9/3/09

Blamin' It All ...


Personally speaking, I never considered The Bee Gees the enemy. Oh sure, growing up as a nascent rock head in my tween years during the late 70s, I'd been dutifully conditioned by my chosen subculture to hate all things disco (despite the fact that my then-favorite bands in Kiss, Queen & Pink Floyd would all cut their own disco-informed singles shortly thereafter), but I also lived in a household with an older sister. Oblivious to the narrow mores and thinly-veiled prejudices of strident rock fandom, my sister had more than her fair share of disco records, most notably the oeuvre of Donna Summer, the fabled soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever" and several records by the brothers Gibb -- all of which she'd play regularly. I never considered that stuff a threat of any kind. My folks even had an eight-track of one of the `Gees' early, pre-disco albums, that being Idea (the cover of which used to freak me out). So while much of the the rest of the world may have reviled them, I always kinda dug the Bee Gees. It wasn't until the early 90s, however, that I realized that they were prophets.

Let's rewind a bit. In the Summer of 1992, I made the ill-considered decision to involve myself in an office romance. I was working at a glossy monthly magazine at the time -- I was in editorial, she worked in production -- what could go wrong? For a fleeting few, sweet weeks, life was good. The girl -- let's call her Faith -- rented a somewhat squalid apartment over on Upper Broadway, a neighborhood I wasn't at all familiar with. As such, Faith and I spent many a balmy, beatific summer evening strolling up and down those streets, holding hands and gazing moonily into each other's eyes. It was, of course, way too good to last.

In exceptionally short order, Faith decided that it would be a good idea for us to go back to being "friends." Needless to say, I wasn't exactly chuffed with this idea, but what choice did I have? I played nice for a while, secretly crushed that our status had changed so dramatically, but it became increasingly more difficult with each passing month. Having to work together didn't make matters any easier. During my downtime, I found myself taking entirely needless bike rides over to the Upper West Side. My friends were getting concerned. Things reached a fever pitch at the magazine's Christmas party (great choice for a confrontation, eh?) when I dramatically exclaimed my dissatisfaction with the arrangement. It did not go at all well.

Life got quite grim after that. Going to work was a heartbreaking chore. I spent most of my time sulking, listening to Nine Inch Nails' then-recently released Broken e.p. (a fitting cocktail of spite) and wallowing in self-pity. My friends tried to shake me out of it, but it was little use. I was committed to fixing what now seemed hopelessly beyond repair. When I saw Faith at the office, it was dreadful and awkward. On a good day she was passively polite. On a bad day, she was rude bordering on hostile. Still, I was hopelessly committed to putting it back to the way it was.

My friend Rob reached the end of his tether. He and some of my other comrades grabbed me by the lapels and dragged me out one evening to try to knock some sense into me. Over a meal at a cheap-o Chinese restaurant (also on Broadway) during a snowy January evening, my pals read me the riot act, trying to shock some sense into my love-clouded mind. Repairing to a nearby dive bar on Broadway, my boys crowded around me, berating my futile, torch-carrying tendencies as I pumped coins into the jukebox. I still wasn't listening. All I wanted was to get this girl back. Nothing else mattered.

Poetically, "Nights on Broadway" by the Bee Gees -- from their 1975 album, Main Course -- came trilling out of the jukebox. Sure, it's a classic, but when was the last time you really sat down and listened to it? After that rockin', piano-charged intro that sounds like the theme song to a 70's cop show, Barry Gibb and his brothers launched into an uncharacteristically dark narrative that hit me in a whole new way. If you excise that funky bass, those mellifluous harmonies, Robin Gibb's angelic falsetto and those treacly pianos in the middle-eight, what you're essentially left with is the creepy manifesto of the jilted stalker. Let's review, shall we?

Here we are
In a room full of strangers
Standing in the dark where your eyes couldn't see me

Well I had to follow you
Though you did not want me to
That won't stop my loving you
I can't stay away

Blamin' it all on the nights on Broadway
Singin' them love songs
Singin' them straight to the heart songs
Blamin' it all on the nights on Broadway
Singing them sweet sounds
To that crazy, crazy town

Now in my place
There are so many others
Standing in the line;
How long will they stand between us?

Well I had to follow you
Though you did not want me to
That won't stop my loving you
I can't stay away

Blamin' it all on the nights on Broadway
Singin' them love songs
Singin' them straight to the heart songs
Blamin' it all on the nights on Broadway
Singing them sweet sounds
To that crazy, crazy town

I will wait
Even if it takes forever
I will wait
Even if it takes a life time
Somehow I feel inside
You never ever left my side
Make it like it was before
Even if it takes a life time, takes a life time

Blamin' it all on the nights on Broadway
Singin' them love songs
Singin' them straight to the heart songs
Blamin' it all on the nights on Broadway
Singing them sweet sounds
To that crazy, crazy town


In all his grimacey days, Trent Reznor could never come up with anything as desperate and disturbing as that stuff. It seemed to come right out of the pages of John Hinkley's diary, replete with a disquieting patina of denial on the part of the high-piped protagonist. Whose fault is it? Why, it's those crazy New York City nights' fault, of course. Even more creepy, it seemed that the Bee Gees were singing my own sordid story right back to me in worryingly vivid detail. I stood at the jukebox, staring incredulously into the machine while my friends assumed comedy Travolta poses behind me. It was, as they say, a moment of clarity.

It was obviously a good deal more complicated than this, but I do feel I owe some credit to the Bee Gees in shocking me out of my self-destructive stupor of unrequited love. I moved on. Faith moved on and eventually away. We saw each other again a few years later, and I wondered how I'd ever gotten to that crazy point to begin with. Time healed the wounds. But I still don't think I could have gotten there myself had it not been for the Bee Gees.

Crank it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the persona or image of the Bee Gees prevents an immedaite reading of "menace" in the song, though it is certainly there, than say - Marilyn Manson or something. The melody and groove are also too strong, that it is instantly more enjoyable with some underlying pathos, you can't bother to dig into cos the paty's gon' on! Reading your post and letting the lyrics marinade, it really plays like the inner monologue of that creepy dude in the opening of Perfect Blue (anime movie) by the late Satoshi Kon.
Lots of the mid-generation anime directors/greats were children of 60s/70s music. Perhaps he noticed...

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