Sunday, 22 December 2013

Songs of death and jealousy

No, this is not about a previously undiscovered Leonard Cohen album.

I was letting iTunes play random music to me this afternoon and seemed to be feeling in a rather contrary mood, because I suddenly viewed in a new light two songs that I already knew well.

First up was Don't fear the reaper by Blue Öyster Cult (1976), which I normally like because of the music, although the lyrics are rather fanciful. This time, I heard it and thought of my mother lying dead on a hospital bed in March this year. She didn't look different, she just looked as though she'd been coshed on the back of the head. But she was quite still and not breathing, and I knew it was the end. My mother and I have never believed in an afterlife, but there was an awful finality to seeing her dead like that, and the lyrics of the song suddenly seemed today a fantasy in bad taste. Maybe this is a temporary reaction and I'll get over it.

A while later, iTunes threw up Run for your life by the Beatles (1965), which I've been hearing for most of my life; and I suddenly realized what a nasty song it is. Some people think a lot of John Lennon, and his character did go through major changes during his abbreviated life; but in his early adulthood he seems to have been a seriously unpleasant character.

To be fair, Wikipedia notes that “Lennon designated this song as his least favourite Beatles song in a 1973 interview and later said it was the song he most regretted writing.” It remains odd that I've listened to it for decades without really taking it in.