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Hollow Point

This remarkable song by Chris Wood combines a traditional style of folk tune and traditional story telling but of a modern significant event. It may start by echoing the words of several traditional folk songs entitled Arise You Drowsy Sleepers [note] , but the events of this tale are specific to July 22nd Menezes


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Read the lyrics

Jean Charles de Menezes was shot on July 22nd 2005 by armed police or special forces on high alert following the London bombings of July 7th 2005 and some failed bombing attempts on July 21st.
It has been suggested that these events predisposed the police to shoot first and ask questions later, though the inquest jury was unable to decide on that issue

There is poignancy, pathos, tension, a climax and many contrasts between the innocence of the victim, the failures of the police and their technology and the inevitability of the end.

Both the innocent young man and the individual police are caught up in events that, once underway, they are powerless to stop. Somehow a relentless series of decisions and accidents presume him to be a terrorist bomb threat and the full force of the police machinery descends upon the young unarmed man wearing only a thin cotton jacket.

The song’s title is both a specific reference to the type of bullet used to kill him and perhaps a suggestion of the incident as a hollow victory and a pointless one, unleashing powerful forces on a young innocent. A hollow point bullet is a bullet with a pit or hollow in its tip, designed to expand when it enters a target to decrease penetration and maximise tissue damage. It is generally illegal in the UK.

The first refrain seems to be directed at the listening audience as drowsy sleepers. On investigation it is the subject of the tale, who overslept. As The Guardian report says:
Their [the surveillance team] suspicions increased because they saw De Menezes texting and talking on his mobile phone. In fact, the 27-year-old electrician had overslept and was late for work on the other side of London.

The song reinforces the inevitability of the end with an hour glass image and with music that builds up tension from solo guitar by adding bass, drums and cymbal and an eerie screeching sound that sets one’s teeth on edge.

“through the hour glass the sand is falling -
There is nothing they can do ….”

Here is the inevitability of the tale. No-one can stop the events. In fact decisions have been made at a distance based on faulty information, a communication system that cannot reach the people involved and no intention of giving him warning of their next step:

“they gave him no instructions
That an innocent man could have understood..”

At this point, entirely unknown to him, De Menezes’s fate has been decided.

The “pathetic fallacy”, that feature which more usually sets spooky events in dark shadowy woods, is here used to contrast the “gorgeous summer morning” with the “shock and awe” (a phrase used by the US military to describe their approach to the bombing of Iraq) of the public death of an innocent man in the prosaic surroundings of a London tube station.

Origins of "Awake arise ...

Arise, arise, you drowsy sleeper,
Arise, arise, it's almost day.
Oh who is there at my bedroom window,
Weeping there so bitterly.

Miss Ollie Murray, Missouri, 1927. Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, vol. I, British Ballads and Songs, pp. 244-249.
The Traditional Ballad Index gives the earliest date for "The Drowsy Sleeper" as 1855

Arise, arise, you drowsy sleeper,
Awake, awake, it's almost day.
O come into your bedroom window
And hear what your true love do say.     
Dorset, 1830's

Wake, o wake, you drowsy sleeper
Wake, o wake, it is almost day,
How can you sleep, you cruel creature
Since you have stolen my heart away.
Collected from Rebecca King Jones, NC 1939


 See also