Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • You Don’t Really Love That Guy You Make It With Now Do You?

    Posted by Lexington Green on August 9th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Dan recently put a note of ambiguity into our duel of love songs. The vagaries of the human heart, from the sublime to the carnal and all points coincident or appertaining thereto, provides the choicest fodder for poets and singers. Lou Reed, a man of many angles and edges, may have been singing about a real person, an imaginary person, a memory, or even his drug habit, current or recollected. Dan playing a Lou Reed card raises the stakes.

    Concede this to me: The predominant perennial theme of love songs is “I love someone who does not love me”. This is pretty much the default love song framework. For one thing, it best allows the singer to address someone referred to only as “you”. This in turn has the advantage for the songwriter that it allows either men or women to sing it, therefore opening up the prospect of more royalties. Plus damn near everybody has lived through it at least once, so it is almost a universal category. And since there is no resolution beyond “getting over it”, it is perfect for singing about.

    One of my all time favorites in this categories is the beautiful and strange song “I am Superman”.

    Here is the REM version:

    (Cool video, btw, but the images are irrelevant to my discussion here.)

    Here is the obscure, original version by the Clique.

    (Very weird video, funny if you find Hitler head-jamming to be funny. But, again, the images are irrelevant to my discussion here.)

    I first heard the REM version a few days after the album came out, in 1986. I was walking down the street in Hyde Park, and a friend and former roommate ran into me. This guy had an awesome record collection and shared with me a love for Sixties Pop and Garage Rock, and Punk Rock and that whole sort of thing. He smiled and said “I’ve got something you want to hear!” We went to his apartment, and he put on the REM version of Superman. Yes, it was love at first listen, exactly my kind of thing. Catchy retro-Sixties garage pop, about doomed romance, clocking in at under three minutes. Perfect. I remember lifting the arm and putting the needle back at the front of the track maybe six times in a row, before he had to throw me out of there. REM had tapped into pure gold. It has been an all-time top ten with me ever since.

    If you listen to both of them, you see that REM took a very nice, but rather aloof, poppy, clever, mildly psychedelic song into something much more earthy and passionate and sad.

    What is it about? It’s about a guy who loves a girl who does not love him back. That much is clear.

    Why is he Superman? Because he dropped acid? Because he really does knows something she doesn’t know? Is he right? Or is it wishful thinking? Or hope against hope? Or jauntiness in the face of hopelessness? Or talking to the ceiling, alone, late at night?

    Is he a psycho ex-boyfriend, or an unrequited lover?

    That depends on where you place the comma in the first line of the verse. So much defends on a comma!

    Here it is:

    “You don’t really love that guy you make it with now do you?”

    Option 1: “You don’t really love that guy you make it with now, do you?”

    She is making it with another guy now. But she used to be making it with him. This seems the most obvious option.

    Option 2: “You don’t really love that guy you make it with, now do you?”

    She is making it with another guy, yes. But maybe she has never even spoken to our friend, Superman, or really noticed him, or taken him seriously. Maybe she doesn’t even know that quiet guy at work, or in math class, or in the apartment across the way, really digs her so badly that he cannot even think about anything else. This seems less likely on paper. But on both versions there is a hint of a pause between “with” and “now”. That fleeting instant clinches it for me, it is the key to the song. It is dispositive.

    I opt for 2, secret and hopeless admirer from afar, over jilted boyfriend.

    The second verse is consistent with 2.

    “If you go a million miles away I’ll track you down girl.”

    Is he a stalker? No, I don’t think so. He just loves the girl a lot, knows she is not his girl, knows the “pathway to her heart” is impossibly long, a million miles, and he knows, as we know, that he really isn’t Superman.

    No happy ending. Guy does not get girl. The end.

    (Lift needle carefully, place at beginning of track, play song again … .)

    Lyrics:

    I am
    I am Superman
    And I know what’s happening

    I am
    I am Superman
    And I can do anything

    You don’t really love that guy you make it with now do you?
    I know you don’t love that guy ’cause I can see right through you

    I am
    I am Superman
    And I know what’s happening

    I am
    I am Superman
    And I can do anything

    If you go a million miles away I’ll track you down girl
    Trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart

    (break)

    If you go a million miles away I’ll track you down girl
    Trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart

    I am
    I am Superman
    And I know what’s happening

    I am
    I am Superman
    And I can do anything

    (repeat)

     

    12 Responses to “You Don’t Really Love That Guy You Make It With Now Do You?”

    1. Younghusband Says:

      I really like the Clique original.

    2. Shannon Love Says:

      Allow me to roll a hand grenade into the discussion.

      The real and great love songs are sung in the character of an old person and the object of the song is the person the character has spent their life with. They are songs that speak of shared struggle, loss, triumph and children.

      Needless to say, such songs are always country or traditional songs.

    3. fred lapides Says:

      Country songs are mostly she done me wrong and I am drinking up a storm.
      What is a “traditional” song? Cole Porter? Frank Sinatra.

    4. Lexington Green Says:

      Shannon, I can only think of “This Old House” in that category.

      Maybe there is a whole genre in folk or bluegrass I don’t know about.

    5. Lexington Green Says:

      Also, Shannon, “Old School” by John Conlee, an underrated performer.

      Name me a couple of your faves in this category.

    6. Sean Meade Says:

      wow, Lex. i didn’t know you were this cool! REM is probably my favorite band of all time.

      i love this song and had never heard the original. really great.

      interesting interpretation of the comma. i always interpreted it the second way, like you, and figured it was unrequited love.

      this definitely gets linked at my place.

    7. Lexington Green Says:

      Aw shucks, Sean.

      I have been a fan of REM since the beginning. I bought their first indy single when it came out when I was in high school — it was Radio Free Europe, back when Mike Stipe mumbled the words to everything.

    8. Dan from Madison Says:

      Just got back from vacation and this! Very good. Time for me to get to work on a proper response in a few days.

    9. Shannon Love Says:

      Lex,

      The song that springs immediately to mind is “Long Ride Home” by Patty Griffin. Video It’s a song about the ride that half of us will make someday.

      Long black limousine
      Shiniest car I’ve ever seen
      The back seat is nice and clean
      She rides as quiet as a dream
      Someone dug a hole six long feet in the ground
      I said goodbye to you and I threw my roses down
      Ain’t nothing left at all in the end of being proud
      With me riding in this car, and you flying through the clouds

      I’ve had some time to think about you
      And watch the sun set like a stone
      I’ve had some time to think about you
      On the long ride home

      One day I took your tiny hand
      Put your finger in the wedding band
      Your daddy gave a piece of land
      We laid ourselves the best of plans
      Forty years go by with someone laying in your bed
      Forty years of things you say you wish you’d never said
      How hard would it have been to say some kinder words instead
      I wonder as I stare up at the sky turning red

      I’ve had some time to think about you
      And watch the sun set like a stone
      I’ve had some time to think about you
      On the long ride home

      Headlights staring at the driveway
      The house is dark as it can be
      I go inside and all is silent
      It seems as empty as the inside of me

      I’ve had some time to think about you
      And watch the sun set like a stone
      I’ve had some time to think about you
      On the long, on the long
      Oh the long, on the long
      On the long ride home

    10. david foster Says:

      A good example of the song type Shannon is talking about might be “The Dutchman,” written by Michael Peter Smith and popularized by Steve Goodman, also sung by many others.

      Tom Russell, a singer-songwriter who should be much better known, wrote “The Road It Gives and The Road It Takes Away,” which references “The Dutchman.”

    11. Jonathan Says:

      So is it

      You Don’t Really Love That Guy You Make It With Now, Do You?

      or is it

      You Don’t Really Love That Guy You Make It With, Now Do You?

      You guys have been dancing around this important question.

      Also, while it may be true, per Shannon, that “such songs are always country or traditional” songs, it does not follow that country or traditional songs are necessarily such songs.

      Just trying to keep the discussion honest.

    12. Lexington Green Says:

      Jonathan:

      “You guys have been dancing around this important question.”

      Ha. No. I committed to option 2, comma between “with” and “now”.

      Shannon:

      “…the ride that half of us will make someday.”

      Hope it aint me. Gimme the pine box rather than the limo. Not that I get to pick.