Monday, April 14, 2008

"The Getaway (Lonesome Train)" / Ray Davies

Today I finally finished this book I've been slaving over for months -- HOORAY!! So what song popped directly into my head? Well, first of all it was the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun" (always my go-to song for cranking up the first sunny day of spring) but then Daddy took the T-bird away and I fell into a more meditative groove.

I saw Ray Davies perform last week (even in the midst of a deadline crunch, who could pass up Ray?) and while I adored hearing his new tunes from Working Man's Cafe (not to mention Kinks Klassics like "Sunny Afternoon," "Dead End Street," and "Waterloo Sunset" -- whooHOO!), being the greedy person I am, I was sorry he didn't sing much from Other Peoples' Lives this time around. I saw him quite a few times when he was touring to support that 2006 album, and hearing this song live was a near-religious experience.

Not typical Ray, of course -- at times it sounds like he's channeling Neil Young (not that that's a bad thing) -- but the underlying message is pure Daviesian romantic longing. I buy one-hundred percent into the notion that Ray Davies is a fragile, lonely soul who can't handle the stresses of modern life and wants to escape it all. Other artists would just write an escapist song; not Ray, he's stuck in tortured longing. Though the track starts out with a laidback rootsy riff, moseying along a railroad track, watching a train rumble past, eventually Ray whips himself up into an impassioned cry: "It's time you made your / Getaway." It's torn from the heart, and it gets me where I live.

Mind you, nothing actually happens in this song -- it's all in the singer's mind. "It might hit you on a sunny afternoon" -- nice self-reference there -- "Without a warning, there's a thought that just comes over you / And is a shadow on the sidewalk, / Someone like you / In the blink of an eye, waving goodbye." Shadows, thoughts, fleeting gestures, that's all he's working with. It's not even him who's breaking free, it's some nameless stranger -- not even that, it's just someone he's imagining -- but it's enough to make him intensely jealous and totally miserable. The individual phrases waver up and down hopefully, yet "Someone like you" drops downward with a sigh of despair. In the break, there's a crazed electrified jangle of sound (God love Mark Johns, Ray's guitarist on this album) that perfectly embodies his wrenched emotions. He wants to jump on that train, but he can't quite do it -- and that's why he's singing the blues.

Class A neurotism? Could be. But that's what I love about Ray. He's all about the interior life, which is never simple territory to navigate. (He does the same thing in his new song, "In A Moment"; it's not about losing love, it's about watching yourself lose love.) For some of us, working up the courage to break free is a monumental task. Most musicians would be on that train already, reaching down a hand -- or even worse, thumbing their nose as they pull out of the station. Not Ray. He's right beside me on the platform, chewing his nails, agonizing. God bless him.

The Getaway (Lonesome Train) sample


IƱaki said...

I highly doubt it could have been said better. At least I wouldn't.

Thanks for another wonderful read!

Anonymous said...

A terrific assesment.