When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. Bob Dylan wrote those words about a woman who was on top of the world, used and abused those around her who returned the favor, and then crashed and burnt with no safety net to soften the fall.
Though still to make it anywhere despite “knowing everyone”, I met such a woman last week- a newcomer to Hong Kong, supposedly 30, who had managed to talk and walk herself into Shanghai’s fast-dwindling expat hoi polloi- it’s Dubai all over again- and who is now trying to name drop herself into her latest port of call.
I looked at her- the REM, the constant tapping on her Blackberry, the open resentment towards any attractive woman around us, the unbridled ambition to know anyone with the power to perhaps move her career forward- and kept thinking of those great lines by Dylan and his songs like Positively Fourth Street, Just Like A Woman and, of course, Like A Rolling Stone- the greatest putdown songs ever written- and written for women who needed putting down. Like this attention seeker.
This was and is a lost woman who desperately wants to be needed. As she tried to push up her breasts while looking my way, I had to try and remove the smirk off myself and remind her, as I had done the week before, that I am not easily impressed- and nor am I a breast man. I am a brain man.
As the evening deteriorated when some LOUD back-packer from Spain landed up at our table and a tedious and silly verbal cat fight between them started over, er, lips, the Libran in me longed for some balance and harmony- and the company of a good woman.
Like great songs, have all the good women gone? What is a “good woman”, anyway?
Well, you get to a point in life when you’ve had the best, lost the best and start singing Nothing Compares To U and realize just how much has been written and sung about lost love and love thrown away through mistakes and ego, and thinking it will always be there and how, again as Dylan sang, “I was mad, I didn’t know what I had and how ”I threw it all away.”
Apart from I Threw It All Away, Love Minus Zero and If Not For You, which George Harrison covered, Dylan’s love songs were love-hate songs- caustic, angry, bitter and kicking someone already down- who deserved it.
Jeez, it’s a kinda quirky combination, but Olivia Newton-John was one of the first artists to record Dylan’s If Not For You.
Meanwhile, until he finally met Yoko, John Lennon’s songs were cries for help- trying to understand this crazy thing called love and asking if he was “worthy” of ever experiencing the emotion despite his marriage to Cynthia.
Marriage seemed to have been just a riff and lazy fill-in and something sexually and emotionally unfulfilling until something better came along.
However, once Yoko entered his life and filled that void, offered him the creative yin to his yang, he found real love and sung about real feelings on Woman, Jealous Guy and Oh My Love. It was John Lennon the househusband and willing to kill off Beatle John and start re-learning what love was about all over again.
McCartney, on the other hand might have been taking the piss out of himself by writing Silly Love Songs, but with Yesterday, Maybe I’m Amazed, My Love, Blackbird and the magnificent For No One, he showed himself to be an extremely sensitive and passionate lover with Linda by his side.
Much has been written about Joni Mitchell wearing her heart on her sleeves, but let’s not forget the men who have- great songwriters who have left us songs that prove how and why men often bleed and carry the scars.
Leon Russell’s This Masquerade and A Song For You are two of the most honest sings ever written- songs from the heart, mind and that thing called memories.
This was the other side of the charismatic Mad Hatter who stole hearts while stealing the shows by Joe Cocker and Mad Dogs And Englishmen.
James Taylor, Jackson Browne, JD Souther, Don Henley, all have written songs for past lovers, new love, young love, love gone, unrequited love and have shown us how music can often get to the heart of the matter when we decide to shut down and keep all the hurt inside.
It’s like being in love with another person’s woman. She knows it, but knowing the hurt he’ll feel if he ever finds out, she stays on and does everything to forget.
And so, as Clapton tortured himself with Layla and being in love with his best friend’s wife, you take on the pain, bow out and she continues to live her lie ‘cos she’s made her bed, taken the vows, and has decided to go to sleep with security, awaken with it and use emotional beta blocks to make her life bearable.
Love songs- and love-hate songs- chronicle your life and often inspire you as you know you’re not alone. Jimmy Webb is one of those songwriters who has always managed to tap into the dark recesses of your mind. Mine, anyway.
“I took a sleeping pill and tried to watch TV, but the leading lady looked too much like you for the likes of me” from his Crying In My Sleep is storytelling at it’s most brutally honest. It might be your story. It is mine.
So, no matter who you meet, no matter how negatively they might affect you at that moment, they also jolt you into reality to remember those who matter, those whom you let down and how to find that Queen Of Hearts again.
It could be a lifelong journey of discovery but well worth it and where one takes the good with the bad before enjoying the solitude that comes from going to places she always warned you about.