Friday, December 12, 2008

The Teardrop Explodes: Teresa Brewer: "A Tear Fell"

The scene is set: the young woman is still in her party dress (something with tulle and and a big skirt, in a color between drab and vibrant) and is sitting in a chair, slumped a little, looking into space. She has recently been unceremoniously dumped by a man she thought was ‘the one’ and has in fact been out to see who he was with at the dance, in a move somewhere between masochism and vain bravery. She stood there watching him, crying large teardrops, teardrops that fell on the floor and that he danced on, as he swirled with his new girl, fixated on her and oblivious to the woman he has left behind.

The room the young woman is sitting in is so vividly colorful and yet she is so grey and lost; but the melodrama she is in is real, hyperreal. Brewer sings in a way that sounds like a crane carefully walking along, placing one leg in front of the other just so; she has her dignity, even as she sings about what a fool she is, even as the huge tears explode from her eyes, for her ex-boyfriend to dance over…

…the young woman may as well be in a cartoon; or should I say, a collage – not unlike the one Richard Hamilton made in ’56 entitled Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? (I will not go so far to say that Brewer makes Bryan Ferry possible…but Original Pop songs such as this are not that far from “Don’t Stop The Dance” – the wetness there being from ‘stormy weather’ and not crying. That said, the super-sexualized figures Hamilton shows are va-va-vooming all over the place, with the big bang, so to speak, just around the corner.)

The young woman in the chair may well believe that she has to snag the right man or else; but also probably believes that the man is always right, in the end. (In her 50s memoir Manhattan, when I was young, Mary Cantwell eventually marries a man because he gives her an ultimatium – get married or break up – and instead of seeing this as a forecast of what’s to come, she gives in.) Our heroine doesn’t fight her fate but is a sad witness, full of the ingrained stoicism the average listener, but who is the average listener? And do they all experience being dumped this way?

(I should note that “A Tear Fell” was written in 1956 and immediately covered by all kinds of singers, in the UK and the US. I doubt if anyone’s version sounds so noble and precise as Brewer’s, complete with a harp glissando every time her tear falls; the young woman in the party dress as sad angel.)

No comments: