Sunday, 19 January 2014

Dominion Road

“But its getting better now
He found it in him to forgive
He walked the city
And he found a place to live
In a halfway house
Halfway down Dominion Road”

Dominion Road – The Mutton Birds

This song is a classic in New Zealand music history – so much so that early last year someone placed a plaque on Dominion Road which said “you are halfway down Dominion Road”. Don McGlashan has said he wrote this song after making up a back story about a man he once saw walking down the road. And now whenever this song comes on people tend to talk about Dominion Road, and if you ever have to go to Dominion road there is always some joke about going halfway down it.

But what if I told you this song wasn’t about Dominion Road?

Let me speculate here – and I am not doing this to ruin a classic New Zealand song – but take the thoughts of Dominion Road and transport them to some other street in New Zealand, or even internationally. Dominion Road could easily be Karangahape Road or Cuba Street or Riccarton Road or George Street. It’s less about the name Dominion Road and more about what happens to a poor lost man while walking down a road.

I speculate about Dominion Road to bring up the point that we associate different messages with songs. It is the people who listen to bring that association to life, whether it be accurate to what the writer intended, or something completely wrong but still fitting. I have been thinking over the last little while how often I speculate well outside the original intention of songs when writing this blogs, but my interpretation still fits within the overall message the song has.

It is this idea which really captures the important of music – individuals take from music what they need and what they want. Yes, songs mean a lot to those who originally wrote them, but I think if you put it out into the public then you need to be prepared for it to lose the initial intention, but in the process gather much more meaning. I have gotten in to many debates about the meaning of songs with others, and they will stand by their argument and I will stand by mine. Neither of us are likely to be right, as we weren’t in with the song making process, but I find it interesting to hear what others have gathered about a song.

So is Dominion Road actually about a man being half way down Dominion Road? Probably. But what matters more is how a man came to be in a half house halfway down a road, and how he can get away from it. Because whether this song is Dominion Road or not, I bet you take from this song that you never want to be that man stuck half way down Dominion Road.

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