Monday, February 20, 2012

Crazy Love, Vol II

The title immediately provokes the question: "Was there a 'Crazy Love, Vol I?'" A brief glance at an alphabetical listing of Simon's songs reveals none.

Perhaps, then, this is response to another songwriter's "Crazy Love"? Van Morrison had a song by that title; so did soft-rockers Poco. A quick online search reveals songs with that title by everyone from Sinatra to the Allman Brothers. So which "Crazy Love" is this the supposed sequel to?

I think it is none of them, specifically... and all of them in general. More to the point, it might not be a sequel to a song at all, but to the kind of love the songs are about.

What really happens to that crazy kind of love? Joan Rivers explains that romance is like running up a grassy hill. "And do you know what's on the other side of that hill?" she continues. "A basket of laundry, full of socks to be matched."

This song is about the discovery of that basket of laundry, and what happens after. It is the heretofore unsung "Vol. II" that must follow all such blissfully madcap crazy love stories after the credits roll.

The song begins by introducing a man with two nicknames. One is "Archangel," which implies he is a being of some importance and weight. The other (later to be revealed as more recent) is "Fat Charlie," also connoting a being with some weight, but this time the kind doctors discourage.

(We must take a moment to applaud the Wallace Stevens-esque opening line: "Fat Charlie the Archangel sloped into the room." That is not a line that could have remotely been conceived by any other songwriter, living or otherwise.)

Charlie is full not only of eclairs but ennui. He has "no opinion" about anything. He is aware of his "sad" mental state, telling his friends: "I don't claim to be happy" about things, even the things he just sad he had no opinion regarding. They do notice that he is as "sad" as a deflated "balloon," in contrast to his inflated shape-- just as his being "lonely" contrasts with the fact that he is married (which, again, is revealed later).

He is sure, however, on one point, which he repeats with great insistence: "I don’t want no part of this crazy love/ I don’t want no part of your love."

Charlie has come, perhaps to a bar, to gripe about his marriage. As often happens, he starts with, "Do you know what she said? Listen to this! She says the joke is on me!"

One of his friends replies, we imagine: "Oh, yeah?! What'd ya tell her?"

He is so apathetic, or perhaps so beaten down, that even this affront is met with, "I have no opinion about that." Then with terrible self-knowledge, he admits: "And I have no opinion about me."

Even if Charlie can no longer muster enough self-respect to be angered, his friends are distraught on his behalf. "Charlie," they tell him, "You're in trouble, friend! And, given your Archangel position, everyone knows it!" Simon phrases their response thus; “Your life is on fire! It’s all over the evening news.”

This exchange does seem to stoke Charlie's ire a bit; he unleashes another barrage of "I don't want no part of this crazy love."

And then Charlie takes action. The joke is no longer on him, because he is the one who "files for divorce."

Like the weighty personage he is, he takes stock and plans for the future: "Well, this will eat up a year of my life/ and then there’s all that weight to be lost." This indicates that he was not heavy before the marriage and let himself go during it. Now that he is going to be "back on the market" he plans to work to become as attractive as he once was.

Also, Charlie is now giving as good as he gets: "She says the joke is on me/ I say the joke is on her!" Not the most original of retorts, but at least a "Hah-- So there!"

But then he undercuts himself. "I said I have no opinion about that/ We'll just have to wait on confer." Wait, what? He has no opinion about what he himself just said? And now he wants to "confer" and arbitrate as to whom the joke is on? Oh, dear.

How will Charlie end up, now that he is single? Will he regain the fierce gravitas that earned him the rank of Archangel? Or will he, even now, still worry about what she thinks, since he has been so trained to?

The love was "crazy," and like all intense flames, burnt itself out. Now Charlie himself is burnt out. The damage seems to be deep, but we don't know how lasting. We do know that he was powerful before, and that he has friends who care enough about him to tell him the truth and encourage his return to emotional health.

Also, his last tirade-- again against his ex-wife's "crazy love"-- gives us hope that he has learned his lesson and stays away from "crazy love" in the future. And that there is no "Vol III," but a whole new story.

"Sane love" might not sell books, movies, or songs... but at least Charlie will be able to afford those entertainments again once he has finished paying off his divorce attorney. If he even wants to listen to such songs again (which he probably shouldn't).

Next Song: "That Was Your Mother"


  1. I thought that the song was a sequel to a poem:
    Crazy Love, Vol. I by Christopher Apfelbach.


    That theory however gets fouled up by the submission date: August 29, 2012

  2. Well, thanks for clearing that up, in case anyone else was wondering.

  3. On the 25th anniversary special version of Graceland which has 2 CDs, the second CD of rare material contains a song called "Crazy Love (Demo)" which is a 2m 31s instrumental piece that sounds a bit like "Crazy Love Vol II".

  4. Oh, that's good to know, thanks. I have that, but I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Actually, it's in the CD. The second disc is a DVD, the documentary "Under African Skies."

  6. My wife and I are going through a divorce right now. She was having an affair and loves her new man and although upset for 4 weeks, im so happy I cant be upset about anything other than less time with my kids (50/50). Was listening to this with a friend in my rv the other night amd it struck a cord that keeps going in mind. Such a great song.

  7. I have been through a divorce myself, so I wish you courage. And while she did not cheat on me, others have. So yes, hearing about others came through to the other side of the divorce and rebuilt their lives-- complete with those "Well, we won't do THAT again, will we!" lessons-- is some of the best therapy. Best of luck, and enjoy the time you do have with your kids. Make sure to play them lots of Simon!

  8. Why is Charlie an archangel? Archangels are spirits, so they shouldn't be fat; they're also happy creatures, not pathetic like this guy.

  9. I don't think Charlie is a literal "archangel," any more than Dwayne Johnson is a literal "rock." This is a song about a person, albeit one with an unusual nickname, not about angels... who also don't get divorces, worry about time, or watch the evening news.
    As for all angels being blithe spirits, I suggest you study up on your angels! Some are of the solemn "guardian" variety, some are hard-charging "avenging" angels, and some are even "fallen."

  10. This is a great blog! However, I always read this song as a discussion of the United States inability to make much of a stand against apartheid. Fat Charlie the Archangel is the US, Charlie being a typical name that signifies American, archangel referring to superpower status and the idea of policing/protecting the world. Fat is of course the bloated, self-indulgent US. Later, slumps into the room describes the lack of stature, inability to lead with authority. All the talk of “I don’t have an opinion about this..I don’t seem to be happy” is the US’s inability to take a stand on moral issues like apartheid. Filing for divorce and all that weight to be lost is the insularity of the US political outlook which doesn’t sufficnielty concern itself with world affairs.
    “I don’t want no part of your crazy love,” is the response by oppressed South Africans—if this is what love is, thanks but no thanks. You are no help to us, boycotting our musicians in the name of ending apartheid, etc. I think if you look at the song in this context the whole thing comes into sharper focus.

  11. J. Gravois-- Thank you so much! I'm glad you are enjoying the blog. I think it is an interesting idea to see this song as a metaphor for international politics, but I am sorry to admit I remain unconvinced. I did try to view it through that lens, but was just unable to see it that way.
    I don't know that "Charlie" is only a typical American name, for starters. There is "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," set in England, and Charlie Chaplin was born there.
    Yes, America is "fat," world-famous for its obesity issues and materialistic gluttony, too, but in what way are we (or do we see ourselves as) "archangels"? We're a very religious country, but so are many others. I will allow that we chant "We're #1!" quite a bit, as far as seeing ourselves as better than other... angels. But, when was the last time an American had "no opinion about" anything?
    Aside from whether or not Charlie is America, how is the woman in the song South Africa? Why would South Africa say "The joke is on you"-- what joke?
    I'm sorry-- I really liked your comment about the song Cecilia, but as far as as this interpretation goes, I'm not seeing it.
    I am all for outside-the-box readings of Simon's songs. I said Mother and Child Reunion was about suicide and Senorita with a Necklace of Tears was about a guitar. So I want you to know I gave your idea due and respectful consideration. And when I agree, I say I do... so when I don't I feel I have to say that, too. (Just FYI, it was really hard to write this after you said such nice things about my blog.)