Monday, July 02, 2012


One of the things that I have struggled with for years, as someone who purports to make his living from writing, is how there always seems to be someone who has already said the particular thing you want to say, and what's more, said it better than you ever could.
To be honest, I shouldn't be so presumptuous as to suggest that I'm a writer who has the potential to Express Important Things In Interesting Ways. I've never gone in for creative writing, and so when it comes to a song lyric that is generally accepted to be excellent, incisive, witty or downright true, I've never even thought of myself in competition.
And that, I think, is the point. We're not all poets, nor should we be. Maybe we can all aspire to it, but at some point those of us who aren't destined for great things in that line should step aside and let the pros take over.
Which is, of course, just fine. We can't all write a love song that tells it just so. Some people might see that as a convenient demonstration that "actions speak louder than words." I've never understood this. Are they suggesting that we should all just back off the speech thing and grab the object of our affections in a passionate, dumb clinch? How would that work?
Sorry, it wouldn't. Words have their own distinct role in daily human commerce: they're the way-station between thoughts and deeds.
Even if it were true that actions speak louder than words, there are times when we need the security, the confidence that there is a lexicon, a form of expression, a particular order of words to describe what we think or feel. If actions were louder than words then, for example, we'd have to lean over and kiss our partner every time we thought about the depth of our love. And while that's all very well, it can be a bit challenging when she's in Bucharest and you're on the train to Birmingham.
All of which brings me to this song. One of the things I love about it is how it doesn't strive to be clever, with intricately-constructed metaphors or wry, amusing turns. It just says it as simply as it can.
I wrote some time ago about Nick Lowe's "Tonight" was perhaps the simplest and most heartfelt love song I've ever heard. Well, Mike Scott runs him a close second here. "Your love feels/Like trumpets sound./I said your love feels/Like trumpets sound./Your life is like a mountain;/Yes, your life is like a mountain/And your heart is like a church/With wide open doors,/And to be with you/Is to find myself in the best of dreams." I remember reading a William Boyd short story where the protagonist walks home after meeting a girl and feels so good that "he felt he could jump and bite the moon." I think that's exactly the same emotion that is expressed in this song.

1 comment:

Uncle E said...

Wow, this was a great article. As someone who has worked in the newspaper biz for over 23 years, not as a journalist but as a restaurant review guy and Advertising Director, I totally agree. The reason I started my little music blog was for totally selfish reasons, and I never, ever had any delusions that I could write, well...good. But I've always felt the need to try and share the music I love with friends, and in the case of the internet, total strangers. I love that Lowe song, but haven't heard this particular Scott one. Love, love love Fisherman's Blues, one of my all time faves, so I'll have to check it out!