Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Word 'Love': Russ Hamilton: "We Will Make Love"

It almost goes without saying - but I will say it anyway - that language is a soft, squishy and supremely malleable thing, particularly the English language. It is a ravenous, ever-changing beast which, in the words of a future subject of MSBWT, may well be a virus from outer space.

Music has been part of this viral experience, of course. "What did s/he just say/sing?!?" is a subject of debate, confusion and disbelief for some time now. (Even when lyrics can be deciphered, they still may not make any sense, of course; one of my favorite lyricists, Stephen Malkmus, has a way of making the commonplace...not so common, to say the least.)

Then there's of course the way you sing something. Russ Hamilton, at first glance, has got a pretty four-square ahem ahem title here. But the song - and particularly the way he sings it - is as fresh and pure as the first day of spring. You just know that when he and his girl (clearly they are young sweethearts) go to that secluded place they are going to do something, but not anything that will lead to a hasty trip down the aisle. Making love here sounds warm and cosy and reassuring, in part to the golden syrup-voiced Hamilton and in part to the gently swaying music, which is close to a waltz, if it isn't one already.

The drama in the song comes from the fact that the narrator has to go away - he asks his beloved to be faithful, with the promise that they will once again make love in a place far away from where they live, a place they have always dreamed about, "in the clouds up above." I still cannot figure out whether this means he is going away (for the regulation stay in the National Service, perhaps) or something a lot stranger. The music doesn't have any odd key changes or anything that would signify other worldliness, so I can only guess it means they're going to go on some exotic vacation once he returns. But he makes it sound so much like they will be in heaven that the mere act of making love sounds almost redundant. And yet that is what the song is about! Love is clearly not sex here, but some kind of aura that is almost impossible to describe, something so big it transcends the merely physical world and may even last beyond death itself, ultimately.

And so we have our first lesson in love from a Liverpudlian. There will be others, but none will be quite as quietly supernatural as this one.

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