Monday, March 16, 2009

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi

Suzanne Vega is one of those performers with whom Bob courted me when we were dating. Sure, I knew who she was, liked "Luca," but didn't know much beyond that one album. When he discovered I wasn't all that familiar with her, Bob showed up one night at my apartment with all her CDs (gotta love an "all-or-nothing" sort of guy, no?). He was extremely passionate about her (I know, those of you who know Bob will find that very hard to believe), and it wasn't long before his passion rubbed off on me. I had a hard time giving those CDs back to him when I finally decided I'd "borrowed" them long enough. Good thing I didn't go out and buy any of them, since they eventually became mine as well as his when we got married (we had enough overlap when we merged our collections as it was). And we've bought the CDs she's produced since we got married.

Just before Bob's birthday, in 2007, about a month after we'd moved to Pennsylvania, I discovered that Vega was playing in a theater venue in Sellersville, not too far from where we live. Bob had seen her years ago, but I'd never seen her, and I thought this would be a perfect birthday present. Turns out I was right. He was thrilled when I presented him with the tickets.

By the time we got to the theater, however, he wasn't quite so thrilled. This was in the days when we foolishly thought we could get around PA without a GPS, and we were dependent on maps and the directions provided by the theater's web site, which clearly said not to follow the Mapquest directions. We would have been better off following Mapquest, I'm sure, as, after hitting horrible rush-hour traffic, which put us behind, we then proceeded to get hopelessly lost. The trouble began when the directions told us to turn left on a road where we could only turn right, and that took us onto one of those major highways straight out of some horror movie that never ends and never lets you exit. Somehow, we eventually made it off the highway, and by some miracle, after driving all over back country roads (despite the South's reputation, Pennsylvania definitely has the South I know beat when it comes to unlit back country roads), managed to find the theater, which I was beginning to think didn't really exist.

The theater has a nice restaurant attached to it, and our plans had been to have a leisurely, romantic dinner before the show. Needless to say, Cupid's arrow takes a severe nose dive when two frazzled, angry, rushed people sit down to eat. I don't remember, but I'm pretty sure I had decided I wasn't going to speak to Bob throughout dinner, after one of those typical "I can't believe I listened to you. I knew it couldn't possibly be this way," sorts of discussions couples have when they're both lost, and although it's really nobody's fault, per se, each is absolutely convinced the other is at fault. Each is also absolutely convinced that it's the other's fault that they didn't leave earlier, giving them time in case they got hopelessly lost. (That really is Bob's fault. He believes Mapquest's estimated time is overestimated. I always assume at least fifteen minutes ought to be added onto it.)

A glass of wine later, though, and we remembered why we were here. Cupid began peeking around the corner, and pretty soon, we were discussing which songs we hoped she'd play. On my list was "New York is a Woman." By the time she played it, Cupid had hit his target.

Here you go (yet another favorite song that's about New York). But how can you possibly not love it? The lyrics are just so perfect and so true. Everyone who's ever been to NYC for the first time should completely understand the feeling.

New York is a Woman
Suzanne Vega

New York City spread herself before you
With her bangles and her spangles and her stars
You were impressed with the city so undressed
You had to go out cruising all the bars

Your business trip extended through the weekend
Suburban boy here for your first time
From the 27th floor above the midtown roar
You were dazzled by her beauty and her crime

And she's every girl you've seen in every movie
Every dame you've ever known on late night TV
In her steam and steel is the passion you feel
New York is a woman she'll make you cry
And to her you're just another guy

Look down and see her ruined places
Smoke and ash still rising to the sky
She's happy that you're here but when you disappear
She won't know that you're gone to say goodbye

And she's every girl you've seen in every movie
Every dame you've ever known on late night tv
In her steam and steel is the passion you feel
New York is a woman she'll make you cry
And to her you're just another guy


Amanda said...

Great choice!

I loved "marlene on the wall" when it came out. It felt like me at 17 as I was or at least aspired to be. Whatever the song is really about- to me it had a kind of almost virginal, innocent just dipping a toe into the waters of relationships vibe to it. And there also seemed to be something cool and arty and sophisticated about it. I didn't have a poster of Marlene on my wall but it definitely felt like something I might think about doing when I went to University

Bob said...

Emily, Oh, you are such a romantic. Have you lived in NY? I lived in Queens, Brooklyn, the lower east side, and, finally, the upper west side before moving to Connecticut. True, I like all NY songs, even the overplayed “New York, New York,” but for me, no single composer captures the real flavor of the city as much as Stephen Sondheim. His “Company” describes NY life and although written in the early 70’s it continues to reverberate truth when performed today. There is a DVD of the 2007 revival, which is brilliant. Here are the lyrics to his “What more do I need?” which he wrote when he as only 24 years old! I saw him recently (Sondheim himself!) and I blogged about it. There is a YouTube performance of this particular song by Anne Hawthaway (who knew she has such a great voice?) and that link is in my entry:

Once I hated this city,
Now it can't get me down.
Slushy, humid and gritty,
What a pretty town.

What, thought I, could be duller,
More depressing, less gay.
Now my favorite color
Is grey.

A wall of rain as it turns to sleet,
The lack of sun on a one-way street,
I love the grime all the time.
And what more do I need?

My window pane has a lovely view:
An inch of sky and a fly or two.
Why, I can see half a tree.
And what more do I need?

The dusk is thick and it's galling;
It simply can't be excused.
In winter even the falling snow looks

My window pane may not give much light,
But I see you, so the view is bright.
If I can love you, I'll pay the dirt no heed!
With your love, what more do I need?

Someone shouting for quiet,
Someone starting a brawl,
Down the block there's a riot,
And I'll buy it all!

Listen, now I'm ecstatic,
Hold me close and be still.
Hear the lovely pneumatic

A subway train thunders through the Bronx,
A taxi horn on the corner honks.
But I adore ev'ry roar.
And what more do I need?

I hear a crane making street repairs,
A two-ton child running wild upstairs.
Steam pipes bang,sirens clang,
And what more do I need?

The neighbors yell in the summer,
The landlord yells in the fall,
So loud I can't hear the plumber
Pound the wall.

An airplane roars across the bay,
But I can hear you as clear as day:
You said you love me
Above the sound and speed.

With your love,
What more do I need

Anonymous said...

I'm loving your Music Mondays since I get to hear (via YouTube) one great song at a time together with your memories about it.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness - Sam and I had the EXACT same problem with Sellersville that you and Bob did, down to the frazzled dinner, the fight, and the moment when Sam ripped the GPS out of car because we were so, hopelessly lost. I mean, absolutely parallel...I had a great risotto at the restaurant, though.

Emily Barton said...

Ms. Make Tea, I always think it's so much fun to see which songs by my favorite artists have affected people. Marlene on the Wall is perfect for an innocent, "arty, sophistication-seeking"17-year-old. I see myself in that one as well.

Bob, some might say "hopelessly" so. I, too, love almost every song about New York I've heard (including "New York, New York." I loved your blog post on Sondheim, and thanks for sharing these fabulous lyrics. (Oh, and Bob had a full scholarship to Union Seminary, so we had a student apartment at W 122nd St. for 3 glorious years.)

Pete, it makes me so happy to know I'm introducing people to some great songs and artists.

Court, really? LOL! Maybe we should all meet in Sellersville sometime.