Thursday, April 03, 2014

***In Search Of The Great Working-Class Love Song


Yes, I know, just when you thought it was safe to, discretely, peruse this page without having to be bombarded by some outlandish commentary from a fellow classmate here he is again asking those infernal, eternal questions.

Today's subject is prompted by a question that I have been asked about before - what music were you listening to back in the day? Well, for me at least that subject is exhausted. I no longer want to hear about how you fainted over Teen Angel, Johnny Angel, or Earth Angel. Moreover, enough of You're Gonna Be Sorry, I'm Sorry, and Who's Sorry Now. And no more of Tell Laura I Love Her, Oh Donna, and I Had A Girl Her Name Was Joanne, or whatever woman's name comes to mind. It is time, boys and girls, to move on to other musical influences from our more mature years.

But why, as the headline suggests, the search for the great working- class love song? Well, hello! Our old town was (and is, as far as I can tell from a very recent trip to the old place) a quintessential working class town (especially before the deindustrialization of America). At least the great majority of us came from working class or working poor homes. Most songs, especially popular songs, reflect a kind of "one size fits all" lyric that could apply to anyone. What I am looking for is songs that in some way reflect that working class ethos that is still in our bones, whether we recognize it or not.

Needless to say, since I have posed the question, I have my choice already prepared. As will become obvious, once you read the lyrics, this song reflects my take on the male angst in the age old love problem. However, any woman classmate is more than free to choose songs that reflect her female angst angle (ouch, for that awkward formulation) on the class hit parade.

1952 Vincent Black Lightning-Richard Thompson

This song is on "YouTube" performed by Thompson, although a stronger version is done on a cover by folk singer Greg Brown.

Said Red Molly to James that's a fine motorbike

A girl could feel special on any such like

Said James to Red Molly, well my hat's off to you

It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952

And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems

Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme

And he pulled her on behind

And down to Box Hill they did ride

Said James to Red Molly, here's a ring for your right hand

But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man

I've fought with the law since I was seventeen

I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine

Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22

And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you

And if fate should break my stride

Then I'll give you my Vincent to ride

Come down, come down, Red Molly, called Sergeant McRae

For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery

Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside

Oh, come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside

When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left

He was running out of road, he was running out of breath

But he smiled to see her cry

And said I'll give you my Vincent to ride

Says James, in my opinion, there's nothing in this world

Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl

Now Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won't do

They don't have a soul like a Vincent 52

He reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys

He said I've got no further use for these

I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome

Swooping down from heaven to carry me home

And he gave her one last kiss and died

And he gave her his Vincent to ride

Come on now, after reading these lyrics is any mere verbal profession of undying love, any taking somebody on a ride to some two-bit carnival (I am thinking of Bruce Springsteen's Jersey Girl here) , some buying of a gold ring or some chintzy flowers going to mean anything? Hell, the guy is giving her HIS bike, his bike, man. Case closed.

Added note: I KNOW of at least one female, not on this class list, who might relate to this song. I also know at least one male, also on not this list, who snuck out the back door of NQHS with another classmate to ride his bike during school hours back in the day. So don't think I have forgotten my medication, or something. And I repeat, the guy in the song gave her HIS bike, man. That is love, no question.

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