Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Respect for a Silly Love Song

(apologies for the bizarre spacing of these paragraphs--blogspot won't let me fix it)

I am an enormous proponent for living seasonally.

I never realized how thoroughly I do this until Kermit’s tutor came to our house, looked around the living room, and said, “What I love about coming here is how seasonal your house is.” When I asked her to elaborate, she explained that most people only decorate for Christmas, maybe Halloween--but at our house, each season gets its own spotlight. She’s right. Not only do we hang early spring garlands that get adjusted for late spring, then a new sunflower theme for summer, but yes, I will admit it, I flipped with excitement when I found pomegranate garlands to hang in early autumn. And that’s just the window treatments...

Nor is this something that limits itself to decorations. Generally, it’s Crikey who illustrates the rest. When I’m making the weekly menu, he’ll offer suggestions, and if it’s close to a seasonal switch, he’ll ask, “Now that it’s October, will you make those spooky cheese balls I like so much?” or “Is it close enough to warm weather to barbeque? Will you make kabobs?”

Yes, baby, it is and I will.

Last week, as we suffered through the end of March--the jerk came in like a lion but didn’t have the good manners to go out like a lamb--Crikey asked me, “Mom, don’t you have a spring playlist? You know. There’s your Halloween list; you have a winter one, and we listen to Jimmy Buffett in the summer--what about spring?”

I did have one, but I lost it when I had to hard crash my phone. However, we were in the car at the time, and I looked to the cd holder on my visor. Wings’ Greatest Hits.

Well, son, I don’t have a playlist, but I do have something even better.

I don’t know if my mother played her Wings’ album more in the spring and summer than at any other time of the year, or if I simply associate it with warmer weather because most of my childhood was spent in a warm climate (I still remember going Christmas shopping in bathing suits, flip flops and shorts while we were living in Texas). Either way--for me--no music shouts springtime quite as enthusiastically as Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar and Wings’ Greatest Hits.

Now, I see it as my mission in life to impart upon my children a love of good music--and to ensure they’re exposed to a diverse assortment of genius. There are two secrets to smoothly introducing your kid to music that is not in his first choice genre. First, limit the introductions to an artist’s best songs, then work your way down. Second, explain, as the song starts, what makes the song in question so loved.

Or, in this case, absolutely freaking badass. Trust me on this--if you’re trying to catch the interest of a fourteen year old boy, “absolutely freaking badass” is a hook he won’t be able to resist.

But how, pray tell, would one present a Wings’ song as badass? All it takes is an appreciation for subtext.

A few years ago (okay, around fifteen), VH1 made a little movie about John Lennon and Paul McCartney--something to the tune of “what if they’d actually been hanging out on the day that Saturday Night Live invited them to drop by?’ It showed the two guys spending the day together, walking around New York City. Very cute, very cute indeed. However, it had a little subplot that took me by surprise: People were giving Paul McCartney shit for going soft after the Beatles. Specifically, the absurdity of his hit “Silly Love Songs”.

I am a second generation Beatles fan, and therefore a second generation Wings’ fan as well. In fact, since my mother had that Wings album (and for some reason we didn’t actually get any Beatles albums until they were released as cds in the early nineties), I was actually a huge Wings fan before I knew anything of the Beatles beyond “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.”.

Quick funny: It’s the mid-eighties and we were on Ft. Benning for Armed Forces Day (think county fair, but with tanks instead of livestock and kid-friendly jump tower ziplines instead of rides). One of the soldiers helping us apparently bore a striking resemblance to…

“Honey, look, doesn’t that guy look like Paul McCartney?”

Well, indeed he did. So, and to my parents’ utter chagrin, my ten-year-old self agreed, “Isn’t he the guy from Wings?”

You can probably guess how they reacted to that. And yes, they still tell that story at parties.

Twenty or so years later, I’m watching that VH1 special, though now with an extensive education regarding all things Beatles. Admittedly, with Wings, I never looked much past their music, and this special aired well before I even knew Wikipedia existed--hell, it probably was pre-Wiki. However, I never stopped listening to, or loving Wings’ songs.

But until I watched that special, I never knew people made fun of them.

What gives me a giggle, if not an outright snort, is that, of all the songs that gets heckled for being fluffy, “Silly Love Songs” seems to get hit the hardest. This is hilarious and let me tell you why.

Actually, I already told you why--the song is absolutely freaking badass. Now would be the part where I explain myself.

First, a note on Sir Paul, and his bread and butter. An image of gentle romance, his voice almost always flows through songs as a warm sheet of soft-brushed silk. Every once in a while, he’d pull out his tough-guy voice for song’s like “I’m Down”, “Birthday”, and “Back in the USSR”, (to name a few) but no, not really his hallmark. Personality-wise, the four lads were portrayed quite clearly, Quiet One, Funny One, Cute One, and… Really, if any of them was to be considered Badass One (though I’m pretty sure they phrased it differently), anybody, anywhere with any familiarity with the Beatles would hand that badge to John Lennon. Let’s be honest. When John told someone to piss off, that person knew a off-pissing had been suggested. No two ways about it. What people seem to forget, is that there were all four grown-ass men, and even if they had different communication styles (or images to maintain), each of them was perfectly capable of calling someone out.

Paul may be cute. He may be sweet. But let me tell you, when we listen to “Silly Love Songs”, we’re seeing (hearing) another side of the “Cute One”. He’s making a point. He may be making it gently, but it’s there, alright. And if I didn’t know better, and if the music itself weren’t so darn cheerful, I’d say he’s pissed.

Or at least fighting back. He might have too much class for his actions to be accurately described as “pissed”. But still. This song is a “stick-it-to-ya” if ever there was one.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the evidence, shall we?

*fiddles with dials on old fashioned projector, adjusts the reflecty-mirror-thingy to shoot those lyrics onto the pull down white screen*

Silly Love Songs, written by Paul McCartney, performed by Wings

You’d think that people would’ve had enough of Silly Love Songs
I look around me and I see it isn’t so.
Some people want to fill the world with Silly Love Songs.
And what’s wrong with that?
I’d like to know.
‘Cause here I go again...

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

I can’t explain--the feeling’s plain to me.
Say, can’t you see?
Ah, she gave me more; she gave it all to me.
Now can’t you see?
What’s wrong with that?
I need to know.
‘Cause here I go again...

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Love doesn’t come in a minute.
Sometimes, it doesn’t come at all.
I only know that when I’m in it--
It isn’t silly.
Love isn’t silly.
Love isn’t silly at all.

How can I tell you about my loved one?
How can I tell you about my loved one?
How can I tell you about my loved one?
(I love you)
How can I tell you about my loved one?
(I love you)...

(this goes on for quite a while, with lots of repetition, so I'm leaving it like this)

You’d think that people would’ve had enough of Silly Love Songs.
I look around me and I see it isn’t so.
Oh no.
Some people want to fill the world with Silly Love Songs.
And what’s wrong with that?

Okay. So, if this is supposed to be a love song, sure, it’s pretty weird. Simplistic. Goofy, even. And what the hell is with the final line?


What if it isn’t a love song at all? Let’s get wild and crazy, and give Paul some credit for a) intelligence, b) talent (he did belong to that other group, wrote a few songs with them), and c) sense of humor. Lastly, let’s keep in mind that he was and is a lover, not a fighter. If there’s a way to tell someone off without being coarse, this man will find it. Let’s break it down.

First, the title. “Silly Love Songs”. Songs. Not song, songs. Plural. Right there, in the title, he’s telling us this isn’t a love song itself, it’s a song about “silly” love songs. This is meta, baby. Meta before meta was trendy enough to be a term used in casual pop culture.

And now, the verses.

“You’d think that people would’ve had enough of ‘silly’ love songs?”

Yes, that is what his critics pummeled him with.

“I look around me and I see it isn’t so.”

As in, he’s making obscene amounts of money from people who continually pay him to make these “silly” songs. Right there: he’s the supply, and hell yeah, the public demands. Hey critics, your argument is invalid.

“Some people want to fill the world with ‘silly’ love songs.”

Like him.

Okay--I must pause and point out something.

To me, and even as a child, these next few lines always sounded less defensive, more, dare I say condescending? You know, since folks were so nasty to him (and, as I’m about to demonstrate, so mistaken) about it, I do dare. They earned some condescension. Imagine an annoyed parent patiently questioning a naughty child: “And why do we not put forks in electrical outlets?”

And what’s wrong with that?

(no really, we’re all  interested. What IS wrong with that?)

I’d like to know,

(if you’ve got an Alright, then. Watch this),

‘Cause here I go agaaaaaaain…
I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

(see that? just made this the silliest, most nonsensical love song EVER, and it’s still going to sell ka-zillions--wonder why?)

Oh yeah, in my head, as he delivers those four “I love yous”, his eyebrows are raised, his speech quick and he’s rocking his head a little, sheer attitude dripping from each word. Seriously, I can almost see his thumb under his chin as he waggles his fingers at the critics while singing.

However, the killing blow comes later…

“Love doesn’t come in a minute.
Sometimes it doesn’t come at all.”

Love isn’t some instant, easy thing. And some people go through their entire lives without falling in it. That’s not silly--that’s tragic. And shame on you for belittling it.

Note how he switched from sweet, cuddle-bug voice to badass belting. A fitting delivery to what is clearly a scolding. Back to the parent analogy, he switched from the carefully worded, slowly delivered, leading question, to the part where the parent says, “That’s right. Getting electrocuted is bad. Now go to your room and don’t let me catch you doing that again.”

Now watch, and listen (if you can get the link to work), as he chooses to reemphasize his point here. More emphatically with each line, and supported by the musical crescendo-lead-to-climax accompaniment:

“I only know that when I’m in it
It isn’t silly.
Love isn’t silly.
Love isn’t silly at aaaaaaaaaaaaaall.”

The feeling here is something between calling out the critics for being so callous as to make fun of people who either enjoy the concept of sweet, cheerful love in their lives, or buy his music because it’s the closest they’ll ever come to experiencing that kind of pleasure--and pity that, perhaps, the reason they’re heckling is because they are among those for whom it hasn’t come at all. Maybe that second possibility is why he chose to make this particular stand in a non-confrontational manner?

Last verse, almost the same as the first:

“You’d think that people would’ve had enough of “silly” love songs.”
As clearly, you’re still ragging on his body of work.

“I look around me and I see isn’t so, oh no.”

Watch him as he laughs all the way to the bank.

“Some people want to fill the world with “silly” love songs.”

Like him, and just try and stop him, because…

“And what’s wrong with that?”

Are you seriously trying to tell him that adding love, in any form, to this world is a bad thing? Didn’t think so.

So what is wrong with that?

Nothing, Paul. Not one damn, silly thing.

One could argue that I’m reading too much into the lyrics. However, I say that the subtext here is barely, barely “sub” at all. Critics were either too quick to forget his abilities, to compartmentalize Paul as something confined to his manufactured-for-the-Beatles image, or too lazy to take his intelligence and talent into account, choosing instead to take the song at face value. Perhaps the sheer amount of affection you can feel coming off of him in the video added to it--the man is bursting with love, and it comes through in his singing.

But, in all fairness, other than the vast amount of love pouring from him to his fans in this video, lyrically it is a fairly lousy love song.

But seriously, it’s a lousy love song for the same reason it should be considered a lousy Christmas carol. The closest it comes to being a love song? It’s an “I got your back” from Paul to his fans. As he was criticized, so were his fans for for liking his work from that era. In “Silly Love Songs”, he simultaneously destroys his critics’ argument and tells them all to piss off, and does this while blowing kisses to the people who either understood the song on both of its levels, or only got it on the subconscious level, but simply loved it and him unconditionally.

He did all of this in one piece of music. Far from being “silly”, that song is damn well genius.

Well played, Sir Paul. Well played.

Silly Love Songs

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