Monday, 3 October 2011

Love In Vain

I thought that it might be interesting to talk about some of my favorite songs and why they're my favorite songs.  Not that one should care what my favorite songs are, as someone knowing what my favorite songs are has zero impact on them being my favorite songs.  I just think it might be interesting because a person's favorite songs can tell you a lot about that person.

Interestingly enough, my list of favorite songs might not actually contain any songs from my favorite band.  That being, most likely, Pavement.  Stephen Malkmus is probably responsible for writing some of the most brilliant songs ever, however, none of them would qualify as favorites.  I assume that this is because listening to Pavement takes some effort, where as my favorite songs offer an immediate connection on an emotional level.  I listen to Pavement to get smarter.  I listen to my favorite songs to feel things.

Now, at the top of the list of favorite songs is an old blues song (assumedly) written by Robert Johnson and is responsible for the name of this blog.  The song was also covered by the Rolling Stones on their Let It Bleed album.  I had been familiar with the tune for several years, knowing it both as one of the lesser songs on Let It Bleed (if you can call it that) and as a part of the limited Robert Johnson catalog.  However, it wasn't until a few years ago when I was listening to Let It Bleed in my car that this song plowed over me.

See, a few years ago (three years, five months, 19 days but who's counting) I kinda got my shit thoroughly ruined.  There was a girl I met and we started hanging out, which resulted in a somewhat complicated situation.  She would probably say it was very uncomplicated but I maintain that there was a certain amount of complicatedness.  If there wasn't I'd probably have unruined (well, less ruined) shit.

Anyways, I really liked this girl, we were in some sort of friend situation in which we seemed to be pretty awesome friends, I maintain my stance that there was something more than just a friendship, she got a job out of province and I was left wondering what the hell to do about this sequence of events.  So I decided to lob up a Hail Mary and offered to help move her out there.  Now, despite claims to the contrary, this was not an idea I concocted on my own, but rather the idea was planted by the girl in question.  And me, crazy about this girl and willing to do whatever was necessary to win her over, jumped at the opportunity.

So I took a week off work, went out there with her, had a fantastic and awesome time and then the night before I was scheduled to leave the shit hit the fan when I brought up the issue of the girl and myself and where things went from there.  Which eventually led to her never talking to me again.

Which, now, brings us to the song in question.  The first verse goes something like this:

"Well, I followed her to the station...her suitcase in my hand.
Well, I followed her to the station....her suticase in my hand.
It's hard to tell, it's hard to tell, when all your love's in vain.
All my love's in vain."

Based on the preamble, one can obviously deduce the relationship between the lyrics and where the story has headed.

Second verse:

"When the train pulled up to the station and I looked her in the eye
When the train pulled up to the station and I looked her in the eye
Well, I felt so sad, so lonesome, that I could not help but cry
All my love's in vain."

It's this part of the song, listening to it the first time since the incident, that I fully and completely understood the blues.  Up to that point in my life, my enjoyment of blues music was based more on the sound and the aesthetic.  The blues are, and always will be cool.  With the explosion of English blues in the 60's however, I've always associated blues music with badass riffing and techinical instrumental mastery.  Lost in all of it was the raw, emotional power that could be conjured up by simple 12 bar blues and only a few lines.

"When the train pulled up to the station and I looked her in the eye.  Well, I felt so sad, so lonesome, that I could not help but cry."  It's hard to explain the emotional power in those lines unless you've actually felt it.  To stand there, helpless and alone, looking someone in the eye for the last time.  And I guess that's the thing about the blues....the songs are so fundamentally simple from an outsider's view that there's no real way to feel their power unless you've actually experienced the blues.

But Mr. Johnson wasn't finished.  He saved the best for last in the third verse:

"When the train left the station, it had two lights on behind
Well, when the train left the station, it had two lights on behind
The blue light was my baby...and the red light was my mind
All my love's in vain."

The red light was my mind.....

To say that I handled the following days, weeks, months and years in a reasonable manner would be highly inaccurate.  After the initial shock started to wear off, the empty void feeling was replaced with incredible anger.  The problem was, I really had nothing specific to be angry at.  I have never been truly angry at her because, well, how can I be?  It's not her fault she didn't like me quite as much as I liked her.  So, I got angry at the only thing I could think of:  at the time this whole thing went down I was a Christian, going to church on a regular basis.  Within a few months I had totally and completely rejected the idea of god.  And that rejection was founded entirely on these events.

I also slid into a pretty debilitating depression.  I stopped exercising, started eating like nobody's business, got fat and lazy, didn't give a shit about work.  This lasted for like two years.  I never really got over her in any way, shape or form.  I mostly just have to avoid thinking about her or talking about her or anything like that.  My friends realize this and will quickly change the topic of conversation if we start brushing up against this subject.  Even still, there are times when the most innocent little thing will trigger some sort of memory and I'll spend the next day or two moping around and having a few too many drinks and posting drunken rambling rants on blogs.

To say that I liked this particular girl would be a bit of an understatement.  I would've done anything or given anything for her a few years and, to be honest, I would probably still give up everything at a moment's notice.  But that's a moot point.  The truth is, I'm a different person now and my assumption is that's a bad thing.

There really is no worse thing I've experienced than watching that blue and red light slowly fade into the distance.  The problem is, if its dark out, you can see those lights for miles and miles into the distance, getting further and further away and there be nothing you can do it about.  Yessir, Mr. Johnson, all my love is in vain.

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