Updated: Jun 15
Well that special day of love is here again-Valentine’s Day. The time to dig deep in your heart (and record collection) to show your loved one that you wouldn’t be as much as you are without them. Or to let your true feelings be known to someone who might not have that spot in their heart that you hold for them. I was originally going to write about some of the best love songs, then considered taking the angle of worst love songs but I’m sure there are plenty of “best love song lists” kicking around on February 14th and I figure I could spend far too much time on the worst love songs, lord knows there’s plenty of them, so I reconsidered the type of article I wanted to write on this romantic day.
I consider myself a guy that likes things real. The music I play and listen to, my friends, emotions etc. So that led me to think about my favourite love songs that have a more realistic take on love and what it means to us all; meaning songs that are true to what love can give us. Sometimes it’s warm, wonderful and blissful, but just as often it can be confusing, leaving a pain in your heart that is hard to ignore and cure. These are songs that cut to the core when played & sung mostly solo, putting your heart on the line with little added sugar. Some additional sonic sweetening may be added for overall effect, but it certainly doesn’t take over the proceedings if you know what I’m saying! I’m just spitballing here so here’s a few fine examples of the other side of love; all very real.
“Every Little Bit Hurts”- Brenda Holloway(1964)/Spencer Davis Group(1965)
I guess the title says it all. Love can be like this. It can also be full of joy and happiness. Brenda sings this as a woman who still has her wits about her to question why it hurts and sounds strong enough to deal with the problems even if her lover “treats her cold & won’t let her go”. Coupled with a sympathetic Motown backing and production, Brenda gives a true, from-the-heart vocal that makes you think about love’s flip side but certainly doesn’t make you lose hope that love can’t happen or be fulfilling. The Spencer Davis Group cover has an equally (or possibly more) soulful vocal by Stevie Winwood that proves that men too get hurt in love and that that a man’s heart needs to be filled with love and not doubt, just as much as any woman.
“Simple Twist of Fate” - Bob Dylan (1974)
Bob has many of these love songs. He certainly has a way to get across matters of the heart in a very direct way and make them meaningful and real to the listener. Taken from his very personal divorce album “Blood On The Tracks”, (loud and clear Bob!) here’s a story song of two lovers who are parting, but also telling their love story as an act of fate. Bringing people and hearts together and tearing them apart, both acts that most of us have experienced in relationships. The highs are the highest, the lows...well they hurt and stay with you longer than we’d like them to. Sometimes the simple things are the most meaningful and some changes in life are the result of fate. Fate can sometimes work in love’s favour. In Bob’s case, this time, not.
“The Worst” - The Rolling Stones (1994)
I’ve always had a strong fondness for this lesson in love from Keith Richards, from the first time hearing it buried in the middle of the mostly underwhelming mid-nineties Stones release “Voodoo Lounge”. It seemed like such a beacon of honest emotion in the midst of another Rolling-Stones-by-numbers late period album. Not acoustic only, some heart-tugging fiddle helps Keith tell his tale of being in love with someone despite what that loved one might be saying otherwise. “I said from the first-I am the worst kind of guy for you to be around. Take all the pain-it’s yours anyway.” He’s giving the warning that he might not be the stay-at-home, mow-the-lawn man that he thinks is what his lover wants or needs. But he isn’t going anywhere as far as he’s concerned. He’s just being straight and honest. I think that’s what we all would want from our loved one, even Keef Riffhard!
David Gray - “This Year’s Love”(2000)
Just a guy playing piano and letting his heart do the talking. Can’t be much more real than this, my friends. A “love song” that starts and ends with a guy hoping that this year’s love had better last because it’s high time it did for once. DG proceeds to sum up all that love can bring in two verses-from the midnight street kisses that sweep us off our feet to trying not to worry when hearts get torn and hurt gets thrown. That to me is both the A and B sides of what love is capable of and every time I hear the timeless emotion in his voice, I know that I’m not the only person that has dealt with love’s confusing yet incalculable power. Thanks for that David!
May you all enjoy side ‘A’ of your love album on this day. Keep side ‘B’ for another day.
Jim Harrison is an avid record collector, musician, writer, music historian, husband, father of 4 and the developer of Vinylcat Record Cleaner which you can buy here; http://bit.ly/vinylcat