1 February 2022

When real life turns the turntable on love songs

| Sally Hopman
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Photo of Bob Dylan

Genuine autographed photo of Bob Dylan circa 1960 – well eBay said it was genuine. Photo: Sally Hopman.

If music be the food of love, I’m well and truly stuffed.

I used to love how music took you to times via songs. Music that you favoured because of the way the lead guitarist looked. Or when the drummer winked at you as you tried to squash the people who were crushing you trying to get to the front of the ANU bar/AIS arena/Coogee Bay Hotel/Rooty Hill RSL stage.

Or the time we went to see Eric Clapton at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Yes, we were up in the nosebleed section but I swear he smiled at me, just me.

Now he’s a bloke who knows all the tricks. Well, it was graffitied all over London that Clapton is God so it must be true. What a life he led, and still does although maybe less so as he’s about 80 now and his kids have kids, even though his wife is only about a third his age.

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Clapton is a remarkable guitarist, singer and songwriter, but will probably be known equally for taking George Harrison’s wife and not giving her back.

Listen to Wonderful Tonight, or Layla, both reportedly written about Patti Boyd (Harrison) – “I tried to give you consolation when your old man let you down, you turned my whole world upside down. Like a fool I fell in love with you”. Now, that’s telling her. And him.

While other Clapton classics like Old Love will break your heart or make you remember when yours last was, Have You Ever Loved a Woman will break all your remaining bits.

“Have you ever loved a woman so much you trembled in pain, and all the time you knew she bears another man’s name.” Sigh.

Clapton’s a master at making music love, but Bob Dylan’s the maestro.

Although I only decided he should have been my other half when he was midway through his career, and I should have known better, he was it. You know the cliche, he puts into words what I wanted to say. Well, perhaps not always.

Cover of Unplugged record

One of Eric Clapton’s most successful records, Unplugged, released in 1992. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Also, he had the slight problem of writing songs like Sara, to his wife, the mother of his children, the only woman he would ever love, his other half – and she goes and files for divorce.

And to compound it, in Sara, he wrote about how he stayed up all night in the Chelsea Hotel writing Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands for her. All 11 minutes 21 seconds of what I like to think is a love song. Although with a chorus of, “Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands, where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes, my warehouse yes, my Arabian drums, should I put them by your gate or sad-eyed lady should I wait?”, a translator would have been helpful.

But that’s what Dylan did. He wrote lyrics that made no sense so the fans, who rifled through his rubbish bins in search of scraps of his brilliance, would have something to talk deep and meaningfully about at their Dylan Dinners or whatever it was they did.

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My absolute favourite was James Taylor. That tall, brooding fellow who always told us we had a friend, regardless of the weather, although it was mostly fire and rain.

Seems JT wrote so well about love because he was in the company of such great women as Carly Simon, Carole King and Joni Mitchell.

From Joni in The River: “You loved me so naughty you made me weak at the knees”.

Don’t know what he wrote to Carole because their relationship seemed more platonic than passionate – You’ve Got A Friend – but to Carly, not so loving – and it apparently had nothing to do with claims James was vain. Seems they haven’t spoken since their divorce either.

Joni also inspired others to write from the heart, including her partner Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame, in Our House.

“Staring at the fire, for hours and hours, while I listen to you play your love songs all night for me, only for me.”

Don’t you just want to move into their house? Or at least the house they shared when they were still married.

Sadly, nothing lasts forever – except your old LPs. They just keep going round and round.

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Stephen Saunders11:11 am 31 Jan 22

Worryingly, “old” music is 70% of the US music market. “Sad Eyed Lady” is a dirge, items like “Ramona”, “Tambourine Man”, “Love Minus Zero” are more singable.

Classical music really does it for me. Particularly ‘Historically Informed Performance/s’ aka ‘Original Instruments’.

Is it policy to NOT cover classical here!?

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