Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Top 15 Love Songs (Part 1 of 3)

Lately I've had conversations about the Love Song. What makes a good one? Simplicity? Hope? Sadness? Inevitably this would lead to a list. And I might as well do it today, listening to Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell album on a lovely Los Angeles winter day (window open, jacket eschewed).

My Top 15 Love Songs (Part 1 of 3)

15. 52 Stations - Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians (1982)

When I was an undergraduate at the gritty urban University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in the 1980s, the student newspaper ran an article listing their writers' favorite love songs. One of them chose this song. I found this odd. I liked Hitchcock's music but I always thought of him as a chronicler of the weird and the whimsical, with an affinity for fish and corpses. Then I listened to this song again and I got it. The lyrics are nothing too special or lovely, save for the killer opening couplet:

There's fifty-two stations on the northern line
None of them is yours, one of them is mine

And that's enough to know that this is one of the sad songs, a paean to lost opportunity. It's a train song too. A sad train song is always a keeper. Hitchcock (a Brit, not an Egyptian) gives one of his best vocal performances and sends a shy college student on the other side of a big ocean straight to the import section of his local record store where back catalogues are combed.

14. Your Name - Tricky (2000)

Striking in its simplicity, lovingly dueted by Tricky and Ambersunshower (those are great names!*).

I love and you love me
One live as two, two live as one
Under the mango tree

Whether you like mangoes or not, or even if you're allergic to them, that's a pretty great sentiment.
*-Boogie Nights reference

13. Long Vermont Roads - Magnetic Fields (1995)

This may not be the saddest song ever written. But it's the saddest vocal performance I've ever heard. Stephin Merritt (over)mournfully sings of the elusiveness of love, chasing something he can only describe with kooky metaphors:

Your eyes are toothless young men
In Tennessee in the rain again
Your eyes are the Mesa Verde
Big and brown and far away

Then, sad Stephin gets to the end of the road, alone and tired of the drive:

After all this time and after all your crying
The roads don't love you and they still won't pretend to

Then it's over. That's love.

12. Tennessee - Silver Jews (2001)

Now this is a love that might be going some place! Sure David Berman sings "You're the only 10 I see," an awful pun but one that makes you realize he truly loves her. He just wants to take her away from the place he hates - Lousville - and bring her to place he loves - Nashville. Having never been in either city I'll take his word for it. This song also includes one of the best lines ever uttered in song: Referring to Nashville, he sings "We're going to the land of hot middle-aged women."

11. Lulu - Trip Shakespeare (1991)

As someone who immerses myself in the history and poignacy of music, I gravitate toward songs that make their own references to musical memories. In this song by the great forgotten Minneapolis band, Matt Wilson writes about his favorite not forgotten St. Paul band - Husker Du:

Lonely when I hear the band
That used to play when we were looking for music
Lonely when I hear the band
Do you remember? Do you recall?

But he's really writing about a girl that went away to school:

Now her jeans lay against the grass
And new days have killed the past

New days always kill the past! So please forgive Trip Shakespeare for the fact that their guitarist later wrote and sang Closing Time ("Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end") and listen to this song.

(tomorrow or maybe Friday – Numbers 10 through 6! And yes I will ackowledge the existence of the 60s and 70s. And women.)


The Wolf said...

You say "Lately I've had conversations about the Love Song." Could you be more specific? Were these conversations theoretical in nature and did they take place in the ivied halls of academia? Or were they more personal in nature, occurring into the deep part of the San Fernando Valley night? Were tortoises involved? Was there a stew served? Were there disagreements about that damn Beatles song that George sang? Was Sting mentioned? Was there coyness in the room? Was there even a room?

Ali said...