Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Big Talk: Tom Jones: "Till"

And now we turn from the effective end of the 60s to the more timeless world of the Housewives of Valium Court.  They are still there - a little older, a little wiser, maybe making some progress, maybe just treading water. I like to think that they are at least safe and secure, though the waves of marriage are about to get a bit choppier in the 70s.  Some will survive that figurative storm, mainly because they keep their emotional feet on the ground, so to speak. 

In love, it is easy to say and do big things; it is harder to keep that feeling going once the honeymoon has become a memory, when big things come by not on a lover's whim but on a partner's obligation.  In love one has to give of one's self, one's whole self, daily (I have just read a book [Blood, Bones and Butter] where a couple court and then marry and the two seemingly never get to know one another, they have children and eventually get divorced; the whole thing is based on a bad combination of necessity and fantasy) or else no real foundation can ever be built.

Meanwhile, it's not 1968 anymore, and Jones' positively stentorian promises and vows of loyalty and eternal love are touching, but there is something a bit clammy-hand-inducing about them as well.  Jones is always either on the run, about to be executed or desperate to come back home - and here he is, presumably back home and promising he will be good, an uneasy flashback to the florid and hyperdramatic late 60s.  I get this odd feeling that he is singing to no one; he is ready to commit, but there is no one left to commit to, as she has given up, is tired of the drama, the opera. 

No, this is a song meant for a man to buy as a single and give to his girlfriend/wife, perhaps even one of our Housewives, and if she is in accord with him, it will work.  It is a very public declaration, and Jones sounds as if he and the whole band are on a rooftop, playing it to the world.

Jones himself might have done this song as he figured it could be a hit, and lucky for him it was; but I cannot help but notice that what he really wanted to do - soul music, not operatic arias like this one - was starting to change, to become less a joyous shout and more quiet, intimate (how much would he have liked to have sung Al Green's current hit of the time, "Tired Of Being Alone") or more urgent and badass (Isaac Hayes' "Theme from 'Shaft'" will appear soon) or just plain realer (the profoundly moving "Family Affair" by Sly and the Family Stone, from their beyond-important album, There's A Riot Goin' On).  I can imagine Jones hearing all those records and digging them and feeling that there's only so many songs he can do, so many pink-shirt-and-ties he can wear, before he becomes a walking anachronism of  "the mid-to-late 60s" in the flesh.  It's the 70s now, things are indeed changing rapidly, though for now he is still content to be the Housewives' favorite, that cannot last.  Jones sings of what is real, but that soaring voice and those metaphors can only go on for so long; something more substantial and close has to come in to bolster them up. 

And so it is with the 70s; the promises of the 60s echo and haunt, either as memories or as some workable form of progress. 

Next up:  mentioning the unmentionable, part one.                  

1 comment:

MikeMCSG said...

This is a very good example of The Void ; when some deluded old geezer assaulted it on The X-Factor 3 or 4 years back none of the panel knew the song.