Thursday, October 20, 2016

Y Is For...

26 artists, A to Z.

The Yardbirds / "Heart Full of Soul"

I was too young to "get" this band; I only know them from my older brother Holt's LPs. They were darker and more complex than the Beatles, the gods of my 1965 musical universe. But given time...

The most arresting element hits you right from the start: that spacey-sounding guitar. I’d never heard a sitar before – remember, this was five months before George Harrison’s sitar on “Norwegian Wood”; the Stones’ “Paint It Black” wouldn’t come out until the next year. But Jeff Beck didn't need a sitar; he got the same exotic effect just using a fuzz box on his guitar. It sounded creepy, and psychedelic, and I don’t know what else.

It’s a pretty tortured set of lyrics too: “Sick at heart and lonely, / Deep in dark despair/ [oh-oh-oh-oh oh] / Thinking one thought only / Where is she, tell me where / [oh-oh-oh-oh-oh].” I love how those back-up oh’s stagger up the minor scale and then seemingly spiral off into space. Keith Relf’s lead vocal sounds so haggard, like he’s been up late smoking and drinking, nursing his wounded heart. In 1965, most bands perpetuated the fiction that love would make us happy; quite the opposite here.

Apparently the girl’s lost interest in him, but he’s not giving up, as he insists in the chorus: “And I know / if she had me back again / Well I would never make her sad.”

All those shifting uneasy chords, and then he lays out his most important credential: “I've got a heart full of soul.” The back-up harmonies modulate mystically through no less than six chords on “heart”; his heart is just full to bursting, isn’t it? In one stroke, he turns my pity into dizzy attraction. A guy who’s this full of passion deserves to get the girl.

Well, love isn't that easy; half a beat after “soul,” that hypnotic guitar line slices through like a scimitar, drawing us into the next verse, and more pain: “She's been gone such a long time / Longer than I can bear / [oh-oh-oh-oh-oh] / But if she says she wants me / Tell her that I'll be there / [oh-oh-o] / And if she says to you / She don’t love me/ [oh-oh-oh-oh-oh] / Just give her my message / Tell her of my plea.”

By the end of the song, nothing’s been resolved; he’s still aching, still miserable. But me, I’ve got shivers running up my spine. No wonder I avoided this when I was 11. But now that I'm a grown-up? I like it just fine.

1 comment:

SqueezingoutColumbus said...

Oddly the progressive rock band Renaissance--featuring the soaring vocals of Annie Haslam--were an offshoot of the Yardbirds.