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Valentines Day


2 February 2017 Blog The Queen Street Observer

In the early days of January, before the tinsel was down, I decided that this month’s blog would be one of love and romance, no matter what. The plan was somewhat similar last year with the piece half-written only for the death of David Bowie to blow it off its hinges. I promised to myself that I’d re-visit it a year on though, because with Valentine’s Day in the offing I want to put some irresistible love songs your way. Some may be familiar to you but I’m confident there are at least a few curveballs you won’t know but are worth your time to investigate so you can play them to your beloved on the Big Day. He/she won’t be disappointed, I promise!

Now I know only too well that there are the conspiracy theorists, the ones who’ll have you believe Valentine’s Day is all just an elaborate con to get you to buy cards, flowers and chocolates, or to take it a conspiracy theory further, to make you finally settle down, get married and start acting like a responsible adult. They’re out there, I’ve met them, I might even have been one come to think of it. But listen, no matter how much they may say “Pah! Valentine’s Day, load of nonsense!” they do care, trust me. God knows, I’ve spent enough Valentine’s nights sat alone at the bar staring into the bottom of my glass whilst surrounded by couples with the romance turned up to 11. It gives a bit of a kicking to one’s self esteem let me tell you, so yeah, everybody cares!

Right, to the songs. They’re in no particular order of preference, they’re just tumbling around in my head and coming out randomly but they, each of them, are romantic solid gold. A warning here – some of my choices are to do with unrequited love or love lost. Don’t ask me why but these just tick my boxes. Brother or sister if you’ve been jilted I feel your pain! Let’s start….

As I’ve mentioned being jilted what about Ry Cooder’s “That’s the way love turned out for me”? This, my friends, is the national anthem of The Dumped! We’ve all been there, and no, it’s not good to wallow in your despair, but sometimes what else can you do? “That’s the way….” is beautifully understated, quiet all the way through before building up to a big if mournful ending. Here’s a sample of what’s going on……..

“No light burning in my kitchen And no doors open up with my key And I ain’t got nobody to turn to That’s the way love turned out for me”

You get the idea.

Back in 1972 a man named Abrim Tilmon rendered a great service unto the world – he wrote “Feel the need in me”, a big hit for his band The Detroit Emeralds in 1973. There’s nothing extraordinary going on lyrically in this one, in fact it’s pretty unremarkable really, but it’s one of life’s immutable laws that once you marry up a 1970s soul groove with any kind of expression of desire, lust, red hot passion, pure sexual attraction, call it what you will, then things just go off the charts as this one does. It’s a gem if you’ll pardon the pun.

It’s one of life’s mysteries that Karla Bonoff isn’t a household name. For forty years she’s been writing and recording a mountain of fine songs yet she remains largely unknown. Some might say her lyrics are a trifle lightweight and I will concede that point to some extent, however when they’re tied to a catchy melody – as Bonoff’s songs invariably are – then all is well. There are so many of hers to choose from but if forced to pick just one then it’d be “Dream”. Here’s a flavour……

“When you held me, I was so broken apart I had nothing but that love in your heart And the night came, all I heard was you saying Close your eyes Now baby Dream”

What’s not to like, eh?

Don Henley and Glenn Frey were responsible for some of the 1970s’ greatest love songs with the Eagles and that didn’t change when they went their separate ways. Frey’s no match for his old pal in the lyrics dept, (No shame in that. Very few are) but he came fairly close in 1982 with “That Girl”, a song he co-wrote with Bob Seger. Driving through the night, through the rain and missing that girl, the one you desire more than any other, the little things that make her special, the things you need to tell her, trying to ring her from payphones along the way but you can’t get through. Or maybe she just won’t answer.  It’s long been one of my favourites, not only for the message but also because it’s just so beautifully arranged and with a nice string arrangement too. You could do worse than look this one up, it’s a little chocolate box of a song. An honourable mention here too for “The one you love”, taken from the same album. With that immediately recognisable saxophone motif forever associated with the summer of ’82, well that’s good for starters. In it Frey poses the question – Are you gonna stay with the one who loves you or are you going back to the one you love? Hmmm, I think we know how that’s going to turn out. Henley, meanwhile, has never written a better song than “Heart of the matter”, in my humble opinion. It’s back to yearning, loss and regret I’m afraid – I know, I know, I just can’t help myself – but it’s a masterpiece of trying to make sense of where it all went wrong, witness……

“I’m learning to live without you now But I miss you, baby The more I know, the less I understand All the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter But everything changes And my friends seem to scatter But I think it’s about forgiveness Forgiveness Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore”

….and that’s just the chorus. He’s only warming up!

The final song written by John Lennon was called “Grow old with me”. It was released a few years after his death and try as I might I could never warm to his version. Then I heard Mary Chapin Carpenter’s take on it and quickly realised that hers was the one, the definitive version.

“Grow old along with me Two branches of one tree Face the setting sun When the day is done God bless our love”

If that doesn’t make clear your feelings to your significant other then what will?
Mind you Mary’s not too shabby with her own love songs, given her mighty use of words and imagery. Here’s a taster from her song “Closer and closer apart”

“Now, my sad little boat floats on out to sea And you’re almost out of sight I’ll remember you Please don’t forget me I whisper with all my might All I can do is turn now to you Holding my hand to my heart All that I know is I’m watching us grow Closer and closer apart”

No need for “Moon/June” rhyming couplets when you can write and conjure up metaphors like this, don’t you think?

Last but certainly not least a song from Warren Zevon. Warren was best known for his often acid tongued songs about Californian life in particular and American life in general, but he had a gift for writing the most perfect love songs too. I would maybe have picked “Keep me in your heart” which is a wonderful song but I can’t comfortably listen to it, to be honest. He was very ill and close to death when he recorded it and it shows. It’s too sad. Far better to check Jorge Calderon’s version, equally good and slightly less emotive.

The Zevon song I urge, no, implore you to hear is “El Amor de mi Vida”. The verses are in English, the chorus in Spanish, the language of love. The song speaks for itself. Here’s the chorus as it’s sung in Spanish…..

“Tu eres el amor de mi vida Si solo te pudiera encontrar Con todo el corazon te diria Tu eres mi amor de verdad”

…….and in English

“You are the love of my life If only I could find you With all my heart I would tell you You are my real love”

There’s not anything I can add to that – everything you need, there it is.
I’ll leave you with this – life is short, any of us could be gone tomorrow. If you love someone tell them that you do and really mean it when you say it, BECAUSE IT MATTERS, very much.

Happy Valentine’s Day, from me to you.

I’ll be at the bar…….


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