Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Walking After Midnight" / Patsy Cline

Working late, I often take my dog for a walk in the wee hours. So this gorgeously haunting track, written by Donn Hecht and Alan Black, often pops into my late-night soundtrack. I'll walk around the Upper West Side of NYC crooning this 1957 hit that catapulted my girl Patsy into country-music stardom.

Like a lot of Patsy's stuff, this is all about the heartache of lost love.  The loping country arrangement, the plangent narrative -- as she strolls around town lamenting a failed relationship -- it's doomed but oh so yearning. "I go out walkin' after midnight / Out in the moonlight / Just like we used to do, I'm always walkin' / After midnight, searchin' for you." There's a surprisingly sophisticated melodic thing going on here, the cresting sound on "walkin'" and "moonlight," and "midnight."

As the song rambles on, details set the restless scene -- the weeping willow, the gloomy skies, the whispering night winds. In the last chorus, she tries to convince herself that this guy may also be strolling around searching for her, but I'm betting even she knows that's just not gonna happen. 
No, it's just Patsy with her supple yearning contralto, working through her lonesome grief. Doesn't matter who the guy is, it's just the being alone that hurts. The beat plods along like her numb footsteps, but the melody skips upwards, twirling on those top notes. And there we are in the night with Patsy, walking aimlessly, brooding, putting that broken heart back together.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

"The Only Living Boy in New York" / Simon & Garfunkel

 Last week of August, New York City. Seems like everyone has decamped to the Hamptons or the Vineyard or the Jersey Shore or the Poconos or who knows where. And here I am, still in town, feeling existential.
And I keep coming back to this album. (See here for my take on the whole album.) Peeling back layers of the onion, still finding more to relish.

But this track -- this track, jeez -- it's here in a nutshell. The absent friends ("Tom, get your plane right on time"), the aimlessness ("I get the news I need from the weather report," and this before iPhones), the angst ("half of the time we're gone, and we don't know where, and we don't know where"), and the valiant hope ("let your honesty shine, shine, shine now"). A slacker anthem, released way back in 1970 before we'd even coined the term slacker.

This track is all Simon; Garfunkel's gone off to Mexico. Feeling abandoned, yeah, but also . . . that undertow of percussion and gospel choir . . . what if maybe, just maybe, being left alone in New York is a good thing?

Hunkering down, testing the waters. Stretching the wings. Girding up for a new chapter.

Oh yeah.