By Hans Ebert
The news that Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris have broken up will have bookmaker Ladbrokes offering two cents on the dollar that the lady in question will do what she always does: put pen to paper and pour out her innermost feelings about the breakup for public consumption. Remember “Dear John” after being dumped by John Mayer?
Miss Swift has been dumped so many times that she can probably release three complete records that tell the story how hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. It’s her shtick, they’re her songs, and it helps sell records.
Having said this, there are the more cynical amongst us who believe that Ms Swift should title this new breakup song “The Contract Is Over” and just face the music and dance. For the past year, the powerful singer’s love life has been compared to that of a certain ageing action star and the leaking of contracts well over a decade ago where his minders’ came up with a Wish List as to who their client’s new wife should be, and the terms and conditions of what always were ten-year contracts with two major clauses. One was a leading role for the young actress who took up the offer in a blockbuster movie- let’s say, a Batman movie- and another key clause being that, for a multi-million dollar payout, there will be no tell-all book.
Recently, Beyoncé released the confusing, revealing and very personal “Lemonade” about infidelity, revenge and “Becky with the good hair” that has many wondering what the hell is really going on with what is quite the showbiz marriage between her and Jay-Z.
Adele, in the meantime, continues to write and record about the one that got away almost like a serial stalker armed with a flip phone. Yes, Hello from the other side etc, you rotten sonofabitch. Either she’s still pining, or else it’s her music company demanding that she keeps writing songs for misery guts about how nothing can mend a broken heart. After all, misery loves company when rolling in the deep of saying Goodbye a hundred times. Of course, the question is who writes real love songs, and who are the creative and manipulative storytellers?
With “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “My Love”, Paul McCartney wrote two beautiful songs for his Lovely Linda. His other love songs? Like the cryptic wordplay of Dylan, these, like “Penny Lane”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Yesterday” etc could simply be the work of his great storytelling talents in them.
John Lennon and McCartney traded musical love letters after the Beatles breakup, but these were more on either the vitriolic side (John), or Paul’s more wistful way of sending out his reply.
There was then, of course, the strange ménage a trois between George Harrison, his best friend Eric Clapton and their love for the same woman- Patti Boyd Harrison, who eventually became Patti Harrison, but not before some great love songs has been written about and for her.
On the other hand, one just knows that the love songs of Brian Wilson, Jimmy Webb, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Leon Russell always came straight from the heart and were laced with honest heartache. Hell, the Love Hurts songs of Brian Wilson and Jimmy Webb often made me wonder if they’d fallen in and out of love with the same women.
Looking back, an artist like Sinatra recorded some of the greatest love songs. But apart from the English lyrics Paul Anka wrote specifically as a tribute to him on “My Way”, these were songs written by all those genius songwriters from Tin Pan Alley and hand-picked for him to interpret- interpretation of songs and his impeccable phrasing being his greatest strengths. Reading about his reputation with “broads”, apart from his very real heartbreak when Actress and wife Ava Gardner left him, one can’t really buy into Old Blue Eyes lamenting the loss of some stranger in the night and drowning himself in a dose of Scooby Dooby Doos.
The Adele and Beyoncé records offer hope that lyrics are making a comeback and, whether purely because of the gossip surrounding these artists’ lives or not, people are showing the patience to absorb more than 140 words and songs don’t have to be a Work Work Work tweet.
They also, hopefully, pour cold water on those who believe that no one listens to words anymore, and that as long as everything rhymes, a song is complete. It’s times like these that makes one want to thank Chris Martin for being secure enough about his manhood to write “Fix You” for then-wife Gwyneth Paltrow without having to resort to adding the word “bitch” for street cred. Yo! Yo! Yo!
It also makes one respect the emotional hurt that’s in 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love”, and the underrated “Cry” when the band broke up by its former members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. It’s extremely hard to believe that these recordings and songs, like the Eagles’ “Desperado”, and “When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge, did not come out of the fallout of either one or more relationships gone wrong. The hurt recorded is too painfully obvious.
And so, with me inspired enough again these days to write songs again with lyrics that come out of personal relationships, and arrangements being formulated for the melodies running through this head, below is a taste of things to come.
Honesty, hurt, lost love, truth, it’s everything music should be. Formulaic work, work, work will continue to be regurgitated, but there’s nothing as creatively fulfilling as having something out there that will strike a chord with someone. Even if it’s one person. It’s therapeutic and beats the hell out of hiding behind a text, or sending an email that’s most likely to be deleted, or else blocked by the person for whom the song is intended. Why say it when you can sing it- and have it live with you forever?
YOU ALWAYS NEED SOMEONE TO BLAME
You keep on blowing smoke rings
You never really get to the point
Maybe that’s cos there are no answers
We’ve danced around and round and round again
You now see me as some stranger
Not the only one who shared your bed
You keep talking about your religion
But there’s just no forgiveness to be found anywhere in your head
CHORUS: But you need someone to blame
You always need to be the one that’s right
You need to be the loving Saint
But that halo’s no longer shining bright
And when I’ve said my last goodbye
Please save those false tears
You left me hanging out to dry
When you know you could have been here
And you keep on asking for the answers
Only the ones you want to hear
You need to find some forgiveness
You know that I know you’re not what you appear
So don’t talk about some dancing moonbeams
When you’re happy surrounded by four walls
You really need to bring your fences down
Baby I’ll be here to catch you even if you fall and fall and fall
CHORUS; But don’t keep on blaming me
For how you wanted this played out
You always play to win and win
Even on that magic roundabout
I’ll always thank you for your caring
Though I wonder how much of it was true
I now see a very different person
Did I ever know the real you
©Publisher Hans Ebert Music (HEM)
IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ALL ABOUT YOU
I saw your picture on Facebook
You looked so damn happy
You used to look like that with me
But you went for the old man’s money
Baby you know everything we did
The blindfolds and where they led
Don’t tell me you don’t want those times again
And all the eggplants you were fed
You had me with all your sweet talk
Again and again and again
Even when I saw right through you
And all your secret online games
How’s your elder sister doing
Who’s she screwing up these days?
She taught you well sweet baby
How to be such an easy lay
I met somebody very rich
That’s what you wrote to me
And he and his ready made family
Were what were going to set you free
So are you really happy baby
Or do bad dreams keep you awake?
Are you still going slowly crazy?
And do you have a heart to break?
You work to a time line
It’s always been all about you
You fall in and out of love
You play so many for a fool
Are you truly happy baby
Or are you getting restless again
What’s the escape clause this time, babe
How long is the contract on this particular gravy train
How long will the contract run
On this particular gravy train?
©Publisher Hans Ebert Music (HEM)
Follow Hans Ebert on Twitter at @HansEbertHK