Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sweet Escape: Neil Diamond: "Cracklin' Rosie"

You might be wondering by now where on earth regular love songs have gotten to in the charts; are they all hiding away?  It has been a strange year, with lovers, when they show up at all, pleading rather than praising, and even “Can’t Help Falling In Love” comes across, the way Williams does it, as a joyous complaint.  (The #1s don’t concern themselves much with love either, besides “Love Grows [Where My Rosemary Goes]” on the one hand and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on the other*.)  So here we are, alone, looking for fun.  Hmm, what to do?

Console yourself the way Neil Diamond does, with some nice wine, that’s what.  By far the most sparkling (ahem) song in a while, Diamond sings and writes a song full of baba-ba-ba-ba-bas and optimism, the strength and sweetness of the song balanced by his lyrics, which come from…Canada!  Yes, or rather YES as Diamond would sing it.  He visited a tribe there – which one I don’t know, as there are many** – and found that there were more men than women there, so the men without women would sit around and drink Cracklin’ Rosie – have ‘her’ as their date, so to speak.  If there is any pathos in this, it comes early, the "twilight train" part is gruffly sung, his temporary sorrow leading him to a state of near-rebellious joy where the wine is appreciated and celebrated, the “store-bought woman” makes him sing and perhaps brings him to a near-euphoric state – “Play it now!” he sings, as if he is becoming the music itself as he is drinking.  He may not have a woman, but the wine is bringing him inspiration, is his muse; his consolation for being alone.  Diamond goes quiet and sings to the bottle itself, “you got the way to make me happy” as if it was a woman; no wonder it would be easy to mishear this song and think it was actually about one.  Together they are going to “set the world right” and make problems go away; and after this rough year, who can blame him for wanting to escape with some wine? 

To say this is a memorable song is an understatement; Diamond needed a hit and wrote something with so many hooks that it could not help but be a hit everywhere, including being his first real hit – as an artist and performer – in the UK***.  The warmth and realism in the song – the sudden stops and starts in it, the exhortations, are like those of someone who has already been drinking, someone who has been in this position before and doesn’t actually mind it that much.  The guitar hums and plays, the night is long but he is most definitely not alone.  This is a song of relief, joy, community even; things may not be perfect, but upon reflection – and a glass or two – they really aren’t all that bad either.  This is the most wholehearted love song this year, one of satisfaction and need, a kind of reassurance that a lot of people, in tribes or elsewhere, could relate to:  wine as a source of joy and comfort, a kind of companion.  This is, again, an ancient kind of joy, and as long as the drinking doesn’t get out of hand, an honourable one. 

Next up:  the year expires, so to speak.

*Yes, I know Elvis’ “The Wonder of You” should count, but this is him singing to his audience about how much they love him; and Dana’s “All Kinds of Everything” is a Eurovision rehash of “My Favorite Things.” (One I like, by the way.) "In The Summertime" is about looking for a woman, which isn't quite the same thing.   

**My guess is that they are in Ontario, perhaps Six Nations; if they are making the wine themselves then they have to live somewhere grapes can grow, as they do in southern Ontario.  (To this day when I hear the phrase “six nations” I don’t think of rugby, I think of Canada.)
***From Tap Root Manuscript, wherein Diamond does that world music thing before it became hip; the second side is a suite of Africa-inspired songs.  (I should add this is an NME #2.) 

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