Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Love, love will tear us apart again (Joy Division)

Songs about break ups have been around since Eve whistled a melancholy little tune as she exited Eden.

Teenagers love to wallow in self pity and I was no exception (even if I didn't have a break up to feel melancholy about) and I'm betting that you weren't either.

Everybody has experienced the pain of unrequited love at some stage, and many have loved and lost.

Songs about such things hit a universal chord (pun intentional). Everybody who wants to tap into the universal gestalt has a song about a break up in them.

Here are my top five break up songs of all time (with five it has to be all killer, no filler):

I've kicked off with a brilliant song from a great break up album, maybe the greatest of all time - Blood On The Tracks.

Bob Dylan's If You See Her, Say Hello is a thoughtful, poignant request of a song that means a painful parting has resulted in a reflective period and then acceptance that she will live forever in his heart. Not only that - she can always visit if she's got the time.

We had a falling out
like lovers often will
and to think of how she left that night
still gives me a chill

And though our separation
it pierced me to the heart
she'll always live inside of me
we've never been apart

Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division) is another extra-ordinary break up song. It's of the raw and bleak type rather than the sappier melancholy school of break up songs - why is the bedroom so cold?

The first verse is remarkable for a pop song and I'm always a sucker for the simple overuse of a conjunction in poetry or prose.

When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won't grow,
And we're changing our ways,
Taking different roads. (for JD)

One of the greatest ever I'm leaving you songs is Jimmy Webb's By The Time I Get To Phoenix. Doesn't matter which version you listen to as the story and the sentiment behind the song stand up time and time again. The version I've included here is by Glen Campbell but only because nearly 20 minutes of Isaac Hayes is probably too long on the blog but do yourself a favour and have a listen to it on the link if you get a chance. There is nothing to equal it in all of musicdom. (for IH)
At number four is the all class representative of the idea that love-stinks-and-I'm never-doing-that-again sub-genre that is I'll Never Fall In Love Again.  The kicker is always in the last verse in this type of song. Hal David's version is:
What do you get when you fall in love?
You only get lies and pain and sorrow
So for at least until tomorrow
I'll never fall in love again

Finally - the fifth song stands up (lies down?) for all those weepy pathetic excuses of songs that just simply feel sorry for themselves. Eric (All By Myself) Carmen is a masterful exponent of this type of break up song.
Boats Against The Current is also a great example of the not quite type of relationship. It hints at the desperate need to stay in a relationship long after it has become clear that each person is in a different boat rowing against the current.

Again the first verse sets the scene and largely sums up the song's intentions:
To say these songs are the tip of the break up iceberg is doing a huge disservice to icebergs but they do represent the key strands within the break up sub genre within the Love Song tradition.
I know it's over
You know it's over
We're just goin' through the motions
But we're sailin' separate oceans worlds apart
And you know it's breakin' my heart

The break up is a topic that never runs out of appeal and song writers will continue to exploit the need we have for them until the sun explodes. 

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