howard tate - "either side of the same town" (from the rediscovered lp, available for purchase here.)
(bonus : howard tate - "girl from the north country" (from the howard tate lp, available for purchase here.)
in one of the first comments i ever received on this site, an individual praised my song selection and noted that his favorite part of was the "in brief" write-up. i'm so sorry, friend; this is for you, then : "either side of the same town" is the best song to come from the recent renaissance of 60's soul acts.
one of the contingencies i haven't a plan for is what to do should x & i meet. it's not like big city love : new york's sheer size made such chance meetings unlikely, esp. as one tended to keep to his or her own neighborhood, infrequently making trips that required public transportation into city centers. out here in the suburbs, the car is king and bridges distances, particularly when such distances are small to begin w/. there are opportunities : i work in the nearest mall, for one; the closest coffeehouse w/ the latest closing time is perilously close to x (not to mention the closest kfc, the closest 24-hour markets, &c.)
i'm afraid "either side of the same town," a deep-soul ballad written for tate by elvis costello, a crossroads between "the dark end of the street" and "tracks of my tears," offers no answers. i don't think any song could. but it consoles if only by making the listener aware that others, too, are looking for answers. tate tries to take the high road, counseling his girl / ex-girl to look surprised if they should meet and if she can't, to just keep going, ah, but he can't resist falling into familiar ways, saying he might brush her sleeve in passing.
he hits the first line of the chorus and the song elevates as dramatically as a skyscraper. i remember being disappointed, as such a fan of his 60's work, that he went to falsetto for the next line, until it occurred to me that this wasn't a Big Song; that this was a small, private affair, one of the eight million stories in an aching city--or suburb, b/c we too have our stories, just as unbelievable if not as numerous. tate's voice handles it magnificently : it remains pliant & forgiving, able to move from despair to resignation, from a scream to a sigh, within the same refrain.
another reason to be happy tate received this song is his power of clarification. the third verse shows costello's writing straining for significance, just as his own voice would have strained on the chorus, by making appeals to tropes like, "somewhere, there's a light." is this morrissey's light? maurice gibb's light? neither. tate makes me painfully aware of just what he means, whether it's what costello means or not. as i leave the coffehouse, i can just about make out the light coming from her room; i understand tate and i struggle to resist just as he does. i do the right thing : i enter her side of town and i leave no trace of my presence. no stolen glances or sleeves subtly brushed, just taillights receding and eyes trying not to look in the rearview.
(the bonus is a stomping version of "girl from the north country" from his prime, one of the best covers of a dylan song i've heard. he has definite opinions on how she looked best. he's particularly adamant that she wear her hair down. i'd also encourage her to keep it curly : that's the way i remember her best.)