Monday, August 16, 2010
I guess there are love songs more beautiful, but not many, and none certainly about illicit carryings-on between married folks or bearing so forlornly the freight of its own certain doom. I credit much of the gut punch it manages to deliver first to the lush strings that vibrate with an almost sour tension, alternately swooping to accent the soft high notes. Second to Billy Paul's voice, which is clarion clear but with tender places, like bruises. And third to the pining guilt that inextricably undergirds the small drama. The singer of this song is not getting away with anything and he knows it, all denials to the contrary notwithstanding. The whole thing might be just his fantasy, in fact. The song never appears to consider the pain that might be caused to others, even if "we both know it's wrong." But at the same time it's so deliciously full of the knowledge of doom, the guilt and lust that lights such matters all aflame, turning them into useless little holocausts of passion, and some sense as well of the humiliation to which they've been reduced, meeting everyday at the same café. "We've got to be extra careful, we can't afford to build our hopes up too high." The innocence of it, in the telling, can be positively touching: "Holding hands and making all kinds of special plans." Who are these people? Even the named "Mrs. Jones" is obviously an alias. How did they meet? Where did they come from and where are they headed? No answers, even fewer clues. These are people living life one day at a time. The rest of us heard enough in it to make it #1 for three weeks.