Friday, January 20, 2012

The Muse Sings: Mary Hopkin: "Goodbye"

While it may seem like time can be evenly split between ten-year chunks we call decades, the actual feel of any given time is oblivious to anything so arbitrary. The early 60s are now a half century in the past, but they must have seemed a long time ago even by 1969 standards; the 60s moved with such force that by its last year it had toppled over, collapsed through its own momentum, and much like a party where anything can happen and so it does, all kinds of good and bad (not to mention previously impossible and horrific) things were bound to happen. Which is to say it was a time of possibility; a time when those who, to quote the Dream Warriors, found meaning in their music addictions were able to start having hit singles and albums of their own, inspired by their own version of the 60s.

In the midst of all this was a voice; a young woman who won Opportunity Knocks and was signed to The Beatles' own Apple records, who became - if only for a brief time - a voice for this turbulent period. "Those Were The Days" is a song of remembrance and things returning, salvaged through the very act of remembering itself. This song, the follow-up, is already ahead of time - saying, literally, goodbye to the strained and somewhat exhausted decade. A voice like this persists; it becomes an emblem to those who need it and feel it, and it can return when you least expect act as a kind of muse? Or to act as a reminder that there was a time when inspiration was not at all hard to find?

This is what I mean by a voice attaching itself to a certain time; or rather a certain voice coming to stand for that time, which was ephemeral and yet vivid, like a brilliantly-colored bird. Hopkin's voice has this quality, maybe because she was young - still in her teens when this was released - and her songs were ones that seemed to be about appreciating well enough where things were but wanting to move on. Whether she appears in "Sound and Vision" deliberately as that musing figure or not I don't know, but the effect is to give "Goodbye" a totemic feel of being a song of leaving and the typical McCartney blitheness hides whatever sadness there is in that; there, she seems to be saying, the 60s are gone and there's no point in being sorry about it; time for new horizons, opportunities, experiences...and in a short few months "Space Oddity" is recorded, and the 70s may not technically begin there, but then again decades do not always start where you might think they do. Hopkin leaves the party just before things start to get strange; Bowie's song is also about escape, though what kind of escape anyone can make from the 60s is a debatable point.

By this time many were lost and looking for a way home; something solid to grasp. But for those who were just getting started, departure was the thing; finding solace and energy in not being like others. Hopkin's voice symbolized this, and hers is one of several songs in this blog for '69 that sum up the whole time. It is deceptively light, but utterly firm in its convictions. The muse comes and goes as she wishes, appears when least expected...

No comments: