Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wedding: When A Man Loves A Woman

Percy Sledge: When A Man Loves A Woman

Last week, I went to a cocktail party celebrating the wedding of my wife’s cousin. It was unusual, in part because the bride and groom were in their mid-40s and getting married for the first time. Also, they aren’t going to be living together, at least not right away. Having been married for less than a month, the bride remarked to me that she found married life easy, and didn’t understand why people complained about it. I’ll assume that she was making a joke, because she’s a very smart woman. My only advice to her, speaking as someone who has been happily married for more than a quarter century, was that she should make sure that her husband was her best friend.

Which made me think about the fact that my wife, who is my best friend, and I have had incredible role models. Both of our parents have been happily married to their best friends for decades, and it is a rare thing these days for kids like mine to have parents and two sets of grandparents who are still married. The conventional wisdom is that 50% of marriages end with divorces, but that statistic is actually outdated and inflated. A recent article in the New York Times reported that the divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since. The article noted:

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce.

So, maybe my potential grandchildren will not see a similar spate of divorces, which I think is a good thing, because of the reasons why couples are staying together (for the most part, not for religious reasons or fear of disapproval).

There are many things that I remember about my wedding, which, I remember to have been a fun party. First, how beautiful my soon-to-be wife was. Second, it was hot. Very hot, but she didn’t seem to sweat. Third, how I had not a single moment of “cold feet” (and not because, as I may have mentioned, it was hot). And I remember the first dance (to the extent I actually “danced”) with my wife to this great love song by Percy Sledge, who sadly passed away recently. (By the way, the original version of the song was re-recorded because the horns were out of tune. But the revised version was, through an error, not released, so the hit song is apparently flawed. I can’t tell, but I’m a drummer).

For some reason, over the years, my wife has commented to me about how she would have done things differently at our wedding if she was doing it today. And I get it, because our tastes and situations and attitudes have changed, but it always seemed to me to be a waste of time to think about it. What’s done is done, and we enjoyed it then. Interestingly, though, I don’t think that she said she regretted picking this song. Because it really is about a man loving a woman, and not vice versa. Not to mention, most of the lyrics are about the love-besotted singer overlooking the woman’s bad behavior. And if you know my wife, you know that she is a true feminist, so it wouldn’t have surprised me if she had reconsidered that choice.

But it is a soulful love song, and I agree with its first lines:

When a man loves a woman 
Can't keep his mind on nothing else 
He'll trade the world 
For the good thing he's found 

Another memorable thing about our wedding was the toast given by the maid of honor, the very same cousin whose cocktail party we attended last week. As I have previously discussed, , my wife and her cousin traveled up to Connecticut for the wedding a few days before I did. It was during one of the hottest stretches ever recorded to that point in the Northeast, and the two of them sang together in the car. I believe (and I didn’t mention this the last time) that they had car trouble, making the fact that one of the songs they sang, R.E.M.’s “It’s The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” very appropriate. Her cousin worked the song into the toast, and last week, my wife returned the favor in her toast. So, here, as a bonus, is the other song that reminds me of my wedding. And it is a video, uploaded to YouTube by the record label, not a link, because the last time, I got in trouble.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


"there lived a lady in Scotland
o my love, o my love
there lived a lady in Scotland
o my love so early
there lived a lady in Scotland
she's fallen in love with an Englishman
bonnie Susie Clelland's to be married in Dundee"

And there you were, thinking that fireworks were clearly as part of the marriage nuptials as they are now.

Sadly I can not reveal that the above story ended well. In this week after a United (!) Kingdom general election, wherein 56 of 59 available seats in Scotland went to the would-be separatist Scottish National Party, perhaps it is no surprise that an Anglo-Scottish liason could or should end in tears. Based on a traditional folk song, this was a highpoint of 1990s "Freedom and Rain", a groundbreaking album bringing together progressive folk-rockers, Oysterband, with the doyenne of a more austere and frosty folk tradition, June Tabor. I have mentioned the former before, but Ms Tabor might need some introduction. Lauded by Elvis Costello: "If you can't appreciate June Tabor, you should just stop listening to music," she has proven herself to be a potent and original force within the traditional folk movement of the UK. Stirred into action by hearing the work of Anne Briggs (herself worthy of greater recognition and a piece on this site) in 1965, she has been an active and acclaimed singer now for 40 years, with 12 solo recordings, and many a collaboration, gradually introducing a chamber jazz sensibility into her interpretations. Her style has seemed sometimes a little severe, with a stark beauty, so it was a refreshing surprise to see her letting down her hair with the Oysterband, to produce, for each of them, their best-selling record, a trick later repeated again, 21 years later, with "Ragged Kingdom," folk album of the year in 2011, as judged by UK World Music magazine FROOTS (originally Folk Roots).

I love this song, the combination between the churning beat, evoking horseback, and the clinical vocal, underpinned by cello and violin, easily surpassing an earlier version by the band alone, on 1985's "Liberty Hall," when they were a very different proposition, yet to introduce the sin of drums, shock, horror, echoes of Dylan in 66, to their traditional canon. (Unfortunately I can't find this on YouTube.) But, as the story progresses, so too does the chorus, as it becomes clear that maybe the arrangements may yet be subject a hotter outcome than originally anticipated.....

"there lived a lady in Scotland
o my love, o my love
there lived a lady in Scotland
o my love so early
there lived a lady in Scotland
she's fallen in love with an Englishman
bonnie Susie Clelland's to be buried in Dundee"

Lest all this tragedy has spoilt your day, let me cheer you up with a perhaps more typical wedding, this time successful, at least on the day. Again this is Oysterband, and it reminds me of both of mine:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Darkness: Only After Dark


   OK: Here's a tune you'll want to play for anyone who comes near your computer today.

   After leaving David Bowie's band, the great glam rocking guitarist Mick Ronson released his first solo album, Slaughter on 10th Avenue, in February of 1974. The album features a cover of Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" and the instrumental title track with Aladdin Sane pianist Mike Garson on the ivories, and one stunning song that outdoes anything Bowie put out in 1974: "Only After Dark".

The album reached Top 10 in the UK.