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Blog: Arbeit

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Sometime between us coming back from The German Tour and Christmas I got an email from Mr Martin Petersdorf, asking if I'd like to contribute a track to a tribute album for Manfred Maurenbrecher. I hadn't heard of him so Martin sent me a couple of tracks, which I liked, and thought I'd have a go. The song we decided I should do was called "Arbeit".

Martin sent me the lyrics which, Mr Maurenbrecher being German, were in German. I didn't really feel confident about singing German (not without HUGELY OFFENDING the entire nation with my Comedy Accent) so I decided to do it in ENGLISH. The results I got through Google Translate weren't exactly great so I asked if someone could do a Human Translation for me, just so I knew what it MEANT. A friend of Martin's very kindly did this, but I soon realised it wasn't really enough - it made more sense, but due to the language differences it no longer scanned and didn't RHYME either.

THUS I began my TITANIC TASK: a full on Proper Re-Write, trying to keep the meaning and tone of the song while making it make sense AS a song in English. I felt like Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge (legendary translators of ASTERIX) but without the huge pile of EXTRA GAGS, and set to it - and it took AGES. I thought the difficult bit was going to be working out the chords (something which I always find incredibly difficult) but in comparison that was PEASY. It took me WEEKS of thinking about it and trying out different things but finally, FINALLY, I got it done.

I'm rather pleased with the outcome, I must say, so here for your DELECTATION is a comparison between the textual translation (in italics on the left) and my eventual version.

Maybe today's the dayPerhaps today's the day
When I'm telling myself:When to myself I'll say
Come to work.Come to work
I've considered everything carefully.After due consideration
I could call it my project,Of it's proper designation
(but) I call it work.I call it work
I'm my own boss with thatI'm entirely self-employed
and I won't be phased and And I will not to be annoyed
when I'm off to the park in a secIn a minute in the park
with all the hustle and bustle out there and I'm standing there amidst the passers-byBy all the people and the noise
I won't let get all the stuff that's going onI won't let anything in the world
Get on my nerves, by nothing - Get on my mind or on my nerves
and that is work.And that's work
I hold my nose into the airI hold my nose up in the air
And sense the sweet scent of barbequesSmell the sweet barbecues out there
And that already is workAnd that's work
Lay myself (down) on a bench backwardsBackwards on a bench I'll lie
And watch along the blue skyAnd watch the big blue sky go by
And this (too) is work.And that's work
I want to see the dogs who are pulling the peopleThe dogs are walking people
bark silently (voicelessly) Bark their orders voicelessly
but I look away and don't listen aBut I don't look or listen even though
lthough they're sniffing up to me. They're here sniffing at me
here in the womb of warmness and lightHere in the womb of warmth and light
I'm trying to think of nothing -I'm trying to keep my mind quiet
and that is work!And that's work
I felt a little itchWell I feel a little itch
In my neck but I didn't moveIn my neck, but I don't twitch
And that is work.And that's work
A bird crapped down from a treeA bird is dropping me a gift
I pressed my lips, I didn't twitchAnd all I do is purse my lips
And that is work.And that's work
The good friend that just wanted to A good friend who's out for a walk
have a quick chat at my bench in the parkSee's me and comes by for a talk
with somebody (whom) she just recognizedAll she wants is a quick chat
and called by my name - So she sits down where I am sat
I pretend she'd not exist (she wasn't there)But I pretend she don't exist
And her friendliness fulminates (evaporates)And soon nor does her friendship
And that's work.And that's work
I'm a boat of peace in the Arctic Sea of warsIn a sea of war I'm a boat of peace
The positive pole in the magnetic field.The positive pole in a magnetic field
Laying here, I'm a monument - well, actually I'm a (fire) signalI'm a monument, no I'm a signal fire
I send silence out over the worldAnd the message I'm sending is silence
Keeping silent and enwrapKeeping silent, wrapped up, and maybe
That's, maybe, what's missing the most...Maybe what we're all missing the most is...
Hey, you stupid brats, watch out with your ice creamOi! Bloody kids, mind your icecream
It's dropping on me.You've dropped it all over me
Don't you see what I'm doing here?I'm trying to work here!
In the waves of warmth and lightIn the waves of warmth and light
I am trying to think of nothing I'm trying to keep my mind quiet
And that is work.And that's work
I had drifted of a little (in my dreams)In my dreams I'd drifted off
And thus missed the arrival And I'd missed the arrival of
of the gentlemen from T.V..The television
Now they're standing around me hectically.They cluster round me in a crowd
Am man with a mic, (who's) never silentThey're frantic, flustered and too loud
Is shouting: "We'll seeThey're on a mission
How this dosser on the bench (here)The presenter says "We'll see
Bulky on the outside, blank on the insideIf this dosser holds the key
Will, together with me,Though his appearance is absurd
Hold the mirror up to the world with his silence"His silence might speak to the world
And with that he hands me a glassThe point the camera in my face
I say: Mr. Schlingensief - So that they can hear me say
I'd love you to be silent.""Can't you be quiet?"
I keep my nose (up) in the airI keep my nose held in the air
The ear will forget what is shoutedAnd I'll forget the words they swear
And that is work.And that's work
The sun is dancing yellow dotsThe dots of sunshine dance around
Until you can't count them anymore - Until there's too many to count
The (just) reward for work.My reward for work
Arms and legs are (feeling) lightArms and legs are feeling light
Maybe one (more) thing reaches youOne more sound comes from outside
On that beautiful spring day:On this beautiful spring day
Someone saying: "Move a little" -"Udge up a bit", someone says
And later, on the lane of the light (prob. meaning the route the sun is taking)And later as the sun moves on
Something like: "Just keep on (dozing), I doesn't matter.They say "It doesn't matter, carry on"
Keep at (your) work"Keep at your work"
Sweet work.Sweet work.
Sweet nothing.Sweet nothing.
All original lyrics and song by M. Maurenbrecher

Phew! That was a whole lot of - for want of a better word - WORK! Suddenly that bench in the park seems like a LOVELY idea!

posted 27/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett

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I love this, thank you. What were the chords ?
posted 26/7/2013 by Mark

I _think_ it's something like G D for the intro, then D G D / G C D / G D G C (Em?) / D G D D . It's a bit odd because the lines aren't the same length, took me ages to work it out!!
posted 26/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett

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