By The Landlord
In 1983, the inimitable, but much imitated John Lydon exclaimed, with Public Image Limted, that: "This is not a love song". And just as unequivocally, this week's topic is not one about love songs. otherwise that would bring a tidal wave of the majority of all songs ever written. As Frank Zappa said: "There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something we'd all love to one another." So instead this is a meta-topic - focusing on songs that refer to love songs in all kinds of ways, some in general, or others more specifically with titles, lyrics, styles, musical echoes, some may refer to other artists who are famous for singing them, or as in this PiL song, ones that run screaming from the very idea of being a love song. But of course a meta-love song can contain many a nuance, and still be a love song too. Rather cleverly, in Lydon's case, it turns instead to lampooning a love of money.
And so then, let's take a musical dalliance through what this meta-topic means with a few examples, and a number of artists are already flocking here, not merely Neil Hannon who is regularly at large these days in his Napoleon outfit, nor John Lydon, but there are thousands of songs waiting to be suggested, talked about and even performed at the Bar. Let's introduce he idea with a number from 1936 with Eddy Duchin & His Orchestra who manages, as will others, to perform a love song that's also about thousands of love songs:
I'll sing you a thousand love songs
And still they'll seem so few.
I need a thousand voices
To tell you how I love you.
I've only one heart to give you,
One voice to listen to.
I'll bring you a thousand love songs,
And I'll sing everyone, dear, for you.
And now the great Sonny Rollins, Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges have taken to our piano in the corner for a little jazz number. Prelude To A Kiss they do here as an instrumental, but meta-love song enthusiasts might care to suggest any number of other versions in which these words are sung. This song refers to itself in comparison to other love songs. You can't get more meta than that. But who sang your favourite version?
Though it's just a simple melody
With nothing fancy
You could turn it to a symphony
A Schubert tune with a Gershwin touch.
Oh how my love song gently cries
For the tenderness within your eyes
My love is a prelude that never dies
A prelude to a kiss.
But of the thousands of love songs and meta-love songs out there, are they the same? Somehow not. even if churned out by the music industry machine. In 1966 The Four Tops, backed by the timeless writing partnership of Holland–Dozier–Holland, proved how to write the perfect meta-song, one that has come up in a previous topic:
What if a machine wrote a love song? Would it mash up many other love songs into the ultimate one? Or would they be all the same? Arguably, some bands produce the same song over and over again, making a career on repeat employing the same commercial formula ad nauseum. Mumford & Sons could be a case in point on that, but that's not the kind of meta we're looking for here. Instead we want a different kind of meta-love song. Here's Dick Gaughan:
You ask me why I sing no love songs
You say the songs that I sing make you angry and sad
You say that you listen to music
To escape from the things that make you feel bad.
But hang on, who's this coming in the bar.? It's only Cher! Now she's claiming that her Different Kind of Love Song is different as a meta-love song to the other meta-love songs. Well, it is, if different as it contains an horrendous vocoder nightmare. Oh Cher, why? You're certainly a sharp cookie, but why do this to us. "These are universal truths. We're all part of the light that flows through everything. This is a different kind of love song. Dedicated to everyone," she insists. Oh no Cher, it isn't. Please don't ...
I don't know about you, but I'm relieved that the Jackson 5 have now arrived on stage to cleanse the musical palate with this meta-classic:
Now taking a different note, aren't bird songs also love songs? Well, here's Frank Sinatra to say something about this, and in the timeless words of Johnny Mercer:
You're much too much, and just too very, very
To ever be in Webster's Dictionary
And so I'm borrowing a love song from the birds
To tell you that you're marvellous too marvellous for words.
And then there are self-referential songs that come in many other styles. What about a Cuban Love Song by Mel Tormé? Others are available ... pagan, gypsy, of Kalua or otherwise.
What about songs that refer to lyrics of love songs? Noel Gallagher has always been skilfully, but shameless referential and derivative. In Do You Know What I Mean, his brother nasally, and rather economically refers to: "The blood on the tracks and it must be mine. The fool on the hill and I feel fine," in which we have not only a Bob Dylan album reference, and not one, but two Beatles titles.
Talking of Blood on the Tracks, on Bob Dylan's album the song Tangled Up In Blue refers rather beautifully to love songs from an another era in poetry form. Who is this? Dante?
She lit a burner on the stove
And offered me a pipe
I thought you'd never say hello, she said
You look like the silent type
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And everyone of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin' coal
Pourin' off of every page
Like it was written in my soul
From me to you
Tangled up in blue.
So meta-love song lyrics are often found by searching for lyrics that refer to other artists, or even more satisfyingly, some even do both, such as The Wombats, with, Let's Dance to Joy Division:
"So let the love tear us apart. I've found the cure for a broken heart."
Now all kinds of celebrity artists are flooding into the Song Bar, eager to perform their ideas on this topic. How are we going to cope? Well, "You Can Close Your Eyes," suggest Carole King and James Taylor:
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone.
I'll try and fit you in later. And now rockin' Bon Jovi wants to get in on the act and show his tender side:
I can't write a love song the way I fell today
I can't sing no song of hope
I've got nothing to say
Life is feeling kind of strange
Since you went away
I sing this song to you wherever you are
As my guitar lies bleeding in my arms
Enough already. Anyone got a cloth to clean up that bleedin' guitar? Now then, hip-hop time. There's even Ne-Yo, his here with his posse, ready to spit out a few lyrics that diss love songs, but can't help refer to them anyway:
And I'm so sick of love songs, so tired of tears
So done with wishing you were still here
Said I'm so sick of love songs, so sad and slow
So why can't I turn off the radio?
And eager to never miss an opportunity, James Blunt's desperate to get back into the limelight. Sorry James, there's simply not room for your coffee table performance here. Go back to your pile of money, mate. Don't embarrass yourself.
I wrote you a love song
Now it's something that you hate on
And I'm sad the record's broken
But I don't think I can write a
Better love song
Without it I'd be no one.
Oh dear. Enough of that nonsense now. It's time, as flowed from the genius pen of Irving Berlin, to say farewell for now and hand this topic over to you, with The Song Is Ended (But the Melody Lingers On). So let's listen to this glorious tune, leaving you a window for any number of singers who have intoned these beautiful words:
The song is ended
But the melody lingers on
You and the song are gone
But the melody lingers on
The night was splendid
And the melody seemed to say
"Summer will pass away
Take your happiness while you may"
There 'neath the light of the moon
We sang a love song that ended too soon
The moon descended
And I found with the break of dawn
You and the song had gone.
And so then, returning to reflect on your songs about love songs, it's my pleasure to reveal that this week's magician and master of the meta is the brilliant barbryn. Post your referential songs in comments below in time for last orders on Monday (11pm UK time) in time for playlists published next Wednesday. Meta-love and meta-hugs to you all.
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