March 10, 2020

One of the sometimes infuriating things about me and music is that when I get into something I really get into it, to the point where it almost invades my body and my psyche to the detriment of everything else. Like, I could have a song in my head when I go to sleep and have it start right up again the next morning when I wake up. And in the case of these three songs it’s really starting to piss me (and Tracey, who has to listen to me playing these songs over and over again) off. Presently, there are three songs in particular. I’m going to take them from last to first.

3. Bruce Springsteen, “Girls In Their Summer Clothes”. When I first heard this song three years ago the experience was almost unlike anything I’d ever heard before. I was never much of a Springsteen fan – still ain’t – but the grandiose, Spector-esque “Wall of Sound” arrangement, combined with a wistful melancholy lyric immediately found a place in my soul and psyche I still haven’t gotten rid of since. The lyrics are beyond poetic, speaking of a lost moment and innocence, desperation, something akin to Gatsby wishing to grasp that unobtainable essence present in that green light across the Sound:

Well the street lights shine
Down on Blessing Avenue
Lovers they walk by
Holdin’ hands two by two

A breeze crosses the porch
Bicycle spokes spin ’round
Jacket’s on, I’m out the door
Tonight I’m gonna burn this town down

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Kid’s rubber ball smacks
Off the gutter ‘neath the lamp light
Big bank clock chimes
Off go the sleepy front porch lights

Downtown the store’s alive
As the evening’s underway
Things been a little tight
But I know they’re gonna turn my way

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Frankie’s Diner’s
Over on the edge of town
Neon sign spinnin’ round
Like a cross over the lost and found

Fluorescent lights
Flicker above Bob’s Grill
Shaniqua brings a coffee and asks “fill?”
And says “penny for your thoughts now my poor Bill”

She went away
She cut me like a knife
Had a beautiful thing
Maybe you just saved my life

In just a glance
Down here on Magic Street
Love’s a fool’s dance
I ain’t got much sense but I still got my feet

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Listen to the subtle modulations in the final verse and chorus, adding the necessary tension between the triumph of a survivor and the sense of loss as reality bites. It’s an incredible, never compromising, always rewarding listening experience. In my own mind I believe in this song Springsteen captured my own soul. In vulnerable moments late at night and thinking about my Massachusetts home it makes me want to cry.

2. Meg Myers, “Numb”. What is it about this damned song that makes it continually run through my head like a never-ending movie soundtrack? Is it the beat, that bass line, and that cool opening piano riff that grabs me from the start? Sure, that’s a part of it, but it’s the entire performance that I find entrancing. And what a story Myers has to tell:

When all is said and done
Tell me how to write this
Tell me how to fight this war
I’ll keep marching on
Like a broken robot
Money back guarantee

I’m in your custody
But I am not a criminal
I can be your next big thing
Look at what I’ve become
Silly little monster, should have just held my tongue

I hate the feeling like this
Weight up on my shoulders
Pushing the pressure down on me
You think you want the best for me
But nothing really matters
If you force it, it won’t come

I guess I’m feeling numb
I guess I’m feeling numb

Sometimes I wish I could fly
Through a secret trapped door
Into another life (life)
Bury my head in the sand
I don’t want to grow up
La la la la la la

I hate the feeling like this
Weight up on my shoulders
Pushing the pressure down on me
You think you want the best for me
But nothing really matters
If you force it, it won’t come

I guess I’m feeling numb
I guess I’m feeling numb

I’ll play the game
I’ll do everything you tell me
All the losers win in the end

I’ll play the game
I’ll do everything you tell me
All the losers win in the end

I hate the feeling like this
Weight up on my shoulders
Pushing the pressure down on me
You think you want the best for me
But nothing really matters
If you force it, it won’t come

I guess I’m feeling numb
I guess I’m feeling numb

Myers’ lyrics are the antithesis of Springsteen’s “Girls”. Here there is no sentimental melancholy, innocence or hope, just resignation. Run out your talent and passion out there day after day like a hamster on a never-ending wheel until you’re used and shriveled up, left for dead. “All the losers win in the end.” Because they do – at least in my company. And that’s a part of how I feel these days, which is why I’ve been so drawn to this song since the first time I heard it. You want cynicism and fatalism, that nothing you do in your life makes a dent in the big picture? That’s what Myers is saying here. And everything she sings about is spot on as far as my own professional life in corporate America is concerned. And it’s not just my professional life, it’s every aspect of it – everyone around me seems to demand a piece of me until there is nothing left for just me. It’s kind of a life song for me right now.

1. Kate Bush, “Wuthering Heights”. OK, I’ll admit it: from the very first moment I heard this song I felt like it somehow possessed me in a way like nothing I’d ever heard before. Since that time I find this damned song ever running through my thoughts and dreams; it’s almost the first thought in my head when I wake up to do bodily functions in the middle of the night, and if I’m not thinking or doing anything there it is, dead straight in my subconscious where I’ll start singing or humming it on cue. It’s bizarre, like something right out of The Dead Files.

Ironically enough, I’d been a fan of Kate Bush since “Running Up That Hill” (also covered nicely by none other than Meg Myers, BTW), which is why, I think, in some way Myers and Bush are conspiring to do a kind of tag team thing in my head. But back to “Wuthering”, because I’d never heard it before, the song utterly enchanting, the lyrics so damned Gothic. Tracey tells me the fraction of the movie Bush saw that supposedly inspired her (like, the last fifteen minutes) was all there really was worth singing about. But still it’s in my damned head!:

Out on the wiley, windy moors
We’d roll and fall in green
You had a temper like my jealousy
Too hot, too greedy
How could you leave me
When I needed to possess you?
I hated you. I loved you, too

Bad dreams in the night
They told me I was going to lose the fight
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Ooh, it gets dark! It gets lonely
On the other side from you
I pine a lot. I find the lot
Falls through without you
I’m coming back, love
Cruel Heathcliff, my one dream
My only master

Too long I roam in the night
I’m coming back to his side, to put it right
I’m coming home to wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Ooh! Let me have it
Let me grab your soul away
Ooh! Let me have it
Let me grab your soul away
You know, it’s me – Cathy

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold
Let me in-a-your window

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy
I’ve come home. I’m so cold

What is it about “Wuthering Heights” that has infected me so? I don’t know. Certainly, it’s an unusual song, but I find Bush’s performances of it, most especially here and here beyond mesmerizing. I love the arrangement of piano, drums, bass, and strings with the Floyd-esque outro guitar solo. I’ve always found Bush intoxicating on several levels, it’s just that this song does crazy things to my head. Even now, just writing about it and linking to it makes me want to listen to this incredibly cool extended version featuring echo, drums and Kate’s totally otherworldly vocal calisthenics nonstop for the rest of the night. Her wail at 3:57 and the scatting afterwards is worth the price of admission in and of itself: it’s full of raw passion, evocative, wild emotion, and (actually) a little frightening. To think someone with that kind of vocal power to move the soul is unsettling. Just hearing it again I might never be able to sleep.

Three songs, entirely different in their various genres, but equally haunting to my psyche in very different ways. I guess each of them touches a part of my soul that is different from the others. You see, to me music is life: if all I had, laying in a hospital bed and withering away to nothing, were these three songs rolling through my head, I would thank God for the gift of music, a gift I will never, ever, be able to thank my parents enough for giving me. They gave me the ears to hear in a way that connects with my soul.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:37 | Comments (0)
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