Friday, February 15, 2019

One More (?) Go Around: A Hundred Songs I Absolutely Must Have With Me on 1/48/50

#372) "Here Comes the Rain Again" by The Eurythmics - I didn't truly appreciate the Eurythmics when I was young (navigating my 5th grade playground dressed in camouflage pants and matching hat), primarily because Annie Lennox didn't appeal to me on the brink of puberty. I never liked the short orange hair, or (at the time) the whole androgenous look (give me a break, I was a kid...). Couple that with the fact that the music was (perhaps) a bit too sophisticated for me at age eleven. Although, maybe "sophisticated" isn't the right word. It just seemed unrelatable, in a way that other music of the time, from the likes of Madonna, Huey Lewis and Culture Club didn't.

Of course, I'm long past all of that. It's all about the music now - good, bad or indifferent - as opposed to anything even remotely visual or style-based, and insomuch as it matters (which it really doesn't), Annie Lennox was actually quite beautiful, and the Eurythmics'  heavily-laden synth-pop sound has stood the test of time, proven itself to be durable by only getting better with age.

Whereas there is a certain hostility prevalent in their other notable hit, "Sweet Dreams", "Here Comes the Rain Again" is more winsome; indeed, rainier. It was, and is, one of those songs that sent my mind off shore. Still does ... just a few hundred yards, not so far as I can no longer see land, just far enough to dose me with anxiety that the land could disappear ... but probably won't. 

"Here comes the rain again / Raining in my head like a tragedy..."

#373) "Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney - Oh yes, I've said it numerous times in this space: Paul McCartney is, for my money and roundly speaking, the greatest performer of the last hundred years. No, he's not the only great songwriter out there, nor the greatest vocalist (although he's crazy stellar in both those departments), but with Macca, it's more a matter of sheer artistic range - his ability to shriek convincingly in songs like "Helter Skelter", then equally as convincingly croon out "Yesterday". It's about that way he had of whipping his voice into a creamy froth for "Oh Darling!", then engage a seamless transition into, say, "Mother Nature's Son" with completely convincing tenderness. He has been churning out sets of songs sporting these wildly disparate styles for almost 60 years, first with The Beatles, then Wings, then as a solo artist from the 80s on ... whatever he was singing, it never seemed like something he shouldn't be trying to sing, and what I've actually said numerous times in this space is that for a self-proclaimed singer of silly love songs, when he does want to make a point, he makes it well. 

Nowhere is this more true than with "Ebony and Ivory", a kind of last word on race relations, which McCartney thought to share, appropriately enough, with Stevie Wonder. The lyrics are simple in what they are saying, the business about the black and white keys on the piano working in harmony ("why don't we...?" indeed), and vocally, Wonder and McCartney each brings something pretty amazing to the party, their voices ideally suited to their parts. The music is, well, light and refreshing, like any good McCartney song, but also an oddly potent joy to listen to.  

No it's not rock and roll, not music to fall in or out of love to, or music to cobble together a mood or vibe with ... it is merely light and refreshing, and the charge that it was some sad attempt by McCartney to stay relevant when the the luster of his career had started to fade by the dawn of the 1980s might have had some truth to it.

But on the other hand, it's not true at all. Come on, he's fuckin' Paul McCartney. If he's going to write a song about racial harmony, "Ebony and Ivory" is kind of exactly the way he's going to go about it.  And I sort of wish we still lived in a world where a song like this could possibly chart the way it did in 1982.

"Why don't we...?"