Tuesday, November 27, 2012

But I Can't Stop Trying I Can't Give Up Hope: Don't Put This On Your Mix CD

When it comes to romance, the older I get the more I find myself turning into a fascist.

I'm not bitter -- in fact I love the idea of love, or at least my idea of love, which includes such radical components as "should make you happier than it makes you sad" and "shouldn't be all that complicated". I am not a fan, however, of ideas of love that are based on co-dependency or mediocrity or that every kiss begins with Kay.

(Well that last one is just OBVIOUSLY wrong, am I right? If you see me at the gym and I am heaving a series of exasperated sighs, it's most likely because of those commercials. It's hard, being a pedantic literalist at Christmastime.)

What I mean to say is that very often in music, as in life, what is presented as "love" is actually a toxic bruise of negativity wrapping a rotten core. So if, by any chance, you find yourself in the very specific situation of looking for a 60s R&B jam to put on your romantic love mix this holiday season, may I offer a suggestion?

Not this song:

The song: The Miracles, "Ooh Baby Baby"; 1965

He cheated on his lady, she broke up with him, he's at the end of his rope, he's crying, but he is convinced that he still loves her -- and also reminds her that she's made mistakes too.

Great. Lovely. Real nice.

This song is NOT romantic. It's a pretty good picture of what happens to somebody who takes life and lack of consequences for granted (and a really good response to this sort of thing can, by the way, be found in Gladys Knight's super-wonderful song "The Only Time You Love Me [Is When You're Losing Me]"). But it's not romantic, by which I mean that it's not an inspiration to love well.

(And it is very not romantic to "fight" for a relationship that's clearly dead and bad. So seriously, Smokey: give up hope. It's cleaner that way.)

This song might be better:

The song: Aaron Neville, "Tell It Like It Is"; 1967

This gets a lot closer to romance for me because of its exhortation to "go on and live, baby" (as previously discussed, me = a big sucker for that sort of thing) and its straightforwardness. Yeah! Tell it like it is! That's a good thing!

But if I were making a romantic love mix this holiday season -- I'm not -- but if I WERE:

The song: Brenton Wood, "I Like The Way You Love Me"; 1967

This would almost certainly be on it. It's not radical, but I appreciate its focus on hey, the other person in the relationship, as well as on the relationship itself.

But, who am I kidding, it all comes down to that chiming crescendo in the background. I am not sure what instrument produced it, perhaps a marimba, but it certainly does melt this fascist's heart.



Thursday, November 22, 2012

I Know I'll Often Stop And Think About Them: Songs for Thanksgiving

I used to not like this song. The implication that One True Love should somehow supersede a person's entire previous life ruffled my feathers, although I appreciated the beautifully simple and distinctive drum line and the sweetness of those notes at the beginning.

But as I listened to it today, on Thanksgiving which is a holiday about love, gratitude, and the passing of time, I finally felt I got it.

It's about letting go of the many little traps of memory, both good and bad, that life and milestones present to us and, as the lyrics say, thinking of love as something new.

The song: The Beatles, "In My Life"; 1965


On holidays it's natural to think about past years and to compare and contrast. And I'll be honest here: I sometimes find that to be a black hole of sadness. But I feel fortunate in that the sadness lies in how sad I USED to be, instead of some contemplation of what I may have lost.

There are no guarantees of happiness but it seems to me the best investment anyone could make is in their friends.

Bernie Taupin gets it right very rarely, but when he does, he does -- and today I'm thankful there are people out there like you.

The song: Elton John, "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters"; 1975



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Well I'm Sorry I Don't Pray That Way: No, This Version Wins

"Tainted Love" is by FAR my favorite song to sing in the shower, so I was delighted to come across this lesser-known original version of it. Before clicking, I thought to myself,

"Great! I will do a Version v. Version of this because what's better than listening to 'Tainted Love'? Listening to 'Tainted Love' five times in a row!!!!!!!"

(Previous Versions v. Version: "Running Out Of Fools"; "The First Cut Is The Deepest"; "Tracks of My Tears")


The song: Gloria Jones, "Tainted Love"; 1964

But there will be no Version v. Version of this. No, sir.

Because the original SHATTERS the competition. Kills it. Wins forever, everything.

This original is exactly what I needed to elevate my feelings about "Tainted Love" from grudging admiration to undying love, because it subtracts the snideness of the Soft Cell version and replaces it with sheer, unadulterated tearing it up. (I am not going to stop you from watching the Soft Cell music video though, because it IS gloriously weird.)

This day, November 17 2012, will live in my own personal history: The Day I First Heard The Original Version of "Tainted Love" As Sung By Marc Bolan's Girlfriend*.

(RIGHT?? This chick was the coolest. THE coolest. The COOLEST. Go go Gloria Jones forever.)


*Further Googling has informed me that not only was Gloria Jones Marc Bolan's girlfriend, but also the mother of his child "Rolan Bolan" (can't make that up!), and also sadly the person who was drunkenly driving in the car crash that killed him. Call me a bleeding heart, but I'd file that under "personal tragedy of the sort all too common among hard-partying glam-rockers in the 1970s" not "moral failing".

And this song is still the best.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I Know They Don't Sound The Way I Planned Them To Be: TK TK

A few months ago, around when I moved into my new place, I got on a real kick for self-improvement. Now I drink water with lemon in it (according to the highly reputable text Alkalize or Die! by Dr. Theodore Baroody, this is all I need to become immortal) and I try not to talk unless I have something interesting to say.

I am not sure how this is affecting me. But I do feel hydrated.


The song: When In Rome, "The Promise"; 1988

This is an excellent example of a "cheesy" song that nevertheless resonates with something very deep inside most people who consider themselves self-reflective (as I am sure all of you reading this do).

And this is just to say that there are interesting things TK on In Bed With Amy Wilson including:

- A guest post about the guilty pleasure song!
- That post about Frasier and Twin Peaks I promised!
- A seasonal post featuring the single most poignant Christmas song EVER! (It's not "River", but good guess.)

And to say thank you for reading my blog, which has never not felt like a meaningful endeavor to me even though by far the leading search term by which people find it is "John Oates Plastic Surgery".*



*The second most popular search term leading to my blog is "Daryl Hall Plastic Surgery".

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don't You Know Me I'm Your Native Son: "City of New Orleans"

What I think a lot of people don't realize about being American is that part of being American is feeling kind of weird about it.

We have an impulse toward self-doubt and self-critique that is the flip side of also some militant jingoistic patriotism, we're fascinated by royalty because we can't instinctively understand it, and we all have some investment in being number one -- although that does takes different forms.

Although I personally care about a lot of things, I really care about culture. And American culture, which is typified almost entirely by the complete impossibility of typifying it, has produced some of the finest art, literature, music, movies, and so on, that I know.

Even THROUGH being racist and torn apart by racism, sexist and torn apart by sexism, xenophobic and torn apart, homophobic and torn apart, this country and people living in it have somehow managed to produce works of art that are universal. That say something about humanity. That say something about American humanity.

I am proud to be an American because I have to be, because I will never be anything but American, and because literally almost every single person I love in the entire world is also an American -- so we can't be all that bad.


The song: Arlo Guthrie, "City of New Orleans"; 1972

This song, and the line Don't you know me, I'm your native son, are poignant to me because I -- much like, I would suspect, many others -- have often wondered if America knows me, or if I will ever know and understand it.

I don't know.

Happy Election Day.



Thursday, November 1, 2012

You Always Wanted A Lover I Only Wanted A Job: "What Have I Done To Deserve This?"

Okay so there's a lot of pretending that goes on in my life. I think it's a natural consequence of a) living alone and b) an overactive brain.

It's not all Wes Anderson, though.

Sometimes I find myself in the opening credits of a "Mary Tyler Moore"/"Ally McBeal"-style show about a career girl dealing with various zany challenges (and the occasional Very Special Episode about something serious).

This show is never ever set in 2012 but always in some sort of mythical retro past, probably the early 90s if I really try to pin it down. There's a lot of pink and teal and I'm usually wearing my hair in some sort of elaborate French twist with a tiger stripe of blush on my cheeks. As you might suspect the credits involve me doing things like walking down the street jauntily, twirling around for no reason, laughing over a cup of coffee with a group of ethnically diverse girlfriends, wearing hats, and making concerned faces.

And this is the theme song.

The song: Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield, "What Have I Done To Deserve This?"; 1987

(I'd like to pause here and give credit to my friend Molly, who commented once a long time ago that she wanted to star in a paranormal/spy/detective show with "Superstition" as the theme song, which I think is just an excellent idea and which started me down this thought-road.)

Aren't we all just the stars of our own workplace-soap-comedy-romantic-drama?

Previous Dusty Springfield: "Make It With You"