A few weeks ago I wrote about AC/DC's "Rock 'N' Roll Train" and proclaimed my dislike of rock and roll songs about rock and roll as a general rule. I stand by that, but I'm about to equivocate just a little. A great song is a great song. Why shouldn't an artist write about art? Why shouldn't they write about another artist?
Taken from his seventh studio album, Get Lucky, "Monteleone" is that beautiful kind of song that has a specific story behind it yet has a universal appeal. For those interested in the actual story, John Monteleone is a guitar maker who crafted a beautiful guitar for Knopfler. During the process, Monteleone would periodically send progress updates to Knopfler. Those notes and the beautiful instrument that resulted stuck with Knopfler and "Monteleone" is the result.
A song about a guitar? Didn't B.B. King pretty much corner that market with "Lucille?" Maybe, but as always there is more beneath the surface. The opening line of the song is "The chisels are calling/it's time to make sawdust." I love that. It's a call. It's an invitation. The art beckons its creator, its master. The beautiful creation's time has arrived. It is ready to enter the world, to exist, to be viewed, heard, and experienced. "The chisels are calling;" the tools of the trade are ready to dance, playing their part in shaping something new. "It's time to make sawdust;" let's make a mess in the pursuit of something beautiful. It's a love song between the art, the artist, his tools, and the process.
In our 24-hour, multi-tasking, congested world it feels like there is never enough time to do anything, let alone do anything well or anything that brings us real pleasure. I'm not so far up myself to call myself an artist, but writing is a craft I've chosen and yet I don't spend nearly enough time working at it. "The keyboard is calling" doesn't have the same poetry, but I adore the notion that somewhere, my laptop, my pens, my notebooks are sitting, calling to me to put down the TV remote and bring life to them.
The music is, quite simply, beautiful. An elegant, lovely string arrangement opens the song and floats in and out throughout. Knopfler does some lovely acoustic picking, and while this song is certainly no downer there is an air of earnestness and just a touch of sadness. Perhaps the song reflects the heart of an artist whose work will never be done, the restlessness of a soul who will never stop pursuing unattainable perfection in his work.
Exquisite, delicate, lovely, elegant…
The chisels are calling
It's time to make sawdust