Song of the Week – Picking Up After You, Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Happy Valentine’s weekend!  The holiday-inspired me to draft a SotW that fits the occasion… in a way.  It’s not a love song but it is a song about love.  Or maybe about how infatuation is whisked away by mundane, daily life.

This Tom Waits/Crystal Gayle duet is arranged in the conversational style that I explored last Valentine’s weekend.  This isn’t simply a duet, but a conversation between the singers.  They bicker:

Waits:

Looks like you spent the night in a trench
And tell me how long have you been combing your hair with a wrench
Gayle:

The roses are dead and the violets are too
And I’m sick and tired of picking up after you

In the end, the tune’s payoff line gives it a twist:

Waits:

Take all your relatives and all of your shoes
Believe me, I’ll really swing when you’re gone
I’ll be living on chicken and wine after we’re through
With someone I pick up after you

Gayle:

With someone I pick up after you

Both:

With someone I pick up after you

“Picking Up After You” was written for the Academy Award nominated soundtrack for the Frances Ford Coppola film One from the Heart that was released Valentine’s weekend, 1982.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Somebody That I Used to Know, Gotye; Don’t You Want Me, Human League; I Never Talk to Strangers, Tom Waits; You Don’t Know Me, Ben Folds; July, Noah Cyrus ft. Leon Bridges

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Happy Valentines!

Back in 2011, Gotye had a surprise, viral hit with “Somebody That I Used to Know.”  In fact, it went on to win a Grammy for Record of the Year.

One of the features of the song that made it so appealing was the conversational nature of the lyrics.

He said:

Now and then I think of when we were together

Like when you said you felt so happy you could die

Told myself that you were right for me

But felt so lonely in your company

But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember

She said:

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I’d done
But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

This brought to mind another song that is structured around a dialog between two lovers – “Don’t You Want Me,” by Human League.

He said:

You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
When I met you
I picked you out, I shook you up
And turned you around
Turned you into someone new
Now five years later on you’ve got the world at your feet
Success has been so easy for you
But don’t forget it’s me who put you where you are now
And I can put you back down too.

She said:

I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
That much is true
But even then I knew I’d find a much better place
Either with or without you
The five years we have had have been such good at times
I still love you
But now I think it’s time I live my life on my own
I guess it’s just what I must do

The more I thought about this format, the more similarly arranged songs came to mind.  One of my long time favorites is the Tom Waits/Bette Midler duet, “I Never Talk to Strangers.”  This one takes place in a dive bar.

He said:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one
But I feel as though we’ve met before
Perhaps I am mistaken

She said:

But it’s just that I remind you of
Someone you used to care about
Oh, but that was long ago
Now tell me, do you really think I’d fall for that old line
I was not born just yesterday
Besides, I never talk to strangers anyway

Another, more obscure track that uses this ploy is “You Don’t Know Me” by Ben Folds and Regina Spektor.

This one is a little different.  Ben carries the dialog with Regina just making side comments.

He said (she said):

So, what I’m trying to say is
What (What?)
I’m trying to tell you
It’s not gonna come out like I wanna say it cause I know you’ll only change it.
(Say it.)

You don’t know me at all
(You don’t know me)
You don’t know me at all (at all)

This design was built to last.  The most recent song that fits this lyrical device is the late summer 2019 release, “July,” by Noah Cyrus (Miley’s sister) remixed into a duet with Leon Bridges.

She said:

I’ve been holding my breath
I’ve been counting to ten
Over something you said
I’ve been holding back tears
While you’re throwing back beers
I’m alone in bed

He said:

Feels like a lifetime
Just tryna get by
While we’re dying inside
I’ve done a lot of things wrong
Loving you being one
But I can’t move on

There are surely many more songs in this “genre” – “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (Petty/Nicks) comes to mind.  What can you come up with?

So that’s my opposite Valentine!  It’s the best I could do.

Enjoy… until next week.