Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ghetto Love: From Ben E. King To Willy Deville To John Legend

We've established that I'm a hopeless, bleary-eyed sap...but there's no shame in my game so why not wear my heart on my sleeve (again)?

So I'm gonna put together a mix and dedicate it to The Man That Got Away (he knows who he is). I'm in a Drifters loping-along-the-boardwalk kind of mood so I'm going to go with that flavor. Ghetto Love Songs are irresistable. Two people coming together with every odd stacked against's the crux, the nitty-gritty of every make-out worthy, sweaty slow-dance ever fumbled on a gymnasium floor. So here goes:

'A Lover's Question', Clyde McPhatter: From the accapella basso profundo 'bum-bum-bum-BUM-bum-be-bum', finger-snapping intro to the Tex-Mex rhythmic acoustic guitar thrumming along behind Clyde's soaring tenor, the universal question 'do you love me?' is posed as he unpacks all that he'd care to know and then melismas all over the place in the fade out, no answer in sight. Sorry Clyde, but love is a dog from hell. Didn't you know?

'This Magic Moment', The Drifters: Let's just assume, Clyde, that the lover in question wants your ass and all your dreams are realized. Sure, there'll be gales of strings to launch you two lovebirds off on the wings of a dove and yes, everything you want, you'll have. But only for a moment. Nothing lasts, Clyde, and while her lips are close to yours, most likely sweeter than wine, Ben E. King is in the queue, waiting to hop to it when you get bumped to the curb. Sorry, Clyde, but nobody ever promised you a Rose that grows in Spanish Harlem.

'Spanish Harlem', Ben E. King: 'Spanish' and 'Harlem' are two very succulent words that, when juxtaposed with 'rose' well...hell...who wouldn't want to rent a sixth-floor walk-up uptown for too much money and just live there? Bad news for you Ben E., Latinas would rather not be planted in your garden, they'd rather take the A train or cab it down to bottle-service clubs in the meatpacking district. But there's a certain gay guy in Clinton Hill who wouldn't mind a repotting. What would that make me, a cob that grows somewhere north and east of Park Slope?

'Drip Drop', Dion: Piss-poor plumbing as a metaphor for a shitty relationship wouldn't seem that revelutionary or even remotely that original, but Dion wails on this track like a guy who is truly fucked. The girl ('got no brain') packed up her bags and moved out on the midnight train ('the girl's insane'). His buddy comes to see him to give Dion's hapless ass a tip-tip-tip but Dion ain't having it: 'mind your own business/shut your lip-lip-lip/I know when my girl's given me the slip-slip-slip'. Tears fall in sheets of rain, street-corner dudes clap in time to infrastructural devastation, and Dion whines with a sob that makes Bright Eyes look like an alpha-male daytrader. 'on the floor, the rug, on the wall'....shit is bad, people. Call the Tenant Advocacy folks, Dion. You have more rights than you think you do.

'Are You There With Another Girl', Dionne Warwick: Goddamnit John, not only are you not into me but you had to move to Alaska, marry your best friend's sister, and spawn a trifecta of perfect toddlers. I guess you are there with another girl. I suppose I won't 'surely die' but...I'm disappointed, dammit. At least 60's era Dionne had Clinique, inflatable furniture, Bacharach on at the baby grand and Pop Art to console herself with. All I've got is Coors Light.

'Stay With Me', Lorraine Ellison: Bette Midler did a pretty good job with this forgotten gem in 'The Rose', what with her alcohol-ravaged, Courtney Love, throat-scarring rasp and all but Lorraine Ellison trilled the original like a dutiful housewife wronged, ovenmits and all, who just goes ahead and has a nervous breakdown on the linoleum floor of her Union City kitchen. Other nervous breakdowns on record include a couple of Jennifers telling you they're not going and I suppose every Janis Joplin and Alanis Morrisette track ever commited to tape. Personally, I prefer a nice, polite Connie Francis implosion but that's because I numb myself with aspirin, dope and alcohol, just like Connie Francis did (does).

To be continued...


Martin said...

Every time I hear "Another Girl" I conjure a vivid image of Dionne standing on the sidewalk with a tear streaming down her cheek listening to a tinny transistor coming out of her lover's window and think, "She really needs to get a life". That song and "Just Be Good To Me" by SOS Band always kill me with their weak female protaganists. But I love them.

Joe Schraufnagel said...

"Just Be Good To Me" is such a nutsac tingling jam, I've never been able to get past the all-synthesized wall of sound or the 'ooo-ooo's backing SOS Girl up to actually pay any attention ss to why anybody should be good to her at all. Her articulation of 'Rep-u-tation' always grabs my attention and I guess all along I've mistaken the spin she puts on those three syllables as 'not having it'.

If SOS Girl is weak, she definitely owns her weakness. She's thought this shit through. Her pitch is airtight.

Joe Schraufnagel said...

I guess 'rep-u-tation' has four syllables. Should've clapped it out before I published.