Photo: Simon & Garfunkel
Why, hello again… Welcome to another instalment of this column, which takes a fortnightly look at three of my sixty-nine favourite ‘songs about love’. This episode’s selections each have a distinctly American flavour; they’re also all in the key of A for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!
1. Simon & Garfunkel – Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
This is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. From its twinkling, fingerpicked acoustic guitar to the sad, self-reflecting lyrics, Wednesday Morning is unmistakably the work of legendary New York singer/songwriter duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel (pictured). The distinctive taste of America is seldom absent from their music (America, The 59th Street Bridge Song), though here it’s evidenced by the subtleties (robbing a “liquor store” for “twenty-five dollars and pieces of silver”). Somehow, these regretful lyrics strike a perfect balance between enormous sentimentality and weightless brevity (the song is over in a mere two minutes, twelve seconds). In these hundred-and-thirty-two seconds, Simon & Garfunkel capture masterfully the irrational anxiety of the sleepless hours – that, and the feeling of time slipping through one’s fingers – of having so much to say, and so little time to say it. The real masterstroke here though, is the duo’s saccharin harmonies; their gentle voices are supernaturally matched, and exquisitely complimentary, picking as softly over the details of a sleeping beauty as they can sound. The narrator “[hears] the soft breathing of the girl that he loves”, observing “the glow of the winter moonlight” and the way her hair “floats” on the pillow – gentle specificities that make raw the imminence of his departure and the heart-breaking, unspoken nature of their farewell. That the fullness of these voices can express such crushing emptiness is endlessly fascinating to me and, as well as being one of the sixty-nine tracks featured in this column, Wednesday Morning is, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of my all-time favourites too.
2. Angelo Badalamenti & Julee Cruise – Falling (Theme from Twin Peaks)
For anyone familiar with David Lynch’s seminal television series, this piece of music carries unshakable connotations – to the mysterious murder of Laura Palmer; to the strange humour of Agent Dale Cooper; to the bizarre, northwestern township of Twin Peaks (population 51,201). As with all of the music in the series, Falling is a creation of long-time Lynch-collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. It’s a delicate tune, whose mistiness is underpinned by shocks of reverb-laden baritone guitar – lovers of the show will recall the opening shot’s nesting thrush and saw-mill montage; calm before the storm. Much of Badalamenti’s score for the programme used similar dynamics, in particular the heart-wrenching Laura Palmer’s Theme, whose major-key climax is just so darkly serene. Elsewhere, the music borrows from the sleazy drawl of elevator muzak and incidental melody – it’s extremely cool when combined with Lynch’s artistic vision and makes undeniably for one of the best syndicated visual art forms, perhaps of all time. Julee Cruise’s vocal version of the main theme, whilst replaced on television by the instrumental, is available on the official soundtrack and features lyrics written by David Lynch. Their delivery is as ambient and airy as the guitar playing and though only just faintly detectable in Cruise’s beautiful, banshee voice, they detail falling in love; specifically, the weightless final moments of solitariness. It’s this exact frame of love that ensnares many of the series’ characters, as desperately unsafe in love as they are desperate to be adored – moths to a flame. By all means listen to Falling, but you haven’t seen Twin Peaks, do that first – it’s simply incredible.
3. LCD Soundsystem – New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down (Live at Madison Square Garden, New York City, 02/04/2011)
Once upon a time, James Murphy wanted to write a love-song – but was too scared, damnit. He figured it’d sound lame or weird – so instead of a person, he dedicated it to his city. It’s full of nods to Murphy’s musical know-how (“there’s a ton of the twist / but we’re fresh out of shout”) and, just like any brilliant love-song, New York, I Love You… is as complimentary as it is critical, a dichotomy that manifests itself in the music too. Murphy borrows heavily from David Bowie’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide to create this drunken lullaby; a wonky waltz for the personified Big Apple that builds graciously toward an excellent glam-rock crescendo, the likes of which haven’t been heard since the early seventies. (As ever, the LCD formula for personalised pastiche is executed flawlessly.) For a long while, LCD Soundsystem’s ‘final’ performance at Madison Square Garden was just that – final. The band had always said they’d wrap up after ten years and so, they did. A documentary was shot; the show was filmed; the gear was sold off and the whole shebang was released on quadruple vinyl for Record Store Day after mausoleum-esque pop-up previews. The final song of that performance was a particularly stirring rendition of New York, I Love You… Now, with their comeback album on the way and a string of 2016 festival dates played, the legendary, planned end of LCD Soundsystem might seem fairly contrived. But imagine for just a second that that really was it. What a pretty way to go, eh? And how about this for some fun trivia: that rendition was teased open with an excerpt of Falling, the theme from Twin Peaks…