SIX SONGS ABOUT LOVE
Music is my first love. From an early age I enjoyed nothing more than dancing around the house in my socks, to tunes from “Grease,” and then “Fame.” And when Santa Claus brought me my very own tape player, and a copy of Wham’s album “Make it Big,” I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
My second love was a dimpled ten year old called Robert. Of course I didn’t know that I “fancied” him, “fancied” was a word I learned about two years later. Robert used to make me laugh a lot, and when I laughed, he’d laugh and tease me about how I laugh, so I’d laugh harder. I can’t remember anything else he made me laugh about.
Then, when I was about thirteen there came the almost perfect joining of the two interests, and I locked myself away in my bedroom for almost four years, to meditate on boys and music.
And what I came to understand is this.
When it comes to falling in love, music is the “bad” friend your mother always said would lead you astray. The high that music creates, coupled with the natural endorphin highs of first love, mean that you rush headlong into something that probably wasn’t a good idea in the first place, because you were in love.
And when it comes to falling out of love, music is your best friend, you know? The one who sticks around? That really dependable friend, who will let you wallow in your feelings, and play The Bee Gees “How Deep Is Your Love” over and over again, until you decide you feel the tiniest bit better.
Here are some songs about love, and their stories, a “listicle” if you will. Think of them like a mix tape. If I met you today and wanted you to understand where I’ve come from in matters of the heart, these are the songs!
1. Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler)
For two weeks during the Easter holidays of 1988 this song followed me everywhere. It was in every shop, café, pool hall, bar, bus and train station we passed through; that is me, and my new best friends Melanie, Steve and Matthew. We met on holidays in the Costa Del Sol, and Melanie liked Steve, and I liked Matthew, so that was all very convenient really.
The song begins with the whine of a low piano melody, and builds — with two voices together — into something much stronger and passionate. It becomes big, dramatic and bold. And while Bonnie wailed that “forever’s going to start tonight”, and embraced the hopelessness of the sentiment “there’s nothing I can do, a total eclipse of the heart,” I had my first kiss with Matthew.
2. How Deep Is Your Love (Bee Gees)
Ten days after that first kiss, I listened to this song on my sony walkman on the bus back to the airport, and let the tears flow down my cheeks. I was devastated at leaving my first love. He was English, and there was little or no hope of us seeing each other again. Those lyrics, the ones about “you come to me on a summer breeze” and “you know the door to my very soul,” they are the stuff of teenage romance and they made tears prick behind my eyelids every time I heard it.
I grieved for about two weeks after I got back from the holiday, then dumped Matthew. Seriously, my stock was UP! I was fourteen and he was sixteen and a half, and this stuff is important when you’re fourteen.
3. Purple Rain (Prince)
When I was sixteen I learned to negotiate the whole awkwardness that surrounds fancying a friend’s sibling. It didn’t take much. Deirdre said to me “Jayne says you’re into Ciaran?” I said “Kinda, yeah. Sorry. I should have told you.” And Deirdre said “No, that’s cool, he’s in to you too. He asked me to give you this,” and she handed me a note from him, and we got together, and went out for about a month.
Ciaran got me listening to Prince, and for that I will always be grateful. But when I cried to the tune of the great “Purple Rain” when I was sixteen, I wasn’t crying over my break up with Ciaran, I was crying over my break-up with my friend, Patrick.
Patrick was my friend and neighbour, and the first person that I ever truly felt a connection to. Our bond was warm and secure, and I felt he understood me in a way that is difficult to find, especially when you are sixteen and stick out like a sore thumb in your convent school life.
I remember our break up very clearly. We were both stretched out on the tar of the local basketball court one evening after a knockabout, staring up at the sky. I was prattling on about Ciaran — I’m not even sure what I was on about, but Patrick became uncharacteristically nasty and sarcastic by way of response. I ignored it at first, then I erupted. “OK!” I hissed, “TELL ME! What is it you have against him?”
Patrick’s answer got lost in the noise of a nearby bus screaming to a stop. But I think he said “competition.” I think that is what he said, but I was too stunned to say “excuse me?” so we sat with a tense silence between us, until Patrick said “I have to go” and left. It was two years before we spoke again.
For months afterwards, I played “Purple Rain” over and over again on my tape-deck, and wailed when Prince bawled the words “It’s such a shame our friendship had to end.”
When you’re sixteen, people who ‘get’ you are difficult to come by, and I missed my friend.
4. You’re Having My Baby (Paul Anka)
This might just be the worst song ever written. It’s awful. A male vocalist sings something about how having his baby is such a wonderful declaration of love from his significant other; Then a female vocalist — presumably her — comes in and sings some clichéd rubbish about how she’s a woman in love, and she loves what it’s doing to her. Then he sings again, this time sharing the sentiment that she could have ended the pregnancy, that if she didn’t want it, then he couldn’t have made her do it. This song is vile and ridiculous. And it is the first song that my husband and I ever slow danced to together.
It was during July of 1992, in a very shabby night club in Salthill, that our friends insisted that we should slow dance to this record because we were the only couple in the group (we were together all of a month at the time), and there were not enough seats for us all to sit down. So we danced, and mimed the lyrics to each other, and added all the drama and pathos the song needed to be fully felt and understood. And we laughed and laughed and laughed until our faces ached and our sides hurt from laughing.
We still make each other laugh like this.
5. Dakota (Stereophonics)
This is a different kind of love story.
If there was a song that I wish I had written, this is it. There’s an energy to it that makes me want to sing it — loudly. This song makes me want to join a band and run away, to live my life on the road, playing music festival after music festival, where, night after night, I get up on stage and scream this out to crowds of thousands. It’s a good dream.
In the summer of 2005 my friend Jamie did one of the nicest things any one has ever done for me. There was no grand gesture, just a moment of silliness, when his characteristic honesty made me look at myself through new eyes, and be a little kinder to myself.
I worked with Jamie at the time, and we were facilitating a personal development programme for young people on this particular day. There is a work sheet we used use with young people as a part of this programme, where, from a list of forty or fifty positive personal qualities and characteristics, we asked participants to circle ten that are true of themselves. We always completed this sheet along side the group, because we didn’t want them to feel they were being observed. On this morning, Jamie handed me my work sheet and I groaned, he grinned “Swap? I’ll do yours and you do mine?” So we did.
I circled the required ten words on the sheet, then pencilled in remarks after them, just silly stuff to make him laugh. We swapped back and read our sheets as the kids were re-forming into the dreaded circle formation. Jamie laughed at his, as I knew he would.
I couldn’t see mine because my eyes were brimming with tears. Jamie had circled every single word on the page, except for two:
“shy” and “sporty.” This song always reminds me of him.
6. Grapefruit moon (Tom Waits)
And CUT! To the montage and the closing credits, which play out to this tune.
This song is my release, my healing. When those other songs that I have talked about here have cut me to the quick, or used me up, and spat me out, this is the song the that I go back to, the one I need to hear to quiet my emotions.
You see, Tom understands me. He understands that “every time I hear that melody, well, something breaks inside.” And I, for my part in our relationship, understand that what ever it is that has brought me here, “the grapefruit moon, one star shining, can’t turn back the tide,” and I might as well accept that.
Matthew (songs 1 and 2) turned out to be a bit of stalker, Patrick (song 3) and I haven’t seen each other in a few years, but we are most definitely still friends. I married the lovely young lad I slow danced to that awful piece of crud with (song 4) about nine years later, and Jamie is still my good friend, and my son’s godfather — who was last seen on Sunday, hurtling down a slide with my five year old daughter on his knee.