Saturday, February 11, 2006

a honky-tonk parade

Eeeeee. Emily is now available in blogtastic form - and what a blog it is! Know her awesomeness, all.

Upon learning that I had no plans for Valentine’s Day, my unsurprised but considerate flatmate said that it would be a great day to make myself ‘feel special’. Upon being reminded that it would be an exceptional day, indeed, upon which I did not feel myself to be somewhat superior to special, she conceded that the day, short of a miraculous prior drop in self-esteem or the equally miraculous appearance of a satisfactory diversion for a weeknight, could hold no true significance for me. Why, then, to devote the contents of an entire blog to a much reviled tradition of celebrating crass commercialism, smug coupledom and heterosexist media hyper-coverage? Because, I suppose, it is much reviled, and I believe in the power of true love, and I like the story of the brave St. Valentine, and the colour red.

I care to repeat neither stories nor offhand musings on my personal experience of the state of other-oriented excitement, but something, I felt, must be done to mark the day. Not chocolates, which our fridge stocks aplenty at the mo; not flowers, for which my bourgeois soul protests the necessity of having to shell out money; not fluffy bunnies, which are not my kind of rodent. So much for the commonly peddled markers of romaanz. But I reckoned, then, with the boons of technology and my parents’ affection and hard-earned money, all of which conspired to give me my old faithful iPod, Willa, and realised that nothing, but nothing, expresses the inexpressible so well as an .m4a playlist. So I present, for the record, a list of what I shall be listening to come February the fourteenth.

My Warbling Valentines:

- In random order. For all those I have ever pretended, intended, or been contented to love. You gotta dedicate these things to somebody.

1. Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. A song about linguistic quirks and cultural reconciliation, food and the incredible near-perfection of Ella. I hated this when I first heard it on When Harry Met Sally, by the bewilderingly still-in-circulation Harry Connick Jr. Ella makes it fall into place, and Louis Armstrong’s husk and grain complements the magic superbly. What more could one ask of a song?

2. It’s Only A Paper Moon: Rufus Wainwright. Originally by (I think) Hal Leonard, this one grapples with weighty ideas of Illusion and Reality. It’s only a paper moon/ settled over a cardboard sky/but it wouldn’t be make-believe, if you believe/in me.’ It’s typically Rufus, all lush arrangements competing against his dramatic voice, and it’s just so.damned.sweet. Nothing makes me put on the woozy hat like hearing Rufus sing, Without your love, it’s a honky-tonk parade.

3. Nightswimming: R.E.M. A popular choice for the wistful and the youthfully poetic, if not as sappy as a first impression will have one believe. R.E.M’s getting no letters written in blood for it, for sure. This song is just the right shape to fill a certain sort of hunger: of anticipation, of disappointment, of nostalgia and bittersweetness. Nothing, in a certain mood, can be quite as fulfilling as hearing that piano rhythm and Michael Stipe singing ‘September’s coming soon/ pining for the moon, and what if there were two/ side-by-side in orbit, around the fairer sun.

4. All I Want Is You: U2. See, this is the real reason I love this band. I heart the big political stuff and yes, alright, there is the embarrassing crush on Bono (although the cowboy hat is depleting it very fast) but no one talks about their ability to write killingly nasty love songs. It’s inexplicable that the finest stuff they’ve done in this vein, like With or Without You and One become anthems. They’re really MEAN. I think this one’s on the soundtrack of the too-very-nineties Reality Bites; I swoon yet at the memory of a brooding Ethan Hawke and All the promises we make/from the cradle to the grave/when all I want/is you playing in the background. And that isn’t even the best thing about it.

5. Son of a Preacherman: Dusty Springfield. It would take a truly fortuitous combination of a horn section, a voice like honey and just the right, easy swing, to make a song about someone called Billy Ray interesting. Luckily for the world, this is that combination.

6. I Think I’m Paranoid: Garbage. Because teenage love is unutterably messy. :D I’m too old to like a song that says Bend me, break me, anyway you need me, all I want is you - and I really don’t go in for that sort of thing, but I am helpless in the face of a catchy chorus. So yes, a fascinating study of obsession and all that good adolescent stuff. Plus, I say it should be on the list.

7. She’s a Rainbow: The Rolling Stones. Not a babymaking song, either. Such songs are generally sung from the lover to the beloved, and, well, this is Mick Jagger. And Keith Richards. And they’re referring to a female in the third person. It does not bode well for romaanz! But surprisingly, She’s a Rainbow manages to be poetic and folksy and very much the sort of song a girl would love to have someone think of when thinking about her. And it retains all the Stonesy exuberance, proving that it’s just that much better to be admired by a bunch of rascals than it is to have the love of, say, Perry Como.

8. Milkshake: Kelis. I’m kidding. MWAHAHAHA.

8. Hallelujah: Jeff Buckley. Possibly the most beautiful recording in English pop music. I’ve been single for so long I can’t remember what it’s like otherwise, and I like being that way, but come this song and my heart up and breaks, painfully, for no reason than because, per Stephen Crane, it is bitter, and because it is my heart.

9. Bang A Gong (Get It On): T. Rex. An indelicate name, perhaps, for an unconventional Valentine’s choice. But I know it makes me squirm with delight to hear lines like, You’re untamed youth/that’s the truth/with your cloak full of eagles. It’s a grubby song, but it has charm.

10. Theme Song – Happy Days: Ron Hicklin. Absolutely therapeutic after a long, exhausting evening of complicated emotions.

Current musix: bob dylan – everybody must get stoned. methinks plan b has written itself.


  1. It’s Only A Paper Moon - isn't that originally by Jim Reeves? From 'Moonlight & Roses'? And, Dylan is a good fix anytime :-)

  2. I'd like to hear Rufus doing "It's Only A Paper Moon". Will have to keep my eyes peeled for that one. I'm terribly in love with his cover of "Chelsea Hotel No. 2". In fact, when I woke up Friday morning in the Hilton before my Duke visit, I had to switch my laptop on and turn the song on because it was stuck in my head. Nothing like a little Rufus to get one up in the morning.

  3. Hyderabad on 14th feb. Tickets are a little expensive else .... You can go wheee wheee on the scooter and jump onto one of the large balls in your office.

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  5. Thanks for the mention my love. I have a feeling my blog is going to be home to various dumb pontification like - How many greening drainage ditches does the arse end of one city need.

    I'm dateless valentines too, although my flatmate has miraculously grown a partner as if by magic for the season of love.

    I'm planning to spend a night telling each of my muses why I love them so much.

  6. U are listening to the OST of Yuva??? Happy V Day :)

  7. Any chance you could upload the Rolling Stones song for our perusal? :P

    That said, interesting set list you have there - I think a lot of rock bands are actually underrated for their ability to write nasty love songs, U2 less so than most. :)

  8. hey, first time here and just wanted to say that you had me completely cracked up on, "tradition of celebrating crass commercialism, smug coupledom and heterosexist media hyper-coverage?" :)

    but I am sure gays and lesbians look forward to "valentine's day" too !!

  9. @ ghost: It's probably also by Jim Reeves - I think Ella has an earlier recording - but the words/music are by Hal Leonard, afaik.

    @ nicole: Watch for it in your mail sometime today.

    @ imhunt: Good plan. Or, I could just go to bed early with a nice book.

    @ em: Your muses, sadly, are going to have things to do on V-Day. Spend it with me instead.

    @ rashmi: I do listen to it, on and off - how did you know? *returns the wishes with flowers and hearts*

    @ yamini: Thank you! I'd love to hear more pontification on rock's nastiest love songs, even. You're a G 'n' R fan, aren't you - they're sort of big on that sort of thing!

    @ alok: Gay men and women probably do enjoy V-Day, you're right, but catch Hallmark advertising their special range of boykissing/girlbonding lurrve cards in honour of the occasion!

    Anyway, as Govinda famously intoned in a film, 'ewery day is Wellentine day, ewery hower is Wellentine hower, ewery minute! Is Wellentine minute.' Words we should all live by. Glad to have amused.