Thursday, August 07, 2008

Subverting irony and Books of Love

"The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts and facts and figures and instructions for dancing
But I
I love it when you read to me
And you
You can read me anything
The book of love has music in it
In fact that's where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb
But I
I love it when you sing to me
And you
You can sing me anything
The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we're all too young to know
But I
I love it when you give me things
And you
You ought to give me wedding rings"

On Peter Gabriel's cover of "Book of Love," one reviewer notes:

I once read an interview with Magnetic Fields' frontman Stephin Merritt where he said that he hated hearing fans say that they found his music touching or affirming. He has always meant his lyrics and music to be ironic, if not bitter takes on romance. Indeed "Book of Love" remains one of Merritt's most ironic views on love. Yet, what makes Peter Gabriel's cover so amazing, is how straight he takes the song. Gabriel completely removes any irony or bitterness and it is completely simple, yet oh so heartbreaking, and it's all the better for its earnestness.

Ironically (and irenically), Maybe Jesus does this...and/or the opposite (ZooTVish)...with some of his parable "covers" (those he bases on, or namechecks/samples existing rabbinic parables....or existing presuppositions that need to be subverted).

The original by Magnetic Fields:

Gabriel's cover with lyrics:

Gabriel's cover with movie clips and lyrics:

Bonus: More of Gabriel 'stealing back" his own songs:

Of course, in subverting ones own songs, Dylan is the master. When St Guiness and i heard him a few years ago, we didn't even recognize many of the songs. I understand he may have pulled a grand one with his beautiful, Lanois-produced "Most of the Time." On the CD version, it is pretty obvious, partly due to Laois' aching guitar, that "most of the time she ain't even on my mind" is a lie; the singer is trying to convince himself..unconvincingly...that it is true. On the newly released acoustic version, which I haven't heard yet, it sounds like he strips it down to acoustic folk, but morphs the lyric into a torch song.

Such is love.

U2, of course, respun some of their 90s material in new millenium performances; ironing out the irony...most famously/infamously in "The First Time." In the newer version, the Prodigal Son actually came home (see "Well-Ended Stories That Don't End Well"
and MotherBeth's 10/08/05 "Teach me to sing" post).

Imagine that.

That's a Book of Love.

But , to close with (who else more fitting on love-subversion and holy hijacking) a Johnny Cash reference:

I still wonder if the narrating character/prodigal "still misses the drugs."

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