too much typing—since 2003

8.27.2005

we once knew the story

All that talk about construction, sweaty manual labor, the manly art of graphic design, and rock-eroding urine might mislead folks as to the demographic sought by this globbo. I also am moved by gossamer lyricism, the velvety pluck of the acoustic guitar, the moist vulnerability of a tenor tremolo nearly overcome by romantic longing. (No I'm not selling my original copy of Belle & Sebastian's Tiger Milk.) And so, today, prettiness.

A year or so ago, I picked up the Simon & Garfunkel box set containing (nearly) all their studio releases. That parenthetical "nearly" means that the set omits their later collaboration "My Little Town" and the three live versions of songs that appear on their first greatest hits collection. (Was that the first time a greatest hits comp featured previously unreleased tracks? I can't track down if those recordings of those songs - "Homeward Bound," "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)," and today's featured attraction, "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" - had been released elsewhere.) That last omission was disappointing - because the live version of "Emily" squashes the studio take like a moldy little grape. I will attribute that fact to the lovely, autumnal volume of reverb in the recording, the passionately syncopated guitar playing, and Art Garfunkel's unearthly, effortless, and dramatic vocal. It would be easy - too easy - to mock this song's rather overripe poetics - but doing so would assume that songs depend upon their lyrics rather than the lyric depending upon (in the sense of hanging downward from, to be plucked) the song. You can buy perfect grapes at the supermarket - but even if it's a little bit off, that grape you plucked yourself from the tree on that wonderful day - you know, the one where between "held her hand" and "awoke" there was that guitar solo? - are you going to analyze the flavor with a spectrograph, or love it for all it comes along with? I thought so.

When I was listening to that song, my mind for some reason thought of Yes' "Turn of the Century" (from Going for the One) - and the more I thought of it, the more I kinda think the band thought of it too. The reverb has a similar feel, as do some of the acoustic guitar rhythms - and while Yes, being Yes, constructs a much more complicated and perhaps needlessly allusive story, there's a certain similarity in romantic arc as well. Musically, the band gets an awful lot of mileage out of its core melodic cell: that three-note ascending scale thingy, which gets permutated the heck out of (it even doubles up as a rhythmic motif in the middle section).

So, yeah, things get a bit florid around here sometimes. You may want to finish up with a bit of Motorhead or something if you suddenly feel like you must needs wear a fluffy white shirt with enormous sleeves.

Simon & Garfunkel "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her"
Yes "Turn of the Century"

1 comment:

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