Monday, November 24, 2008

When I'm Out In The Street I Just Feel All Right: Max Bygraves: "Meet Me On The Corner"

Courting: it’s not a word that gets used much these days, but in the 50s I can well imagine it was still the term used when a couple were getting to know each other, the one actively pursuing the other, forever needing and wanting some kind of special place and moment and above all, privacy. In a Britain that was still in utilitarian mode, where everyone (save for those who could move out and students living in residence) lived at home. (Come to think of it, even at Oxford or Cambridge there were strict rules about who could visit, and when.) Thus, the easy appeal of this song – the only way to have any real time to yourself with someone else is to – paradoxically – go out at night and meet the loved one under a lamp post, once the streets were quiet, perchance to go to the fish & chip shop, the cinema, the record store – or maybe just walk slowly down a street nearby, window-shopping and talking moonily about this and that. All the free or near-free pleasures of urban life are implied in this song, as well as freedom, at least for a short while, from home and work. Bygraves, in the break (where he sounds like a certain American we'll be hearing from soon), tries his best to sound like something else – some major smooching – might also be in store; his voice is a little too jovial to believe anything more is going to happen, and the tenor of the song implies that nothing else is expected of him, or her. Courtship is a delicate process of give and take, moments of gradual learning and compassion; none of those can really breathe unless there is a certain place and space to be yourself, free to walk and talk as you please. Not all had this freedom in ’55 (it could be the couple just meets at the corner and doesn’t go anywhere, after all), but you can sense even through the Bygraves' imperturable shield of happiness that a new generation is itching to get out and be free, in all ways.

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