Sunday, June 3, 2012

Oceanic: Perry Como: "It's Impossible"

I sometimes think the major differences in music are not between genres or styles or methods but in depth and feeling; and by that I don’t mean ‘soul’ as such.  Once you are married you realize there are simply two different kinds of music – or rather, that there is music that those who are married can listen to and comprehend in a different way than those who have never been married can.  This is not a superior position, believe me; if anything, it’s a humbling one.

To be married is simply to want, need and love another – one particular other – forever.  It is the permanence of it that scares many, the commitment – just to that one other person.  No matter how much wealth or fame or glamour or power a person might have, that commitment to another has to be first.  There are many who make rock/pop music that have tried and faltered at marriage, as it requires something quite different from what goes hand-in-hand with so much pop; searching, losing, courting, breaking up, agonizing over the Other or being happy finally finding the Other.  Marriage – the wedding – is the goal here, the line beyond pop usually, exhausted from all this happiness and heartache, stops.  Getting married is the ultimate in girl group music, beyond which nothing pretty much exists besides wedded bliss.

I can just see Perry Como shaking his head.

The thing about this commitment – one that the single folks might dimly realize, at times – is that it’s for life.  It stretches out into the infinite, into the unthinkable.  Como stands right at that edge, amongst the sun and the stars, an astronaut of the heart.  He explains how much his love means to him and how endless and profound it is, to the point – and I think you can hear it in his voice, bolstered by the arrangement – where he realizes how small he is himself in relation to love, artful, unconditional love*.  Asking him not to love his Other is impossible, just as so many other natural things simply are, no questions asked.  Behind his are some pretty intense and unnerving feelings and ideas, the main one being that being married – and this is a marriage song – is a big task, a lifelong one, and one that cannot be ended.  Divorce – the concept is alien, pointless.  Even death is not the end, as you are always linked to your Other in one way or another, he or she is always there. 

I’m not sure if those who are still worrying about how they will share space in the bathroom or who takes the garbage out – those who are uneasy about the physical aspect of living with someone else – will react to such a metaphysical song.  It may well sound irrelevant to them, or intimidating, or more than a little soppy.  Or hard to imagine – just how can one person be so utterly committed to another?  Others might think it a great romantic ballad, that kind which sounds lovely and says all the right things, without really getting the implications behind what Como is saying.  But here he is, right at the foundation of things, seemingly at the root of existence itself, helpless at the fact that love is so much bigger than himself, that it is (as I take it) something that was created a long, long time ago, and will exist for the rest of not just his life but life itself.  (That it is a song, a bolero, from Mexico, just emphasizes all this for me, in some deep-rooted way**.)

That this decade is known for its spike in divorce rates is well known; the 70s was a tough time for many married folks, I’d imagine, as the ideas about what married life was all about were changing, but Como is here to remind us that it’s a profound experience that is lovely and comforting and for life.  There’s a whole new generation who are getting married and settling down around now, for whom this is their song; the 70s exist, in a way, to see if they truly understand the intensity and immense experience marriage is, beyond any pieces of paper or jewellery.  This was the single my late father-in-law bought for his wife (now my mother-in-law) for Valentine’s Day; a time when people celebrate that twang! of the arrow, that change which starts as a warmth in the heart and then spreads out to the rest of the universe.  The two become one; and that one unites with something a whole lot bigger than itself. 

Next up:  back to the world of the single girl. 

*The tinkling piano aping the ocean’s waves crashing on the shore is, admittedly, rather cute, which is to say it’s sweet and all, but audibly not enough to really get across the feeling here.  But then, what is?  The pathos of this song is that there isn’t really any way to get across musically what is being sung, music itself has to take a backseat here, just as the singer does.

**That this was another NME #2 behind "My Sweet Lord" has its own ironies, of course.

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