09 May 2006

the ronettes - "i wish i never saw the sunshine" (from phil spector : back to mono (1958-1969), available for purchase here.)

in "the crack-up," f. scott fitzgerald, reflecting on a doomed love, writes, "one day the girl closed it out on the basis of common sense. during a long summer of despair i wrote a novel instead of letters." maybe i'll get around to doing something that productive. for now, when i'm gripped by an urge to write a letter or email, i sublimate that desire, writing about a song on a similar theme instead.

add this, then, to the list of uncoverable songs. which didn't stop beth orton. she had the standard idea, though : the way to cover a spector production is to strip it down entirely (this, after all, was spector's reaction to his own productions in the early 70s, or at least on his work w/ lennon). one tries to convince the listener that he or she is covering the song and not the performance. based on her performance, though, i'm not sure i'd find "i wish i never saw the sunshine" prime cover material.

sonically, "sunshine" inhabits the same sun-starved ground as "the night we called it a day" does lyrically. "the moon went down, the stars were gone / but the sun didn't rise with the dawn." these sentiments are set to "repeat" in the opening orchestration of "sunshine," in which the cloud cover provided by a french horn keeps the swirling stars of the string section at bay. set above all of this is ronnie spector's voice, sounding like a ship lost at sea, the greek chorus of backing vocalists like the wingless prayers of its bereft crew.

bleak, right? yeah. fitzgerald writes, "now the standard cure for one who is sunk is to consider those in actual destitution or physical suffering." this isn't difficult to do considering all that's going in the world; and then i remember poor grant mclennan. you know what happens? i feel worse; i'm able to feel bad for myself and for all of them, despite how trivial my own concerns are. b/c "at three o'clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn't work--and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day."

where ronnie spector lives, the clocks all read 3 a.m. and, by the sound of it, have for some time now. those crashing symbols on the chorus? top of the hour, 3 a.m. all over again. wasn't always that way, but one day her lighthouse packed up and left the littoral; if not for the cloud that followed her, she'd be totally alone. i wasn't aware that a cloud followed--indeed, i'd gotten quite used to the shade it provided (perhaps this is why everyone all of a sudden noticed how "washed-out" and pale i look). one thing's for certain : before x came around, i never got burned.

it turned out to be worth the risk, though. after all, the burn fades away eventually. other things, too, will fade away, or will at least go quiescent. but it takes so little to undo all of the advances you've made, a remembered fragment of conversation, an occasion, like the insinuation of sunlight through a crack in the blind. once you've heard it or seen it, it takes some doing to forget, days followed by more days, intractable as a watched clock, its hands never seeming to pass 3 a.m.

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