Lyrics · Music · Word of the week

Word of the week: paraphernalia

Liam Gallagher is back. His new single, “Wall of Glass” (check out the official video here), has been all over the radio, or at least the radio stations I listen to, and he gave a compelling performance at Glastonbury. I watched it from the comfort of my living-room early one Sunday morning after a later-than-planned night out. He had come back unannounced (as far as I knew) earlier in June, at the One Love Manchester concert, organized by Arianna Grande after the bombing at the Manchester Arena in May. I had been half-watching the One Love concert with my 12-year-old son, having heard some of the broadcast on Radio 2 while we were in the car. When Liam Gallagher came on we paid more attention: “Rock ’n roll Star”, “Wall of Glass” and then “Live Forever”, with Chris Martin on rhythm guitar (take a look here if you haven’t seen it yet).

Like me, Gallagher was born on 21 September and that’s enough for me to feel an affinity with him, even though we have led such different lives. He is, after all, a proper rock ’n roll star, probably the last one that this country has produced. (I wrote about other people born on 21 September in this piece last year.) If I were 10 years younger Oasis would probably have been the biggest band in my life, just as the Stone Roses were for people five years younger than me, but people born in the 1960s, like me, had the Clash and the Jam. Every generation, if it’s lucky, has a guitar-based rock ’n roll band of its own with a charismatic frontman (or three in the case of the Clash) to lead the riot.

The opening verse of “Wall of Glass” hints at the dangers of keeping secrets and features the word paraphernalia: “You’ve been keeping secrets in ya / you’ve been keeping paraphernalia oh / I think you know”. Both of these things were enough to make me sit up and pay attention. I can’t recall another song that mentions paraphernalia, and it’s such a good word. The Oxford Dictionary definition is “Miscellaneous articles, especially the equipment needed for a particular activity”. (For many people the activity in question would, of course, be drug-taking.) Its original meaning was for property owned by a married woman that was separate from her dowry. (As the Oxford definition states: “from medieval Latin, based on Greek parapherna ‘property apart from a dowry’, from para ‘distinct from’ + pherna … ‘dower’.”) I had to check whether the word has made an appearance on any of the pages on this Blog, and unsurprisingly it has (this piece from last March, and this one from last October).

In another piece from last year I quoted Jennifer Egan’s advice about secrecy (specifically, “Keeping secrets will kill you”). Liam Gallagher’s words provide another possible outcome for those who keep secrets: “One day you’ll shatter like a wall of glass.” Good song, good lyrics; I’m looking forward to the album.



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