Friday, November 9, 2012

Romanticising Melanie



VAN Morrison begins his moving and meditative 1986 album ‘No Guru, No Method, No Teacher’ with a song that typifies his compulsion to relive the past:

‘When I was a young boy back in Orangefield,

I used to gaze out my classroom window and dream

Then go home and listen to Ray sing

“I Believed In My Soul” after school.’

Lately I have been doing the same. Except not with Ray Charles, who is still a fairly much undiscovered pleasure, and not even with Van, who I didn’t really get to know until university with ‘Moondance.’ When I was a young boy dreaming about music in my classroom and looking out the window, it was Melanie Safka I was thinking about.

No doubt Van would have been listening to Ray Charles on an old record player, or perhaps tuning into Radio Luxembourg. For me, now in 2012, too dreamy and tired to think about reading, and totally disinterested in TV, I have been watching Melanie on youtube. The headphones of yesteryear have been replaced by a skinny white set of earplugs courtesy of Apple. And there is a whole magical wonderland of not just music, but images of Melanie and live recordings to go with it. The visual becomes just as significant and enjoyable as the aural.

So I have rediscovered the music that is still in my bones. Her charismatic and original voice stirs me as much as it used to. It soothes and is of great comfort. Perhaps it reminds me of less complicated days. Songs half- forgotten like WE DON’T KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOING and STOP I DON’T WANNA HEAR IT ANYMORE stir in me a soft and seductive melancholy. I learn for probably the first time that they are on a soundtrack to a Stanley Kramer film called ‘RPM.’ The languid song JIGSAW PUZZLE is another that’s half-forgotten, but the images are familiar- the world of outcasts and tramps, and even a ‘methylated sandwich.’  And there it is- it is originally a Rolling Stones song on ‘Beggar’s Banquet’- I’m not sure I ever knew that. Again, it is news to me that she sang another Stones song, WILD HORSES, and that there’s even a Randy Newman cover called I THINK ITS GOING TO RAIN TODAY.

I can hear all of my favourite Melanie record- STONEGROUND WORDS- on youtube. Miraculously, it is a recording of the album, with its familiar tiny screeches and scratches:

I'll go to the garden that follows the seasons
Live in the field where the healing grass grows
Go to the mountains where air's clear for breathing
Clear is just another way to see
I feel to know.’

Melanie is there live singing ‘Chords of Fame’ at Montreux (so is the original Phil Och’s version which seems to me to have very little of the soul that her version has).  She appears on various ‘Tonight’ programmes- the ubiquitous Johnny Carson and Johnny Cash; variously talking about Woodstock; after her comeback from having children circa 1974; and appearing during my favourite Melanie phase in 1972 singing ‘DO YOU BELIEVE’:

‘Do you believe it's morning
I'm alive but that's the last thing on my mind
If our night
time words mean good-bye
Let our morning words be kind
Didn't your eyes say you'd never change your mind
Didn't my eyes say I do believe your eyes
I do believe them, I do believe your eyes.’

Another great feature of youtube is that you can read what other people have said about the song and clip you have just listened to. It makes you feel a part of something. Seemingly it’s not just you in the lounge room with your senses awake and your eyes closed. You have shared this experience with hundreds or thousands of people worldwide. And Melanie comments are never sleazy or idiotic. It tells you that you are on to a good thing.

1 comment:

Peter Mooney said...

Nice post. Anyone who was great in 1972 is still great in 2012