Monday, August 25, 2014

That Forever Kind of Love

Even thought this Johnny Cash-like number mentions grooms and brides, it will never be used as a wedding dance. How do we know? Its first lines are: "All of my friends who've gotten wed/ Seem to wish that they were dead." And, as they saying goes, it's all downhill from there.

"I'll lead a bachelor's life instead/ Unless I find/ That forever kind/ of love."

Divorce rates rose sharply in the late 1940s, then settled back down... but never to the almost-nil figures they had been. Still, the stigma on divorce-- societal, religious, etc.-- was still in force, and many unhappy marriages persisted.

"Take a happy bride and groom/ Look at them-- it's love in bloom," just like most of the pop songs of the day insisted it could, would... and should.

"But later, watch their dream go 'boom,'" Simon, as Landis, laments. "They didn't find/ That forever kind/ of love." [emphasis mine]

The chorus paints their average day: "He buries himself the paper/ She complains and nags and wails." For those of us who don't remember, "the paper" is what we called the newspaper, which was printed on actual paper and delivered stories of yesterday's events to our homes. So the more he ignores her, the more upset she gets, and the cycle escalates (it's a three-dimensional cycle, OK? Just... go read your paper.)

Our speaker is almost thoroughly disenchanted. After all, he has been sold in marital perfection since he was tucked in by Mother Goose and entertained by Walt Disney: "It seems like happy endings/ Are only in fairy tales."

Well, almost disenchanted. He still holds out hope that the "forever kind of love" exists, and that it will happen to him-- "I wouldn't mind/ That forever kind of love"-- and that the glow of early love will last: "Married and yet so starry-eyed... Forever groom and forever bride."

While there are many songs about wanting, finding, and getting love, there are far fewer about keeping it. And this one is about not keeping it. Again, yes, there are dozens of break-up songs, but the idea is that once you are married to the love of your life, you're finally done with all of that "Wishin', hopin', thinkin' and prayin'" and "tossin' and urnin'" that define the dating process.

But the speaker finds that even marriage is no guarantee of happiness and contentment! He surveys his married friends, and finds they have a whole new set of traumas and dramas to deal with.

"Why do fools fall in love?" then, as another song asks, answers itself. Why? Because they're fools! And "why must I be a teenager in love?" is also self-explained by the idea that we never stop being "teenagers" when it comes to love-- love make us teenagers all over again.

Our speaker is almost mature enough. He'll wait for the kind of love worth waiting for-- love with another person who wants to maintain that sense of wedding-day bliss. But soon after the wedding day-- actually, as soon as the ceremony is over-- we stop calling the couple "groom and bride" and pronounce them "husband and wife."

While it is wonderful to try to maintain that wedding-day bliss, it must also be understood that it is impossible to, under the stresses of daily life. Such high expectations cannot help but be dashed. The "forever kind of love," he will have to learn, is possible. It's just a different kind of love that the wedding-day kind-- not the same, as he thinks.

As a friend of mine puts it-- how many put all their planning into their wedding, which lasts just a day... and none into their marriage, which is supposed to last forever.

Next Song: The Growing Up Years

Monday, August 18, 2014

The People in the Story

The word "sentimental" is in the opening line, and that's a good word for this whole song.

It starts off obliquely, the way a person with an embarrassing condition might approach a doctor: "If I had... a friend... who has a rash..."

Similarly, this story starts: "There's a sentimental story/ Of two people that I know..."

It's not really a spoiler, even, to reveal the ending: "I'm the boy-- the girl is you."

Still, the speaker approaches her with this sideways shpiel, telling her about this hypothetical couple who "always loved each other so." In fact, "The people in the story/ Lived a storybook romance."

Well, as the Yiddish saying goes-- if it doesn't get better, it gets worse. Either he is working his way up to a proposal, with something like, "Would you like to live happily ever after with me?

Or... um...

"Then they had a lovers' quarrel/ No, I don't recall the reason why.../ And the boy said, 'Goodbye.'"

He was so mad he broke up with her, and now he doesn't even know what he was mad about. Oops.

But wait, if he broke it off, why is he talking to her now? "Now, he's begging for forgiveness/ And a chance to start anew."

It is an interesting approach:. "Imagine, hypothetically, two people in love, and, in theory, the boy stormed off for no real good reason. If he said he was really really really sorry, hypothetically, she'd have to take him back, right?"

He'd better have a better strategy than this. Let's hope he showed up not just with a "sentimental" song but flowers or chocolates or concert tickets (all they have done so far is "go to movies" and out to "dance").

The good news, he is admitting fault, he is coming forward, and he is not blaming any of it on her. Guys like that don't fall out of the sky. She should tell him they can start a new chapter (oh, great. Now I'm doing it).

Next Song: That Forever Kind of Love

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hiding in the Chapel

The songs starts with a city-wide search for the speaker: "All over town, the question is going 'round/ 'Where, oh where, can he be?'"

The reference to the old song "Where Has My Little Dog Gone?" leads us to understand that they are searching for him out of concern, and that this is not, say, a manhunt for a criminal.

However, he is not hoping for rescue, either. He is, in fact, just looking for a place to be alone to mope. "I'm hiding in the chapel... You ask me why I sit here and cry... Oh, Lord above/ The only girl I love/ Has gone."

Even though he is not a criminal, he is using the chapel as a sanctuary of a similar sort. Mostly, he is hiding from the concerns, blandishments, and cheering-up of others. He is sad, and wants to be sad. And, just as a wounded animal does, he found a safe den in which to lick his wounds, so to speak.

In a way, he is also signaling those who search for him that he is in severe emotional pain. If he were mostly fine, he would seek their solace and allow himself to be comforted.

Also, he is hiding, he says, "from a broken heart." Something about the chapel allows him to feel distracted.

The next line is somewhat melodramatic: "Here I'll stay, until I hear her say/ That she wants me back again." This is passive-aggressive, but also typical behavior for a wounded person. Probably, he will stay until he gets hungry enough to leave.

Up to this point, he has imagined that his lost love has done one of three things-- moved on, mourned the loss of their relationship, or joined the search for him in order to take him back.

Then he realizes, or has somehow heard (unlikely, as who could tell him?), a fourth possibility: "If it's true that she is hiding, too..."

She might be pulling the same stunt he is! In that case, "I'll search for her." Well, he has put himself in a Catch-22. He is willing to seek her out of she is hiding, but cannot know if this is the case since he is hiding!

It would be easy to deduce that the speaker is disturbed. More likely, he is freshly hurt and simply seeking a place to be alone with his thoughts-- and the Lord. His behavior in this sense, is rational in its irrationality. Of course he's not making sense; his world has just been upended!

There is an assumption that someone sad needs to be cheered up. But sometimes, it's important to just be sad, to have the feeling fully, and let it subside on its own. Attempts to suppress it will only cause it to fester and build up pressure until there is an outburst.

Our speaker is in mourning, a legitimate and perfectly healthy reaction to heartbreak. He will get better, and sort his conflicted feelings out. At least he knows that he needs privacy and solitude in order to do so, and has the wisdom to seek out a place where no one will look for him, so he can recover in peace.

NOTE: This next series of songs is not available, as far as I can discern, online. They are on parts 2 and 3 of a series of 3 CDs collectively titled "Paul Simon aka Jerry Landis: Work in Progress." The subtitle most likely refers not only to the songs but to Simon, as they predate his Simon and Garfunkel output, and so present--to borrow a phrase-- a portrait of the songwriter as a young man. It is an excellent series, with very good biographical and discography (discographical?) information.

Next Song: The People in the Story

Monday, August 4, 2014

Let Me Steal Your Heart Away

Simon, then going as Landis, became the lead singer of the Mystics in 1960. A fairly standard harmony group, their entire catalog seems to consist of 15 tracks, mostly covers. With Simon as a member, they sang their big hit, the Welsh lullaby "All Through the Night," "I Begin to Think of You" and this track.

I hesitate to discuss the track at all, however, as I can only find that the Mystics sang it, not who wrote it. If Simon would want to disown this song, I would not be surprised, as it is simply a series of cliches strung together.

In their entirety, the lyrics are:
"Let me, let me steal your heart away
I'm in love with you, so in love with you
Take me, take me, don't forsake me
Oh, I want your love, yes I need your love

There have been others before you
This, I cannot deny
But now at last I've found you
I know I'll love you till the day I die."

With repetition and instrumental fills, they stretch this to more than two minutes. There is really no need for interpretation or analysis, regardless of who wrote it.

In the interest of completeness, I am posting this song in case Simon did write it. I would not be surprised if he did not. I would also not be surprised if he did... and didn't care for anyone to know.

Next Song: Hiding in the Chapel