The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Friday, November 29, 2002
I am never going to be bright enough to work out how to paste images onto this blog.


posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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TECHNICAL APOLOGY

No Church sermons yesterday, as my computer was down for most of the day, enabling me only to dash off a few quick emails. It is perhaps just as well that I wasn't able to send off some other, considerably longer, soul-searching, depressive emails - one pours one's heart out at length, and then the thing can't be sent. The heat dies down and one thinks better of sending it. Perhaps that ought to be included on Outlook Express or Hotmail; as soon as you click "Send," a warning should come up: "are you sure you want to send this? are you going to depress and/or alienate the recipient?" Might be useful.

Anyway, I end the week with what I intended to post yesterday, which after Wednesday's piece may provide some relatively light relief:

SOME OF THE GREATEST SINGLES EVER MADE AS OF YESTERDAY

"I Know You, I Live You" by Chaka Khan (1981)

The greatest R&B vocal performance of 1981, rivalled only by Nona Hendryx on Material's "Bustin' Out." Neither was a hit in the UK (unlike "The Birdie Song" and "Japanese Boy") but fucking hell this should have been a number one. Is it a song about stalking?

"It's not difficult
For me to say I love you
It wouldn't be difficult
If you would say the same
And believe me when I tell you
That I know you very well
I know you like I know my name

I think that I have met you
Somewhere in my dreams
I may never have met you at all
And I know you must be thinking,
"What a silly girl"
I know your every thought and scheme

I wake up to the feeling each morning
I go to bed to it at night
I know you, I live you

Like I feel the sun in the morning
Like I see the moon at night
I know you as if I've known you all my life
I know you, I live you"

Is it just a plea to a reluctant Other to get involved and MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN? You couldn't tell from the music; the song is so damned celebratory, and yet that one-bar minor key insert in the chorus ("sun" in "like I feel the sun") admits the possibility that this is all in the imagination. The thin line between desperation and ecstasy. At the fadeout Chaka sings as if she has already won.

"Run For Your Life" by Jarvis Church and Elephant Man (2002)

The same song seen from the Other's perspective? This record is almost slapstick in its approach; a besotted female fan with a knife for her idol. Elephant Man comes across like Uncle Remus, his avuncular growling counterpointing the near asexual croon of Mr Church. It's the same set-up as Rikrok/Shaggy on "It Wasn't Me" but a better tune and more spiked production. The conversation between the singer and the stalker halfway through is "Man About The House" to "Stan's" Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer.

"Those Were The Days" by Mary Hopkin (1968)

What was it about the charts of '68/69? The apocalypse seemed imminent: "All Along The Watchtower," "Grapevine," "Israelites," "Bad Moon Rising," Cocker's punctum of a scream on "Friends," even hackery like "In The Year 2525." Was everyone so keen for everything to end? I've no first-hand idea. My 1969 was the same as Boards of Canada's "1969" - primary colours, beaches, distant hazy shimmers.

I had to include "Those Were The Days" if only to offset Robin Carmody's recent comments that this was sentimental mush halfway between "Eloise" and "Who Knows Where The Time Goes." Now no one bows lower before the latter two records than me; the latter in particular is a considered meditation on the same subject - she and the Other have come through "pain" or even "death" and are at peace. A celebration of two blameless lives (who's the other? Richard Thompson's guitar of course). Yes, "Those Were The Days" is Macca, and therefore more melodramatic, and therefore unable to avoid his innate conservatism (with a small "c") - despite "Carnival of Light," despite bigging up everyone from Stockhausen to Ayler, McCartney has always seemed to me to be a throwback to the days of the Crazy Gang; he would have been equally as big singing with Ray Noble or Henry Hall in the '30s, and probably not that different. At his best he recognised the line he walked between revering the past and the need (rather than the love) to embrace the future.

So, "Those Were The Days." A song about a nostalgia never lived - and so it was necessary to have an 18-year-old girl singing it - a much more sanguine British equivalent of the palpable, death-laden dread of the Carpenters' "Yesterday Once More." Based on a traditional Ukrainian folk tune, though coming across with more of a klezmer feel, unafraid to stop and refresh itself when necessary; the lyric laments two wasted, unfulfilled lives. All the plans we had when we sat here as pissed and happy teenagers - what the fuck happened to them? Unlike the Pet Shop Boys' "Being Boring," which laments the death of the Other but acknowledges that these lives were not wasted, here in "Those Were The Days" it's a living death. "The busy years went rushing by us/We lost our starry notions on the way." We didn't try hard enough. We gave up. We grew up.

(Why do I think of Dexy's "I'll Show You Now" all of a sudden?)

Listen to the way in which the children's choir suddenly suggest, before the last verse, a ray of light, a modulation, a happy ending, and just as they glimpse it the song equally suddenly resigns itself into rueful reflection. They decorate the final verse like angels, suggesting that the progenitors are already dead. But that would be too easy. Something happened to make "that lonely woman really me," to force her back to the "tavern." "Through the door I heard familiar laughter"

("What's New?" - "of course you couldn't know/I haven't changed - I still love you so")

There remains some hope. They are back together. "Oh my friend we're older but no wiser." Hopkin almost laughs at this line, as if - yes - even in my advanced stage of decay, I can still make something happen, something work. It's the vocal equivalent of a sardonic grin. So the song gets a happy ending after all as the brass and choir reach a crescendo over the post-modern knees-up.

And the song is replaced at number one by the Other's response - written by the same author, but in terms of nowness, as a record, it could not have been more November 1968 than any other record of the time:

"What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you smile and walk out on me?"


posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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