(Before I begin the analysis, I have to say that I am exceedingly disappointed with the Lyrics book here. The line is "Down in the maroon light," an evocative description of a sunset. The liner notes and website agree with this, which is what Simon's voice clearly says on the track. But the book has it as the simple, cliche "Down in the moonlight." Did anyone read this book before it was published? What's the point of having a book if its words cannot stand as THE definitive versions of the songs? All the book's editor needed to do was copy and paste from the website. Really! Not that this is the best move either-- the last word of the song, "on," is left off of the website version. Come on, people! Who's in charge, here? Listen to the songs, look at the liner notes, and get it right-- it's your job. I'm doing this in my spare time and I'm finding mistakes all over. OK, rant complete.)
The title says it-- She moves on. Ah, but he doesn't. He thinks he does. He thinks he did!
The song even starts: "I feel good/ It’s a fine day." He is at an airport, it is sunny, and "a cloud shifts." Since gray skies are gonna clear up, he's putting on a happy face. What happened? "She moves on."
Better to have loved and lost and all that. And he is OK with it. Well... sort of...
The speaker had really depended on her for a sort of salvation. He was "lost" and love "found" him (shades of "Amazing Grace"?). But when things change, and when he leaves the stage and "the song ends," well, "She moves on."
He feels happy just to be alive and to have survived having been left. But she just keeps... leaving! "She is like a top/ She cannot stop."
If, for example, "a sympathetic stranger" (himself, maybe?) um, "lights a candle in the middle of the night," or starts to spark something, she can't even handle that meager level of commitment and leaves again. Why a candle and not say, a torch? A candle is a religious, pure light.
She calls him her "storybook lover," perfect, and so too good to be true. She even warns him: "You have underestimated my power." This is not a candle, she says-- it's a stick of dynamite.
More worship imagery: "Then I fall to my knees/ Shake a rattle at the skies." He is now praying for her to stay, so he doesn't revert to being "lost" again; "I’m afraid that I’ll be... Abandoned, forsaken." Interesting that her eyes are like "coffee" only in their color-- they are not warm at all, but "cold."
Then, an interesting development. This woman, so insistent on keeping her distance and freedom, is somehow affected by him: "She can’t sleep now."
"The moon is red"-- this does happen, when certain particulate matter is in the atmosphere, or during a lunar eclipse. It is also a sign of the Revelation: "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and awe–inspiring Day of the Lord comes."
So it's the end of the world! For him, because she does not want him. For her, because she does.
She can't sleep, she is so aroused and befuddled by him: "She fights a fever/ She burns in bed." This image of a feverish dream also appears in "How the Heart Approaches": "In a fever/ I distinctly hear your voice/ Emerging from a dream, the dream returns... I dream we are lying on the top of a hill... And your voice is the heat of the night/ I’m on fire."
So "she needs to talk." And instead of brushing this off as a case of "storybook" romance, she confides (in the "maroon" light of the "red" Moon, by the way!): “Maybe these emotions are/ As near to love as love will ever be.” This is as far as she has ever gone, emotionally, she says, and as far as he thinks she can go. But at least she was nice enough to tell him. What can he say? "So I agree."
Then "the moon breaks" (this may be sunrise) and the moment is over. "She takes the corner, that’s all she takes." While I am unclear if there is an expression "to take the corner" (British, maybe?) it is clear that she is not able to take any more than a small piece of him with her, again-- "that's all she takes." And... "she moves on."
The pain is a s bad as he had expected. Not just pain-- frailty, without her love there to prop him up. This time, he does not fall to his knees in worship, but in weakness: "I grow weak, I go slack." He can't "catch" his "breath," because she has "captured" it. He has had the wind knocked out of him.
But by the next morning, as he watched her plane lift off, he is fine. Before her, he was lost. Then he thought that, because she found him, he was found. But then she left... and remarkably, he didn't go back to being lost again!
So maybe he needed her... to show him that he didn't need her. Or anyone.
And she? She was just the catalyst for this reaction. Did she change at all, because of him? If so, not that much. She... well, as always, moves on.
MUSICAL NOTES: Raymond Chikapa Phiri-- Ray, for short-- one of the guitarists on this track, was the founder of Stimela, a gold and platinum-selling band from South Africa. He was one of the first artists, along with Joseph Shabalala, whom Simon worked with on the Graceland album.
Vincent Nguini, the other guitarist, is from Cameroon, but first worked with Simon on this album. He arranged the guitars for this track, and also "The Coast," and "Cool, Cool River," as well as the horns on "Proof."
Next Song: Born at the Right Time