With AOC’s resident musicologist and broadly unemployable dilettante…
No. 7: Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens
We all know the story, but I’ll briefly recap. After a promising start to his career, with impressive performances for England A under his belt, 20-year-old Graeme Swann was fast-tracked into the full international arena in the summer of 1999 and subsequently taken on the 1999/00 winter tour of South Africa.
On that tour Swann made a big impact, but sadly rather than his cricketing abilities, it was his off-field antics that caught the eye. Was his personality misunderstood? Was his confidence wrongly interpreted as arrogance? Was he just a young lad that needed some guidance? Whatever it was, the coaching staff had made up their minds, and English cricket suddenly had a new enfante terrible, which is, of course, French for ‘bit of a tit’.
So, in 2004, after four solid but unspectacular years back on the county grind with Northants, very few would have predicted the meteoric late-career trajectory that Swann has gone on to enjoy. One man, however, who did foretell Swann’s messianic second coming before anyone else was American folk musician Sufjan Stevens.
For those unfamiliar with Sufjan and his music, often compared to Elliott Smith, he is renowned for playing a variety of different instruments, and his name (pronounced soof-jahn), of Persian origin, means “comes with sword”, so like Swann, could well be considered something of a multi-talented, blade-swishing allrounder.
Sufjan wrote the majority of his 2004 album Seven Swans while on tour in England during 2003. It is a sparser record than his previous offerings, with hushed vocals and a lone banjo, and many of the songs tell stories directly lifted from the bible.
All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands is a quote from Isaiah 55:12; In the Devil’s Territory is a reference to Matthew 4:1; and The Transfiguration was inspired by Mark 9:2-8. This theological theme led many to believe that the album’s title song Seven Swans, arguably the most delicate and haunting moment on the record, was a reference to the seven angels within Revelation 8:2.
Alas, I can confirm this view is incorrect; the song was not based on the Book of Revelation, or indeed Isaiah, Matthew or Mark. The song was inspired by Graeme 7:33. On June 28, 2003, Sufjan informed his tour manager of a vivid dream in which he saw a vision of seven swans before being visited by a large-chinned Lord.
The following day the significance of this premonition became clear, Swann took a career best 7-33 against Derbyshire at the County Ground, Northampton, and Sufjan’s classic song about Graeme’s imminent resurrection to cricketing deity was conceived. The song builds gradually to its rousing finale, a direct warning for any batsmen looking to use their feet against Swann:
He will take you, If you run
He will chase you, He will take you
If you run, He will chase you
Because he is the Lord
Click here to read the truth behind Daniel Bedingfield’s Gotta Get Thru This