Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Something To Talk About" / Bonnie Raitt

Meg Griffin played this this afternoon on Sirius Disorder, and I immediately felt a rush of warm feelings -- towards Bonnie, toward Meg, and even toward Sirius for hiring a DJ like Meg who will play this sort of music.

When I was in college, Bonnie Raitt was just starting out -- all we knew was that this chick had dropped out of Harvard to go play blues guitar (which even in 1973 seemed quintessentially pure and cool ) -- and one afternoon there she was, playing at the outdoor amphitheater at my school. Can you imagine, opening your dorm window and hearing Bonnie Raitt playing live 200 yards away? Well, I suppose it could be annoying if you were studying for finals, but I wasn't -- it was a warm spring Saturday afternoon and I had a cold six-pack (my junior year, I was trying to cultivate being a beer drinker) and I just popped a brew and climbed out on the roof outside my room and dug it. Ah, those were the days.

Now jump forward to the summer of 2007, when three girlfriends and I met up in Central Park to hear Bonnie in concert. Well, actually we went to hear her opening act, the divine Keb' Mo' (I have a deeply irrational thing for Keb' Mo'), but by the time Bonnie sauntered out on stage, we were so primed to hear some kick-ass blues, we couldn't have been a more eager audience. And I was just
pulverized by the entire gestalt of Bonnie Raitt -- this flame-haired beauty in blue jeans, ripping off mean licks on her guitar, leaning so casually into the mike and wailing unbelievably passionate vocals. I hazily recall making all sorts of secret feminist pacts with myself that night; well, maybe not so secret, since my girlfriends and I repaired afterward to a bar and misbehaved disgracefully. No matter. Bonnie still represents to me some shining Follows Her Own Muse ideal that I'm still very far from attaining.

This song? I have to admit, it's not one of my favorite Bonnie Raitt songs, probably since it was the theme song for a Julia Roberts movie. I know that's not fair -- the movie was inspired by the song, not the other way around, and anyhow I have never been able to justify my Julia Roberts aversion (jeez, the woman was married to Lyle Lovett once, there's got to be something good in her). But it's more likely my old prejudice against Top 40 hits. When I think about it, this song expresses just exactly the same saucy, self-possessed attitude that I love Bonnie for. (A lot more so than the woman-as-victim anthem "I Can't Make You Love Me," Bonnie's other big hit -- which, I don't care, I still love).

And listening to it in the car this afternoon, I heard whole new dimensions I'd never noticed. Yeah, it's about an affair, but we're catching it right on the threshold, still charged with danger and eager excitement. In the first verse, she's viewing how other people see them ("We laugh just a little too loud / We stand just a little too close / We stare just a little too long") and I don't know, there's something awfully sexy about that -- as if she's been so deep into the laughing and standing close and staring that she had
no idea where it was leading. We're catching her right at the tipping point -- "It took a rumor to make me wonder / Now I'm convinced I'm going under" -- and her reckless vocals and woozy bluesy guitar give it an extra hell-yeah juiciness. It's very clear where this thing will end up, but it's not there yet -- things are still throbbing and vibrating between them.

I'm thinking now of Keats' "Ode On a Grecian Urn" (sorry, but I wrote my senior thesis on Keats and it
stuck) -- about the poignance of freezing a moment in time. In the world of this song, these lovers will always have the hots for each other -- they won't have to deal with pissing each other off, or finally noticing each other's flaws, or betraying other people. We, of course, know that all that crap is bound to ensue. We sympathetically exult with them, at the same time as we cringe for them.

All that, in one pop song?
Why not?

Something To Talk About sample


Anonymous said...

HAHA. Keb Mo. Blues for people who can't handle real blues. I wouldn't cross the street to see him play the sidewalk opposite. Bonnie Raitt is cool.

Handlebart said...

HAHA. Anonymous. A handle for people who can't handle a real handle.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. If there's anything lamer than an ad hominem attack, it's an anonymous ad hominem attack.

Well, since Keb' is not a sharecropper from Depression-era Mississippi, I don't see why he should try to sound like one. He's never set himself up as a blues purist. I like his voice (it's got that great scratchy velvet quality), I like his nimble guitar playing, and I think he has something to say -- something a little more insightful than "since my baby left me / I been howling like a dog." He's got a great sense of humor, and I can tell you that every Bonnie Raitt fan in that audience that evening was blown away by his performance. Pity you missed it, anon. But I can live with that.


PS for some reason the Blogspot folks have locked this blog while they're making sure it's not spam (glad to hear they're on the job), so I won't be able to make new posts until they've cleared that up. See you guys soon!

handlebart said...

They've been locking up a number of other blogs, too. One blogger "fixed" that problem by having a second blog ready to go, like 'The Other Song In My Head Today' or 'The Song In My Other Head Today'. HA!

Keep up the good work!