10 May 2006

the stone roses - "sally cinnamon" (from the complete stone roses lp, available for purchase here.)

this band never should have become famous.

not to say that they didn't deserve it; not to say that, w/ ian brown's star power, john squire's tunes, and their timing, it wasn't inevitable. but there's something about "sally cinnamon," their second single, that one doesn't find in their later work, cf. the cynical & bloated second coming. "sally cinnamon" sounds like one of orange juice's postcard singles, charming and shambolic, everything off just a hair, nothing like the virtuosos they'd become. except where oj would be clever, the roses, embodied by ian, are naive. naive. i suppose it's hard to be naive after you've conquered the world, or at least england.

naive is a line like "i pop pop pop blow blow bubble gum / you taste of cherryade." i always thought the first part was gibberish, ian tongue-tied--or speaking in tongues?--in the face of love, a man speaking a language unknown to him, paradoxically expressing great fluency through dysphasia.

i like it ian's way better.

sally cinnamon--the composite of every boy's first love, likely the name of charlie brown's little red-haired girl. she is, to borrow a term, "sense-luscious" : the sound of gum popping; the taste of cherryade and sugar; the taste & smell of cinnamon and spice; the feel of her eyes staring at you from every glass, the v. sibilance of her name. she is all presence, an incredibly salutary presence, heavensent & a chaser of stormclouds; she is most notable, though, for her absence.

did i say they weren't clever? apart from being one of the only songs i know to use the verb "allay," ian also manages a little trick in the final verse. perhaps i didn't think it clever b/c it went right over my head : it wasn't until today that i realized that the foregoing was a letter, a love letter. the love letter, barthes writes, "waits for an answer; it implicitly enjoins the other to reply." he cites a letter from freud to his fiancée :
yet i don't want my letters to keep remaining unanswered, and i shall stop writing you altogether if you don't write back. perpetual monologues apropos of a loved being, which are neither corrected nor nourished by that being, lead to erroneous notions concerning mutual relations.
but i don't think it gets to this point for ian. like the rest of the song, this, too, might be (blessedly) a little off--or maybe i just am--i plead guilty to that charge. as i see it, though, it's a letter never sent; the pronoun change ruefully acknowledges that another guy will be "her world." still, he keeps it w/ him, a reminder of an earth-shaking love.

it's at this point that one is reminded why she's sally cinnamon and not, say, sally sugarcane : "nothing is more memorable than smell," diane ackerman writes
smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines, hidden under the weedy mass of many years and experiences. hit a tripwire of smell, and memories explode all at once. a complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.
a pungent scent, but cinnamon is also a spice and it leaves a more complicated taste in one's mouth. like love itself, it is something that, once one has a taste for it, is hard to quit; it is something one always wants to keep about one's person.


Amy said...

You're right--the song's charm is in its imperfection. Many of the band's early singles (the ones that succeed at all) are like that.

Alasdair Norrie (ally_norrie@hotmail.com) said...

i totally disagree. This, along with Elephant Stone that followed it, are amazing songs showing great muscianship, no 'imperfection', and point show that The Stone Roses were certainly destined to become a great band (the real suprise should be why they didnt sustain this after the first album, perhaps one of the most heartbreaking facts of rock history). Lyrically I think its fantastic, also I think its written more by Squire than Brown. The conceit that the song comes from the point of view of someone reading a letter of lesbian love, looking into two peoples relationship that he is alien from, only revealed in the last verse, shows exactly why the Roses were one of the best British bands of all time:

'so I put the letter back in the place where it was found,
in the pocket, of her jacket, on the train in town,
sent to HER from heaven,
Sally Cinnammon, you're HER world'.

Simple, original, and breathtaking song writing

Alasdair Norrie (ally_norrie@hotmail.com) said...

also incidentally, Squire's guitar lines in the song are typical of his best work. There is a version of the song where these are more prominent in the mix than the version included on 'The Complete Stone Roses', which can be found on itunes. Certainly worth checking out!