Tuesday, November 02, 2010

"Walkin' After Midnight" (1957)

44. Patsy Cline, "Walkin' After Midnight" (March 2, 1957, #12)

The easy comment here, one I've made myself a few times, is that this stands in as a fine divorce or breakup song. Certainly it has served me well at such times. But Patsy Cline's sweet, nagging, ever-so slightly nasal vocal delivers a good deal more than an opportunity for self-pity and crocodile tears. In fact, it's not even particularly sad. Instead, it digs into the poignant, evocative mysteries of an inability to let go of someone, and does so with a perfect image, encapsulated in the title. Speaking strictly for myself, I know when I've found myself taking to the streets late at night (or "along the highways," a notably chilling image from a female singer) that it may not always involve relationship grief, but it usually does. The singer's ostensible mission, to seek out that missing object of love, is ridiculously futile on its face. If he's not with her at 1 a.m. he's not likely to want to be found even if she could—even if she knew where to look. Especially if she knew where to look. This is one of Patsy Cline's specialties, a kind of theme that surfaces over and over again in her work: a simple idea that becomes stranger and more deranged the more one thinks about it. It's that voice of hers, and the tunefulness, and the homely country (going on countrypolitan) trappings that lull you. But think about it, how insane is this for a nighttime scenario: "I stop to see a weeping willow / Cryin' on his pillow / Maybe he's crying for me." Or this, the heart of it: "I go out walkin' after midnight / Out in the moonlight, just hopin' you may be / Somewhere a-walkin' after midnight / Searching for me." That's not right. Nothing about that is right.

1 comment:

  1. This is on my "Dark Goddamn Songs" playlist.

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