Friday, April 11, 2014

Teenage Blue

Sometimes poets know things before scientists can prove them. We now have a copious body of evidence that shows that the adolescent mind is quite undeveloped, and swimming with hormones. We have sociology and psychology backing this up with reams of observations about adolescent behavior patterns, plus news stories with tragic endings for anecdotal evidence.

But the songwriters were asking "Why must I be a teenager in love?" long before that.

Simon, on this track, puts it thus: "There's nothing bluer than teenage blue." Teen emotions are intensified, and without experience-- or a fully-formed frontal lobe-- to mitigate them them, they soar and dive like kites in a storm.

"There is no love like teenage love/ there's nothing truer than teenage true," our speaker begins, in the grand tradition of starting a discourse with a grand pronouncement (as does this blogpost. Hey, if it ain't broke...)

Naturally, this is, then, personalized to "you"-- the woman he is addressing. Since he has already used the word "blue," we know this is not a happy conversation: "My love for you was teenage love," he says, as we notice the sad past tense.

What happened? "We quarreled and said we were through." After one fight? Clearly, we are dealing with relationship amateurs. "And now I'm feeling teenage blue." Which, as was stated, is the worst kind of blue.

What was the issue? We don't know. All we have is the line "there's nothing truer than teenage true." So maybe he is just saying that he will still hold their love dear even though they parted. Or maybe he is saying, "Well, I was true..."

In any case, even this adolescent has the self-awareness to make the following set of observations: "Maybe if I were older/ I wouldn't feel so sad," which is probably the case, given the above-mentioned research. But, "You know you are my first love/ And it hurts real bad." It is a given that the first time having any experience is heightened by unfamiliarity, so this is also probably the case.

Further so is the notion that "I will love you through all the years." This first impression of passion will likely be intense enough to keep the memory of the feeling intact for a lifetime. Said more simply, can anyone forget their first love?

The mind, like the body, strives after balance and homeostasis. 'I am sad because the girl is gone,' it thinks, 'but if she comes back, the sadness will stop.' "OK, mouth, do your thing and make the pain stop," the brain instructs. So the voice sings: "Say you still love me, I beg of you/ Don't leave me feeling teenage blue."

That may work. But he's going to have to woo her back with something more about what he has to offer if she does, rather than what she has to offer him-- a return to the status quo... which generated the rift to begin with. As a certain president might put it: Ask not how your girlfriend can stop you from being sad, but how you can keep her happy.

Simon has, by this point, been working through images of loneliness, heartache, and heartbreak for a number of songs. Here, he really nails it. The song balances poetry and straightforwardness, with its one clever way of turning a phrase. The simple melody and affecting delivery allow the purity of the sadness to be palpable.

This is one of his best early works, and it's a shame it's not even on YouTube. The only place I found it was, of all places, a celebrity website called "Who's Dated Who?" A site dedicated to chronicling past romances, as it turns out, is not a bad resting place for such a long to land.

Next Song: Educated Fool

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