Sunday, July 30, 2006

the grass is always greener on the younger side of the fence

When I was in my early twenties, sometimes I would be with another person my age in a group of people who were all Older, and I would lean to the other person and murmur, "They envy us our youth."

A few days ago, I was with another person my age in a group of people who were all Younger, and I leaned to the other person and murmured, "They envy us our agedness."

Despite the symmetry, it just didn't seem to have quite the same ring to it.

As a complete non sequitur that seems not enough for its own post, ABBA's "Take A Chance On Me" is playing on iTunes here right now and once again I'm wondering why I am the only one who regards it as an enormously sad song, especially because of how seemingly gleefully it's being sung. "When you're all alone, because of some deep personal failing I am confident will eventually cause you to be dumped by each of the many women you would actually prefer to be with, you can rest assured that I will still be single and sitting by the phone, and I would urge you to decide then that you have finally sunk low enough as to prompt whatever lowering of standards is required to warrant your merely being willing to try my sorry body out." Other opinions on songs from this evening:

1. Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" is such a weird, creepy song that I don't understand how a sane person can make it willies-through all the way to the end unless they aren't actually listening to it

2. Styx's "Mr. Roboto" does not receive adequate attention in discussions of the worst pop song of the last half century. I have no idea how it came to be on my computer, and the only reason I do not delete it is that it is sort of interesting to listen to for how bad it is, akin to William Shatner's cover of "Rocket Man."

3. Dar Williams's "Iowa" can make me borderline tears-in-my-Coke-Zero (esp. "you were out wandering on the hills of Iowa, and you were not thinking of me"), and I would be willing to pledge half my future income for a campaign to make it the state's official song.


wolfa said...

Do you envy people in their early 20s their youth, or were you just self-centred then?

I think everyone agrees that Iowa is a sad, sad song. I have never really considered Take a Chance on Me before, but I suspect this will go through my mind every time I hear that song -- or anything by ABBA -- again. Thanks!

Danielle said...

Another great, haunting song that I think really captures a place (and another Midwestern place that starts with 'I,' to boot) is Josh Ritter's "Idaho."

jeremy said...

Wolfa: Of course I envy people in their early 20s their youth. I am, after all, homo sapiens, even if on unkempt days I might not especially look it.

Danielle: I just bought "Idaho" on iTunes. I like it. Thanks.

Danielle said...

Glad you liked it -- he's actually in Boston this Thursday at Copley Square and then again on Sept 30th at the Orpheum.

nina said...

Iowa (the song) is cooler than cool. And yes, when my daughters and I belt it out in the car on the occasion that we listen to Dar, we do right away say that it reminds us of you and your writings/feelings for That State.

jeremy said...

Nina: The thought of the Camic women driving across the prairie singing the song of my beloved state brings joy beyond joy.

Danielle: I'm out of town this week, but maybe I'll try check out the late September show.

carly said...

Having heard Take a Chance on Me (the Erasure version) at least 3 times every weekend for several months, I have certainly had ample opportunity to consider the song. I find it to be a mixture of melancholy and desperate, last-ditch hope, all wrapped up in a bubbly pop song (the Erasure version being even more bubbly than the original ABBA). It is a bit of, as my highschool English teacher would have said a 'gross juxtaposition' which only highlights the sadness of it. So, in sum, I agree with you, Jeremy :)

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

I haven't heard "Idaho," but I love Josh Ritter's "Harrisburg."

Also, "Take a Chance on Me" certainly sounds sad and desperate; I think I prefer the feel of the Magnetic Fields' "When You're Old and Lonely," which seems to communicate more self-worth.

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

Also, crap, I won't be in town in September. Boo.

jeremy said...

I think Danielle was referring to the Orpheum in Boston. (Madison and Boston both have places called the Orpheum.)

Anonymous said...

There are hills in Iowa?

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

Oh. Well, I won't be in Boston in September, either. Reiterated boo.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the reasons that ABBA works, and why we're still talking about them today thirty years past their heyday, is that there's so much more to ALL of their songs than just bubbly, fluffy, blonde Swedish fun.

There's been loads of other bands that came out of the Swedish music scene to achieve worldwide fame. Let's look at a few of them and compare...

1. Blue Swede: Had the number #1 single in the U.S. the day that ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest. A week later, ABBA was touring the to promote Waterloo and made the rest of the world wonder why we had bothered to like a cover that starts out "ooga-chacka".

2. Ace of Base: Very obviously an attempt to recreate the ABBA magic, right down to the two-boys-two-girls-ooh-maybe-they're-having-group-sex lineup. Unfortunately, their songs tended to all be about being a ho.

3. Roxette: OK - I'm not sure why they're not still famous and well-loved. They're stuff is just as brilliant as ABBA's (if not more so). Anyone got an idea?

4. Yngwie Malmsteen: Hard core musos love him, and he's hailed on Wikipedia as the third-best axe man ever. (I'm assuming Eddie Van Halen is #1. Not sure who would be #2.) (teehee - I just made you say "number two".) But that's about as far as it goes. Ask serious music fan types if they're heard of Yngwie Malmsteen and they'll say "sure"; ask them to name an album and most people can't.

5. Europe: Rode the hair metal wave to worldwide popularity for about 2 weeks in 1987 and promptly disappeared when the wave passed. Primarily known now for writing the music that signals the two-minute warning at hockey games.

6. ABBA: Wrote and performed catchy thought-provoking rock tunes. Then wrote and performed catchy thought-provoking pop tunes. Then wrote and performed catchy thought-provoking disco tunes. Then wrote and performed catchy thought-provoking musical theatre tunes. All in a span of 8 years. Then had the good sense to package 19 of their best tunes together on one album that was guaranteed to always be the very first album placed in the racks at every music store in the world. Pure genius!

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

Roxette is famous to and well-loved by ME.

carly said...

I swear, the long post about Swedish music wasn't me.

But, about Roxette, they're still loved by the Swedes. Marianne Fredriksson (the lead singer) even more so than the band as a whole, and she has recently released a new album to great acclaim.

ABBA was really a fairly new sound for their time, and I think that has a lot to do with why they did so well. The fact that the songs are very well constructed has helped them survive over the years, I think.

Also, Swedes are doing a lot more in music than you're giving them credit for, Anon. Swedish songwriters and producers can be found everywhere. Sweden is, in fact, has the 3rd largest music industry in the world (after the US and the UK).