25 August 2005

[edit: brian wilson - "this could be the night" (from the for the love of harry: everybody sings nilsson lp, out-of-print)

this is the cover version mentioned below from the nilsson tribute album. it's taken at a faster clip, and he excises the intro--usually these subtleties aren't lost on wilson--but one gets the idea. and, besides, given its highly litigious nature, i'm not tangling w/ abkco.]

here's one reason i am an utter fool (space has been provided in the comments section for your own suggestions): i really believe in pop music. not in the sense that i believe in its continued viability as an art form, which, incidentally i do. no, i believe everything that a well-rendered pop song has to tell me, about myself, about life, about the world.

(this naturally leads down another path, different from the one i intend to tread here: what is it that people do w/ pop music? aside from consuming it, singing along w/ it, inserting it as their ring tone? do other people live by it? or do most people just live along w/ it? consider.)

i was walking around manhattan today, communing w/ my ipod. "this could be the night" by the modern folk quartet came on and i felt a quantifiable lift in spirits and outlook; science could measure the increased spring in my step. i wasn't up to anything in particular; i have no great prospects, either for this night or for any other in the forseeable future. "do you think it's dangerous," as stephin merritt once asked, "to have busby berkeley dreams?" i leave you to ponder that as i discuss the modern folk quartet.

researching this song, which has long been a favorite, i was shocked to find that, one, it's only available in one place (spector's back to mono box set) and, two, it was never officially released until the spector set came out in 1991. yet, i could swear that i heard it, any number of times, on (the lamentably late) 101.1 wcbs-fm. though never released, it did serve as the theme song to a performance film called the big tnt show, the 1966 sort-of-sequel to the previous year's epochal the tami show. by comparison, it seemed to fare less well, particularly since, unlike tami, it didn't feature a young rolling stones or an earth-stopping performance by james brown (a sampling of tnt performers: ray charles, the byrds, tina turner, donovan, bo diddley, petula clark, the lovin' spoonful &c.). writing in 1969, robert christgau seems unaware of its release; google registers 5x as many sites for tami as for tnt.

one artist that didn't perform--though, as you see, they were listed on an early poster--was the modern folk quartet. for one reason or another, spector failed to sign the lovin' spoonful and the young rascals; his attempt at speaking to the kids was in the form of the modern folk quartet, whose members would go on to fame in different areas of the music industry ... but not w/ spector. my little investigation of this song has taught me two things: how we tend to create our own little insular world w/ its attendant hit parade and how resentment can be covered over by an excellent song. spector never released any of the music that emerged from his collaboration w the m.f.q., which has left members of the band bitter right up to the current day (he does have a way w/ burning bridges, and other things, doesn't he?)

"this could be the night" sounds huge, an adjective that can be used for every spector production, up until at least let it be: a martial drum beat, handclaps, glockenspiel, a steel guitar sounding from great depths, a lead singer that's a ringer for al jardine (brian wilson would later cover it for a harry nilsson tribute, nilsson the co-writer w/ spector), and an immense chorus--one's heart drops slightly when considering what he might have done w/ something like "darling be home soon." aside from its heft, it seems like a foregone conclusion that "this could be the night" was a top ten hit, that it would take a force of nature to stop it from ascending the charts. of course, one might argue that a force of nature did stop it: the typhoon of teen. happily, knowing that it was never a hit has little effect on my affection for the song, no measurable loss in spring of step. it might seem that chart positions is inextricably tied up w/ pop music, that its general sentiments (basically, though not limited to love) aim for popular acceptance. pop being basically a fool's game, and me being a fool, i believe everything a song like "this could be the night" has to tell me about myself--and itself. to use a recent example, i'm fairly certain that helen love's "debbie loves joey" will never be a hit, but it's convinced me that it is, and w/ the basic faith established, i also fully believe that the stars may very well be my own, and, indeed, that this may likely be the night.

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