Thursday, February 14, 2008
Happy Valentine's Day
After considerable deliberation by the editors here at seanmccallum.com, the committee of one has come to a decision as to what is the best possible song to post on this semi-sacred, entirely fabricated Hallmark Holiday.
It could have easily been any one of a number of Tom Waits classics, including Blue Valentines, or Better Off Without a Wife (it was brought to my attention earlier today, much to my dismay, that in a former life I had once sent a longwinded and shamefully bitter email to all of my single friends at the time, rambling on as I reminded them of how lucky we all were to be single on this day of days... In the words of Thomas Pynchon: "what a blow to the ego it can be to have to read over anything you wrote 20 years ago, even cancelled checks"... In any event, I capped the ridiculous diatribe off with the lyrics to Better Off Without a Wife. How fitting today that the song begins: "All my friends are married, every Tom and Dick and Harry..."). Chet Baker's My Funny Valentine is one of my all-time favourites, and Springsteen's Valentine's Day (like everything else from the Tunnel of Love album) somehow seems to get better and better with each passing year.
But in the end, I had to go with this Springsteen classic, as much for the video as for the song itself.
First off, you have what might possibly be the most honest love song ever written. It removes the day-dreamy facade of that impossible, idealisitic love that most songs go on endlessly about. The line that goes:
The road is dark, and it's a thin, thin line
But I want you to know I'll walk it for you anytime...
might just be most truthful stanza ever written on the subject of what it means to love someone.
Secondly, you have the context of this song and its video. It has been well documented that Springsteen created this album from the ashes of his napalmed marriage to Julianne Phillips. At the time they filmed this video (1988), the Boss was still technically married to J.P., but I think that it was pretty evident that he'd moved on to greener pastures. I mean, this is Patti Scialfa in her smoking ,rad 80's, supreme prime, and I think it's pretty safe to say that what's going on on stage here is what my good buddy Sully would refer to as a good old fashioned eye-f#ck.
And to me, that's really where the beauty of this song and it's video is. You have one disaster of a relationship coming to its merciful conclusion, with the remaining shattered pieces allowing for this other relationship; a relationship based in truth and reality; to take shape. It's like a metaphor for the springtime, where new life is born from the death and decay of that which came before it, the renewal giving reason to believe in better days ahead...
Am I looking too deeply into a song I happen to have a particular fondness for? Probably. Maybe it's just that I like seeing all of those couples from the 80's embracing in front of the camera, or the part at the 5:23 mark where the whole band jumps in unison... Whatever the reason, rest assured that wherever you are in your current cycle of life or love, there's someone out there just waiting to wish you a Happy Valentine's Day.