Monday, August 26, 2013

True or False

This upbeat rockabilly number is credited to "True Taylor," a name Simon did not use much. His attempts at being "authentic" to this genre-- vocal drawls and hiccups-- render some of the lyrics unintelligible, but I will comment on what I can make out.

The premise is a simple one-- the boy presents the girl with a series of statements, such as one might find on a high-school exam, and asks her to respond to each with "true or false."

"You like to call me on the telephone, Baby/ Please answer 'true' or 'false'," is the first one. In other words, does she like to or not?

"You like to tell me that's when we're alone," is the next one. It is unclear as to whether he is asking if that's when she like to tell him this... or, more likely, if it's true that they are alone during such calls... or if one of her girlfriends is listening on the call.

"And when we're at a party/ You won't dance with no one else." This is somewhat muddled, but the idea of her dancing with just him or others is a basic test of her fidelity. The first half of the next line is completely obscure, but the second half is "my heart just melts." So we need to congratulate Simon on finding a rhyme, even a slant one, for "self" that does not lead to an awkward phrase ending in the word "shelf." (Does anyone say "Don't put me on a shelf" except in a pop song?)

The next two test questions are clear: "Would you be sad if I should go away?' and "You can't wait until we name the day." The second of these refers to a wedding day.

The chorus is brief, but confirms our suspicions-- this is a fidelity test. The words "true" and "false" also mean "faithful" and "unfaithful." As the speaker now clarifies: "I'm checking on your answer/
So I can plainly see/ If my baby's true or false to me."

If she doesn't like to call him, then there is really no basis for any sort of relationship, even a friendship. While this is not a test of fidelity per se, it is a valid opening question. If she allows eavesdroppers on their calls, especially after assuring him there are none, this a basic breach of trust as well, although not of the "cheating" kind we usually associate with infidelity.

Again, dancing with another at a party is a clear sign of disinterest in him, and perhaps interest in another. If she won't be sad if he leaves, well, that doesn't mean there is another object of her affections, but it is the definition of disinterest!

The last one is a bit iffier. If she is OK with waiting to name a wedding day, does that mean she doesn't love him? Or might it simply mean that she wants to graduate high school before making a lifelong commitment?

The idea for this song seems to come from two elements of school. One is the test, as mentioned. The other is the forbidden but still widespread practice of "passing notes" in class. Some notes were just complaints about how boring the class was, or even answers to test questions.

But some were questions like "Do you like me?" with two boxes, for checking "Yes" or "No." Today, the kids just text each other, but so far there is no app for boxes that can be checked by the recipient.

That the speaker is still resorting to such a form of communication reveals a deep immaturity. The entire enterprise also reeks of insecurity. If he has to ask, the answer is probably 'no' to all his questions. In fact, his presenting such questions might lead her to wonder if she wants to stay with such a person, even if she was not in doubt before!

Still, as a way of framing a song, the device is clever enough and would certainly resonate with teens of the day. And on a musical level, it's a convincing foray into the rockabilly genre for a first-timer.

Next Song: Anna Belle

Monday, August 12, 2013

(Pretty Baby) Don't Say Goodbye

This song is usually titled simply "Don't Say Goodbye," but in rare cases "(Pretty Baby) Don't Say Goodbye."

This is a rollicking number that, with different instrumentation, could work well as a country tune.

The speaker is either doggedly optimistic or massively deluded. He makes many protestations of love to his beloved-- and all we learn about her is that he finds her "pretty"-- but it seems she does not return his affections.

He begs her not to leave, pleading, "You'll make me cry if you say goodbye/ Don't leave me, honey, 'til the day I die/ Pretty baby, don't say goodbye," and "Don't let your love pass us by."

He assures her that his affections are deep: "I'm in love with you" and even "I'm so in love with you." In fact, he would even marry her, if she would only return his ardor: "Please, pretty baby, won't you love me true?/ I'm gonna hold you tight till you say 'I do'."

However, it seems his affections are doomed to lie unrequited. It's not just that she's interested in someone else, but more that she's interested in anyone else: "I love to call you on the telephone/ But when I call, I see you're not alone."

I recently watched the classic Italian film The Bicycle Thief. In it, a "wise woman" counsels a man in a similar predicament: "Go plow another field."  Our speaker would be well to follow this timeless advice.

Next Song: True or False