The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

13 October 2006

I wonder if you still remember

Someone, I forget the name, once said that the essence of rock and roll was "happy songs about sad things," and I filed that away with "jumbo shrimp" and all the other oxymoronic things I'd heard — until the day I realized that those premises weren't contradictory at all.

Exhibit A: The Moody Blues, "Your Wildest Dreams," 1986. Full of bright synth bits, decidedly upbeat, and a major downer:

It's possible that "Your Wildest Dreams" isn't really the saddest song ever written, but man. The entire song is based on him remembering, "once upon a time, once when you were mine," and he never really fills in specifics. Just that he is currently wondering where she is and wondering if she thinks about him. It's very vague and that makes it worse because that makes it universal. You can fill in the blanks any way you like. You don't know why he is wistful and wondering but when his voice cracks on the second line of the song you know you are in for a song that presses down on you.

That second line, of course, is "once when you were mine."

The answer to this, oddly, had come out seven years earlier: the Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes," arguably the best thing either Michael McDonald or Kenny Loggins ever had anything to do with. And bouncy and upbeat as it is, the answer is no, she never gives him a second thought:

He came from somewhere back in her long ago
The sentimental fool don't see
Tryin' hard to recreate what had yet to be created
Once in her life
She musters a smile
For his nostalgic tale
Never coming near what he wanted to say
Only to realize it never really was

Still makes me think twice, even today.