In between creating misguided out of touch rants about modern society and enjoying Brooklyn’s finest hipster ale, good old white-wine pickled Martin Amis managed to gurgle out some truth this month, on the topic of literature and age opining that “Every 10 years you’re a different person, and the really great books evolve with you as you get older”
Obviously, deep within the dense labyrinth of the best of novels something true, new and exciting will reveal itself that once was hidden to the more naive eye but what of the pop song? Can a song mature and ripen over time falling off the branch in front of you the very moment you need it.
Yes. Yes it can. Yes they do.
For men with settled hormones and settled paunches they reach a certain time of their lives where some songs develop like a strong whisky or a worn piece of wood the cracks and grooves splitting wide the beauty beneath, only with some life behind them can they truly nod their head in grave sincerity to Leonard’s baritone and weep in the darkness to Dylan’s never ending list of cheerless laments to faceless, nameless women.
For me, it took until this year for possibly one of the greatest love songs ever written to beat me into submission. Well, more like waking up one morning and for it to make perfect, ridiculous, glorious sense and realise I’d spent too much of my life living without it, so to have it on a permanent loop for two weeks should make up for some of the damage and lodge it steadfastly in my ignorant soul.
If There Is Something is not a song for the young, in fact it’s willfully old, all its best days are dead and it’s basking in some half felt nostalgia, a nostalgia only awakened in the best of dreams, the most languid of filmic summers. It was a load of bizarre rubbish to my teenage ears, the aural equivalent of that feeling when you think you’ve found something interesting but disappointingly chance upon a bag of bits of carpet and twine at the back of your Granny’s couch when looking for something to do.
Upon finally owning the sexy giddy- to- the- point- of- dizzy-making whoop of Virginia Plain and the butter soft angel tears of 2H.B on the Roxy Music album I didn’t want some freewheeling honkytonk saxophone screechy wank of a thing destroying my glacial pop dreams, so there it remained, skipped the minute the guitar twang came in not giving Bryan a chance to hiccup the first line. I never thought much about it, giving my teenage tastes far too much credence obviously forgetting the time Kula Shaker made their way onto my homework notebook or the time I dyed my hair peach with too much Sun In …
Over the years hearing snatches of it accidentally or reading retrospectives made me finally confront the first side blank and it didn’t just knock me down it ran me over and reversed on me repeatedly with no mercy.
Vomiting up bits of a life viewed through the bus window, the photo album, the love letters, the sentimental silly hopes and wishes pondered and obsessed over nightly. It winds you on a journey through it all from the wide eyed chutzpah filled cocky beginning to Ferry’s voice quickly turning sour and desperate almost wailing, the mask falling from the ‘40s crooner, half begging for the picket fence and idyllic domesticity never to come. All the while Andy MacKay’s pitch saxophone and the descending bassline drops you lower and lower plumping the depths of memory like an elevator coming crashing to the ground then opening out on a scene of pure, youthful exuberance as Ferry’s scorched throat etches out the portrait of the ponytail shaking girl dancing through his past, all our pasts whether recent or long forgotten.
Everyone can feel that first surge of love or wistful memories of being freewheeling and carefree on the cusp of something, anything. It pushes higher and higher flying through the list of clichés of tall trees, green grasses that belong in the past or never existed, a desperate roll call of the substance the conjured up past seems to give us and will forever elude us now the blinkers have fully disintegrated.
In six minutes it manages to pour out the density and sentimentality of Proust but with extra added saxophones and 70′s Brian Eno hair, it, like the most beguiling of novels is there to be enjoyed over and over and bringing with it the hope and expectation that the older you get the taller the trees will seem, the higher the hills, the more sweeter the sound.