(“You’re the One” by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers)
Falling in love is creepy, no matter who’s doing it. It’s like a game of “Risk” when it’s a little creepy and it’s like completely taking over someone’s life when it’s normal. It’s the only basic pillar of a healthy life that you simply cannot make happen through sweat and toil.
So much of it is chance. So much of it is chemistry far beyond my understanding (and maybe yours, too). Extraordinary people are often denied the experience of falling in love because of the frightening scale of their extraordinary-ness. Others, endowed with an enormous capacity to love, find themselves without an outlet for their passion, owing to oftentimes external, arbitrary factors of birth, of opportunity, or of timing.
(“I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick)
Fortunately, rock and roll has for decades provided the yearning, heartbroken and lonely with an unprecedented earnest and earthy platform. Never in all of human history has the art of loving, and of wanting and needing, been so cool as Cheap Trick at Budoken.
(“Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” by the Seeds)
I got a mix tape from a girl in high school on which the second side started with “I Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” by the Seeds (Actually, on the tape it was Alex Chilton’s cover version). Ultimately she rejected me. What the hell does that mean? The same tape introduced me to the Jonathan Richman song up there at the beginning of the post, a song so magnificently lovable and creepy and silly and weird that it deserves a post all it’s own.
(“For Your Love” by Mel & Tim)
Once you’ve got it worked out – and you’re in love – it’s not quite as pervasive and parasitic. Eventually it’s a pathology that becomes mundane, breeding a whole new level of creepiness: possession.
Yeah, that’s not you. All those other people were pretty weird but you’ve got dignity. Sure. You never wrote rough drafts of love letters to someone or looked at every picture they have on Facebook three times or blew off all your real friends for two weeks.
(“Insanely Jealous” by the Soft Boys)
We all take a cathartic pleasure in the pop expressions of familiar anxieties that provide the foundation of rock and roll – Fear of death (“Last Kiss”, “Tell Laura I Love Her”), fear of aging (“1969″), fear of turning into your dad (“Well Respected Man”, “Ballad of a Thin Man”) and of course the greatest of all fears: the fear of talking to the old man about masturbation (“Pictures of Lily”).
Rock and roll is a natural vehicle for expressing love, especially new love and the experience of falling in love, because it’s shamelessly honest. One of the best performances from Elvis’ early singles is “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”, especially the chorus after the bridge. He’s so far from cool, so desperate, this 21 year old singer already expected to be everything for which we have been looking. The session that produced it, his second single for RCA, was a disaster (In fact the single is a composite of several takes, the only such example in Elvis’ early catalog).
(“I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” by Elvis Presley)
Meatloaf famously sang that “two out of three ain’t bad” some years later, but he got it all wrong: Forget love, if he were really cool he wouldn’t need you.
“I want you” was never in question – It’s almost a genre unto it’s own. Muddy Waters never sang the words but it’s there in “Got my Mojo Workin’”. Leadbelly never sang the words but it’s there in “Goodnight Irene” (the grandaddy of all creepy, compulsive love songs). “I want you” is the central theme of rock and roll. There are more great arrangements of “I want you” than we could list (Cheap Trick’s, heard above, and the MC5′s “I Want You Right Now” are favorites).
Dylan’s 1966 “I Want You” (Blonde on Blonde) set a new standard and is often reinterpreted, as in this sheepish, ooky 1975 live arrangement by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band:
(“I Want You” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band)
Elvis Costello’s “I Want You” (Blood and Chocolate) is a true-to-form masterpiece, marrying “want” and “need” into unprecedented obsessiveness so successfully that one is uncomfortable just listening to it.
(“I Want You” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions)
I was standing behind the counter of the record shop one evening thinking about songs that I could include in this post when I remembered we had a copy of the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions in the shop. As I walked back to the counter with that record I checked the clock – the record clock – to see how long until Irene and I could go home and have dinner with the fam. And then I remembered that the record which we made into a clock is actually a really good record. It’s Love Is Dead by the Mr. T Experience. I saw them here in town when they toured in 1995, playing at the Hole (or the Whole – anyone remember?) in the basement of the University’s Coffman Union.
The best part of this swirly blue record? The creepy, creepy song at the end – “You’re the Only One”:
(“You’re the Only One” by the Mr. T Experience)
Why so scratchy? Because I recorded this off the copy we made into a wall clock for the record store. In fact, it took a half hour to get the stupid clock back together.
And, of course, a track from the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Session which we did have in the shop (briefly) and which inspired this entire collection of songs:
(“To Love is to Bury” by the Cowboy Junkies)