Monday, August 29, 2011

All Because of You

As the first musical notes indicate, this is the early version of the song that became "Oh, Marion." It even contains the idea of love being an "easy game" for others. In the original incarnation, the line read: "...another lover/ Is an easy game."

Simon begins with an idea recycled from "Run that Body Down": "I went to my doctor." While the doctor might be able to help with a heartburn or even a heart attack, he cannot help with what the speaker has, which is heartbreak: "It’s all because of you/ It’s all because of you wouldn't say 'I do.'"

The doctor is no help, so he tries the drugstore. Or perhaps, the "drugstore," because one does not generally ask a pharmacist "Do the drugs on me," but a pusher. Again, this health-care provider demurs.

"Ain’t nobody loves me/ Nobody needs my love," our lovelorn speaker laments. Not only is he not the recipient of love, no one wants to be the recipient of his. Of course, the only one he knows this for certain about is the woman who would not accept his marriage proposal. Also, it could be that other women are steering clear of someone so clearly "on the rebound."

Then Simon comes up with a line he will use later: "This my only life." This is a cosmopolitan, existential disavowal of reincarnation/resurrection, which rather than comforting him with its enlightenment leads to a sense of mortality and despair. It shows up again as a line in "The Coast" on Rhythm of the Saints as "This is the only life" (and the variant "This is a lonely life.")

Frustrated with Western medicine, our despondent speaker turns to "alternative" or "traditional" cures: "So I went to the gypsy woman." While the word "Gypsy" is today considered offensive (and perhaps always was) and the preferred term is Rroma, the image of the kerchief-topped crone bending over a crystal ball is common in rock music, from "Madame Ruth/ The Gypsy with the gold-capped tooth" in "Love Potion #9" (originally by The Clovers) to Springsteen's line in "Sandy": "Well, the cops finally busted Madame Marie/ For telling fortunes better than they do."

The psychic admits, "I ain’t got no potions and no special kind of weed," but at least has some useful advice: "Go away, take a weekend or two." Staying where he is, brooding on the breakup, is not working, so perhaps a change of scene is in order.

The bridge explains why our Romeo is so beside himself, why his "brain’s all messed up." It's bad enough that his lover would not say "I do" and seems to have either rejected his marriage proposal or, worse, left him at the altar. But she won't break up with him, either: " would not say we’re through."

Although one has to wonder why the marriage rejection is not seen, in and of itself, as a break-up.

Perhaps Simon realized this and decided on a thorough rewrite of the song. He saved the medical metaphors in "Oh, Marion," writing about a "heart that beats on the opposite side," and a even reference to "brains," although it now means "intelligence" instead of "emotional state." Rather than being a song about a man who is troubled by a vexing woman-- a common song subject-- it is now about being a vexing man, who at least appreciates that he might be difficult to tolerate. A much more uncommon subject, indeed.

Next song: Stranded in a Limosine

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