Wednesday, November 28, 2007

“For Her Love” / Marshall Crenshaw

Then there’s this other side to Marshall Crenshaw – the unabashed romantic. Very few songwriters deliver such convincing happy-in-love songs as MC does (okay, Paul McCartney, but whom else can you think of?). For example, take “For Her Love,” on his 1983 album Field Day -- this thing just bowls me over. Instead of the stripped-down rock& roll of his earlier songs, here he deftly pulls off another classic pop sound: the wall of sound, with a dense production quality that buoys up his reverb guitar and boyish vocals on cresting waves of love.

I’m not talking glorified moon-in-June stuff – no, this feels like a real love between two real people, woven out of little moments and everyday details. “Laughing out loud to no one,” he starts out, “thinking ‘bout the things I’ve done / For her love / For her love / For her love.” The echo-chambered vocals here are a canny choice, because it’s internal dialogue, a guy musing to himself -- not just some stud making rash vows to lure a chick into bed. “Knowing how wrong I’ve been / And how I’d do it all again / For her love” – he admits he’s made mistakes, and that he’s flawed, but the sunny melody -- all broken major chords -- reassures him (and us) that it’s OKAY to be human. And those back-up singers, chiming in on the repeated “for her love’s” – they ratify everything he says.

There’s no swagger, no showing-off – and no sexual posing. As the melody blossoms in the bridge, we get only a discreet glimpse of their intimate moments: “I can’t compare anything I’ve known / To what I feel when we’re all alone.” Yes, of course the little throb in his voice on "all alone" tell us that he means "in bed," but it’s private, folks – we don’t need all the details of hungry lips and roving hands, do we? That’s where today’s girl singers get it wrong, IMO – explicit doesn’t necessarily equal sexy.

Instead, MC sounds simply over-the-moon, with that kind of tenderness you get in certain Ricky Nelson and Pat Boone songs, the best ones. (“April Love,” come on, that was a great pop song.) “And we’ll keep having our fun, wait and see,” he promises, “even if it makes demands on me.” Now there’s where my eyes bug out. This is NOT your typical rock sentiment, and frankly, as a woman, I find it the sexiest line in the whole song.

Then he goes cinematic – “I’m riding on a subway train / And running through the driving rain / For her love.” Maybe that verges on soft-focus Clairol-commercial montage (“We walk together on a summer night”, even more so), but sung in his earnest, straightforward voice, I buy it totally. “I close my eyes and I feel all right,” he adds, still not quite believing his good luck, “And we’ll keep having fun, heart to heart / Even if my whole world falls apart.” In other words, for richer, for poorer – the kind of love you build your life on.

When you think of what else we were listening to in 1983 – the cyncism of Blondie, Talking Heads, and Elvis Costello, the deviant goofiness of Devo and the B-52s – the pop purity of this song is even more amazing. There isn’t a cloud of doubt or blame or despair spoiling it. He loves her, she apparently loves him, and they’ll be together for life. It seems so simple, but you have to be a true believer to pull it off without sounding sappy. Marshall Crenshaw’s a true believer -- God bless him for it.

For Her Love sample

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