Wednesday, August 24, 2011

50. Michelle Shocked, "Anchorage" (1988)


This song is so sad and so pretty; something about it touched me so I frequently found myself in tears before it was through (not sure exactly what the something is but it's also found in a modest hit Glen Campbell had in 1968, "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife"). Its story and all the words are plainspoken and resonant, constantly advancing a simple but powerful narrative: the singer, recently located to New York City for her skateboard punk-rocker career, has written to an old Texas friend and received a reply, which came from Anchorage, Alaska. She reads it: "Hey girl it's about time you wrote / It's been over two years now my old friend." She continues: "Hey girl I think the last time I saw you / Was on me and Leroy's wedding day / What was the name of that love song you played / I forgot how it goes, I don't recall how it goes." In that momentary shift into forgetfulness, the enormous distances between them are suddenly sensed. The dagger goes in when the letter writer is relating quotidian news items and her moment of truth quietly arrives, underlined by its nervous repetition: "Leroy got a better job so we moved / Kevin lost a tooth, now he's starting school / I got a brand new eight month old baby girl / I sound like a housewife / Hey Chel I think I'm a housewife." It's a strikingly beautiful moment and by that point the song itself is about all wound up, the gorgeous sound of the strings sawing away on the lovely melodies, the chorus already established once and now you're probably about ready to start singing along. If it's in your range you get to sing it as loud as you possibly can. It's a glorious bittersweet moment, with a perfectly apt metaphor at its center, inflected by the realities we all know well of physical distances and friends and family and time.

1 comment:

  1. one of my favorite songs ever, as in top 10...i was living in austin texas when it came out. it sounded so sad and hopeful at the same time. i was so young then! from 1995 to 2010 i was busy and the song recessed from my memory. i heard it again last year after a 15 yr absence! still touches me.
    i saw the video for the first time tonight. michelle was the original alt punk rocker!