Saturday, November 23, 2013

Long before you get to the end of this you ought to realize that there is going to be no cover version of this song. (Awesome Covers Of Already Awesome Songs)

Love at first sight.

This is how that goes:  You look at someone, maybe across the room, maybe through a few rows of chairs in class or at a theater, maybe as you walked across campus in the early September sunlight, that kind of sunlight that by the time it reaches through the thicker layers of atmosphere it has to swim down into, through the tops of trees whose leaves are starting to be red yellow brown orange sometimes, maybe at one of those times or any other time, you looked and you for a moment did not breathe, and in not breathing for a second, you throw off the entire rhythm of your life, the way if you marched in a band or something, sometimes you would miss a step and were then out of sync and had to try to figure out how to get back into sync do I take two quick steps? Or one slow one? Or a half and half and half and half? 

Only with love at first sight, you don't want to get back into sync and it isn't maybe until years and years and years later that you even realize you stepped out of time and into your own flow of things.

This is also how that goes: the first parts of the song Crimson ; Clover by Tommy James & The Shondells is how that goes:

Aaah and you have fallen off the timeline you were on.

Now I don't hardly know her and the parts of your brain that need things to function the right way, to keep everything in order, are both yelling and overwhelmed and the rest of your brain -- not the part that makes your heart actually beat your lungs actually breathe your blood actually flow your legs actually walk and your eyes actually see, not that part at all, that's not the important part, everything has parts like that sharks and turtles and eagles and hamsters all have those parts -- the part that makes you feel and makes you feel, especially, love, says:

But I think I could love her.

and you have stepped into your real life (the one that is out of sync with your old no longer real life, the life you only thought you were going to live before you lived the life you would have wanted to live if you knew it existed before this moment.)(Which you didn't, because if you knew this moment, and then this life, would happen, you'd have hated the old life, so it's best that it comes as a surprise.)

That is how I felt when I met Sweetie, and when I recognized the feeling I suddenly recognized, I finally realized why I love this song so much.

Not the later, rock version, not that -- the earlier, psychedelic version written before I was even born is the one I love.  That one, that song that is older than me, captures to me perfectly a feeling that otherwise cannot be captured.

The song Crimson and Clover, in its original, longform weirdly compelling overly repetitious soaring spiraling madness, is what love would be if you transcribed it and then reincarnated it, recorded it on a wax cylinder and then used that as a blueprint to bring it back to life.  From the first gasp of feeling to the ending, where the impression is of sinking slowly beneath the surface of the warmest, softest, somehow easiest-to-breathe ocean (the kind of ocean that surrounds small tropical islands and which doesn't have large waves, the kind of ocean that fills a lagoon on those islands with water that is the same temperature of blood as it leaves the heart, water that can be seen through as though it is not there but which, mysteriously, is more there than things that you can touch (because you can't touch water, not really -- when you poke at it it runs away from you, when you try to pick it up it slips through your fingers and when you finally dive into it and wrap your arms around it and try to hug it, it slips through your grasp and hugs you, instead), the song is like love existing as sound, like love is wiggling through the air electromagnetically, great looping arcs of energy invisible to us and sometimes passing through us but sometimes hitting us just right in just the right place so we know what we're hearing.

This is how things go: that first part of the song is like waking up, almost, not quite a shout of surprise.  Then you sort of float through the beginning part of the song and then things get a bit of hectic, and then you stop, and you say:


And you wanna do ever-y-thing, saying it in three syllables, like you know how your mom used to extend out your name when you were in trouble? When she called you home for dinner it was just your name and when she needed you to set the table it was just your name but when she found the dent in the car it was your name plus your middle name plus your last name and she hit every syllable, that's how you know people mean it.

So when you wanna do




you really mean it.

And I heard this song years and years and years ago, I bet, I bet I heard it on my dad's radio, listening to the 'oldies' in the Chevette, the car he bought while my mom drove the Gran Prix, hatchbacks were new then, and I was a kid and Dad was a dad and summer was hot and the Chevette was a stick shift and the radio didn't play the second part of the song, the weirder part of the song, I didn't hear that until I was older:

The second part of my life, the weirder part of my life, the guitars seeming stuck for a second (that would be dropping out of college and going back and dropping out and going back) and then real quiet like:

Crimsonandcloveroverandover and you're under water.

This is how I go: I sing it like that, like I'm under water, I sing it at the top of my lungs at stoplights and I sing it to myself while I mow the lawn which I hardly ever do anymore and sometimes late at night I don't have any covers left and I tug on the blankets but they don't move not even an inch, and I sigh and go back to sleep, cold, the song playing in my head.

This is how hard it is to come up with something that can top the feeling of feeling.  People can make it and remake it and remake the remakes and it can even be remade by the remakers, and this is how that goes: each version flatter than the others, mostly.


There is something to be said for a song that cannot be reinterpreted, and this is what is to be said about that: if a song is so perfect in its original form that nobody can do much other than polish it a bit, spin it around, say it again, then the song exists almost in a Platonic state of song qua song.

I set out at the beginning of this to find other versions of the song Crimson and Clover, and over and over I listened to people singing it, playing it, humming it strumming it never overcoming the fact that the original is unimprovable.

And then I went back and listened to the original.


And I thought about how it could be, that this song existed really in only one form, that no matter who plays it no matter when no matter what, this song stays almost immutable, almost unchanged, and that is when I remembered what the song means, what it really embodies, and that was when I realized that the song was both different from and the exact same for everybody, just as love at first sight is: from a minute particle we all spring forth into separate existences each a half-step off from everyone else's each our own world, our own lives, our own slice of time that we share with the person who through us out of sync, but if you trace back along my line, your line, his line, her line, if you were to turn around (but you wouldn't, you wouldn't turn away from where you are looking when it happens) if you turned around you'd find at the beginning the same spark, the same surprise, the same gasp, the same


The same for each in how it starts because sometimes you heard the song as a kid waiting at the train tracks next to the plastics factory where Mom used to work, sometimes you heard it on a mixtape a girlfriend gave you sophomore year at the University of Illinois and then she broke up with you on the day after Thanksgiving, sometimes you hear it on tinny speakers in an airport bar by Seattle, just as sometimes you look up from the ATM and see her, sometimes you stop at a yellow light even though you usually run them and he walks in front of you, sometimes you shake her hand and she says "Hi, nice to meet you, I like cookies," and for the rest of your life you will make her cookies as often as you can.

Always different, how it starts, always different, how it ends, always different where you go, but how it always goes is the same in all its different ways.  It can't get any better, it can't.

It can't.


Andrew Leon said...

Ah... well...
I don't have anything to add. It wouldn't even be polish.

Briane P said...

At first I read that as the ethnicity, and I thought "Was Tommy James Polish?"

Andrew Leon said...

I actually had that same thought when I typed it, but I figured since you'd already used the word I would be okay.

Pat Dilloway said...

That's quite the poetic ode to a song that's probably not that well known anymore.