles in the sun

Aaa so I walk on
although I’m a bit shot now
I cross the Centralna Street
where a herd of ladies graze
I cast my noose
and chat hem up as hard as I can
she says – You’re a bum
how could you be a poet
across my prairie
she won’t flow with me nowhere
and my gun, alas
won’t be taken care of by her

As Muniek himself says, the lyrics are just lyrics and they do not pay tribute to Bob Dylan the way one could expect. It’s the song itself, the fact of its inclusion and its subtitle that make them valid here. But, as I underlined above, the whole artistic life of Muniek Staszczyk is somehow influenced and blessed by Dylan’s songs and Bob Dylan’s figure as an artist.

And just as an encore, I’d like to pay my own tribute once again to Muniek because in 2016 we finally did what we had dreamt of years ago – we recorded our duo cover of The Times They Are a-Changin’ in my translation – as Czasy nadchodzą nowe. We did it differently to the omnipresent way, we changed the signature and later sang it several times live, together with other songs dylan.pl, my own band, had recorded on our 2017 album.

 

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