Saturday, February 07, 2009

“Love Like Blood” / John Hiatt


Less than a week into this gig, and I’m already running out of Happy in Love songs. But before we probe the darker depths of passion, here’s John Hiatt’s slightly steamy take on happy love. Happy, yes…and horny, too. He’s not singing about innocent teenage romance or even fumbling twenty-something involvement – no, he clearly is singing about healthy grown-up sex, and pulling out his best soulful delivery to seal the deal.

Even before he gets into the lyrics, John lets off a couple lascivious moans, over darting guitar licks and a great Memphis-funk bass line (FYI this track is from the Nick Lowe-produced half of his 1983 album Riding With the King, so you know who that is on the bass). The rhythm is just slightly slower than you think it should be -- no frantic sexual frenzy, just a confident stroll that makes you wait for your pleasure. “Take it easy, baby,” John begins, teasing out that long e on “easy”; “But take as much as you can,” and the way he hits those consonants, I’m already detecting double-entendres. In true soul-man fashion, he sells his studly prowess – “I got all the sweet loving / You could possibly stand” – but here’s the Hiatt touch: he also wants to take care of her. “I'll take your tears for drinking water / Make your pain sweet company / You can lay all your burdens on my shoulder / Girl you mean that much to me.” Now there’s a man who knows what women want.

In verse two, he sounds even more transported by desire, grunting through lines like “Like a river baby / Your love is running thru me / And with ev'ry beat of our hearts / We're defying gravity.” That’s wonderful metaphor; it ties into the song's blood imagery, but it’s also physically immediate, without being one bit salacious. I'm always amazed at Hiatt’s songwriting discipline, how many ways he finds to develop his imagery. (Later on he scats about "the girl is just my type," “love contusions,” and “transfusions” -- and he warns an interloper “Well he just better stop / ‘Cause I can't spare a drop” -- you just have to grin).

It all keeps circling around to that title phrase – “Cause your love / Is like blood,” with the bass riffing like a heartbeat between the phrases. John goes deep on the guttural vowels of “love” and “blood,” blending them together, almost caressing them. And in the lead-up to the second chorus, listen how he curls his voice around the line “Now I could do a million things / Just to prove that I'm a man” – well, I can’t help pondering some of those million things, and as soon as I dredge up the mental pictures, I'm there with him. It’s dead sexy, without being obvious and explicit and bor-ing. It's intoxicating.

Happy in love? Sure he is -- and he's happy making love, too. Unh-hunh.

Love Like Blood sample

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