Monday, May 19, 2014

The Greatest Story Ever Told

The title of this song is an appellation usually reserved for the story of Jesus. Although the movie of that title, about that story, did not come out until 1965.

As you might guess, Simon a.k.a. Landis does not tell that story here. Instead he tells a more personal one. And a much more frequently told one, especially in the realms of pop music and movies.

Yes, our story here is about a young man who was not just "so blue," but "lonely, too." Why? He "had a broken heart." So sad. How sad? "All day I sat and cried/ Teardrops I couldn't hide." Poor thing!

But wait! "That was just the start/ Of the greatest story ever told." Oh, we are so relieved! Go on...

"I saw her there/ A thrill beyond compare," he continues, "She was my dream come true." Well, this is wonderful. Sometimes, the whole song goes by and no love object is found. But we don't know the rest-- does she return this affection? Because in some songs, we know, she does not.

"When I asked her for/ Her love forevermore..." How brave, and sudden! After all, he just saw her a moment ago, and hasn't even introduced himself. And...? "She added, 'I love you'/ To the greatest story ever told."

My word. This story does, in fact, keep getting better. Yet, there is cause for concern. She loves him now, but will it last?

Before we find out, the speaker interrupts and-- without singing-- intones: "Every day, we hear stories/ Some new, some old/ But the story of love/ Is the greatest story ever told." Too true. How could we ever have thought otherwise?

At this point, our suspense is broken. "And now, we're happy now," (yes, "now" twice). Why? "We made that sacred vow." A wedding! Now, there's a capper to a ripping tale.

"For now we're more than friends." Well, we would certainly hope so, by this point. What about going forward? Any worries?

We thought not. "Our love will grow and grow/ 'Cause with each kiss I know/ There'll never be an end/ To the greatest story ever told."

If the tone of this review is somewhat withering, is it only because this is one of the sappiest things Simon has ever written. It's almost as if he knew it was going to be cloying, opening the song with the words "Tell me a story," like a child.

If the point was that there are quite a few love songs that are almost perfect replicas of this one, that point did not have to be made by writing yet another version of this most by-the-numbers narrative. For example, take McCartney's "Silly Love Songs."

And that's also true if the point was "events, told in sequence, are a story-- and sometimes true stories are better than fictional ones." There was certainly a more interesting way to say that, as well, if it even needed to be said.

"Aeroplane of Silver Steel" is overwrought and "Back Seat Driver" mean-spirited, but at least those songs were a stretch in some direction. But even a snooze-inducing bedtime story like this shouldn't have to sound like it was written by someone who was already asleep.

Next Song: Only One You

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