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Featuring the songs of Nick Sullivan

Demos, discussion, lyrics, sheet music

Actions Are So Clear


Album:  Songs Sung Sideways

6. Actions Are So Clear

For many practical purposes — including many relating to the enforcement of criminal justice — what we do is given far greater weight than the internal processes from which our actions arise. It could hardly be otherwise. Why should it matter what we think or feel? But like actions may spring from very unlike thoughts, and the greater the extravagance of the act under view, the more one asks whether thoughts and feelings did in some way matter after all.

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd."
Voltaire (1694-1778)

The Song

Why should it matter what you think or feel when actions are so clear? Actions Are So Clear sounds like (what used to be called?) a protest song but it’s really more of a meditation. How does your reaction to the question evolve as the scale of the actions under view increases? From that point of view, it’s the middle verse, central in more ways than one, where the balance may start to shift. How do you feel about those men leaving?

Walt: If actions are so clear, why do we need so many dang words?

Nick: (Pirouettes.)

The Music

This song offers a longish, somewhat static, chord progression behind a longish, somewhat unvarying melody, here executed on a single percussion instrument. It doesn’t sound very promising, even after Walt explains to you how good it is. It would be helpful if a changing musical texture were to contribute some of the fluidity lacking in the other elements, so that’s what our piano arrangement goes for. The pivotal nature of the middle verse, mentioned above, earns it a contrasting arrangement that continues with variations into the succeeding instrumental. For the third verse, the piano simply reiterates its first verse part.

Lyrics and Chords

Verse 1

E                           A      E

Two men sitting in a subway train,


Homeward bound;

E                                 A

Every seat is full in the crowded car,

F#                   B7

Lots more people are standing around,

     E                          E7

Then one man gets up to let his neighbour sit down,

        A                             F#

And the other man gets up because his ass is sore,

    E                A

And they both melt into the crowd

F#                  B7

Standing around the door;

    A                          E

And you might say if you could read their thoughts

   A             E

As they did disappear:

A                             E

Why should it matter what you think or feel

     B7             E

When actions are so clear?

Verse 2

Two men leaving when they should be,

Homeward bound;

One’s got a lover living by the sea,

The other one’s gone to join the underground;

Both have their reasons for the things that they do,

For leaving their families, a-roving to go,

One has a passion, one has a fantasy,

Which one is which I don’t know;

But you might say if their private thoughts

You could somehow overhear:

Why should it matter what you think or feel

When actions are so clear?

Verse 3

Two men lying in the neon green,

Homeward bound;

One shot the other at a cash machine,

The other one managed an answering round;

One man is honest, one is a thief;

One is a teacher, the other’s a hood;

Both have ended a life too brief,

Whether it was bad or good;

And you might say if you could read

Their thoughts on meeting here:

Why should it matter what you think or feel

When actions are so clear?

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