Tuesday, February 20, 2018

CLOUD NINE WHEN I WANT TO

I used to think “Layla” was the perfect song. It is, after all, one man’s poem to a woman he adores from afar, complete with ferocious devotion, the sear of unrequited love, the soaring piano coda that evokes endless skies, endless possibilities. 

Then came today.

I went for a walk. A relentless, cold rain. Seemed appropriate — not sad, because that wasn’t the emotion behind my eyes. It is impossible to be sad about news that brings joy to the heart of someone you love. But the rain seemed just right; it was bracing, a slap upside the head.

(I mean, day of Kurt Cobain’s birth, day of Hunter Thompson’s suicide. Feb. 20 is a day I will always remember.)

As I started to walk I slipped in earbuds and hit play on my music, half-expecting the gods or whatever to cue up “Layla” as some sort of cosmic practical joke. But instead I heard piano chords in 12/8 time, jaunty notes from the black-and-white days, and I realized the universe did have something to say.

“Hot Fun in the Summertime” is an odd song, even for Sly & The Family Stone. It clocks in at 2:38 — a slip of a tune, really — and it begins to fade out just as the chorus kicks in for a second time.

The song begins with the words “end of the spring” and the welcoming of a returning love: “hi, hi, hi, hi there.” Everything is true. There is hot fun in the summertime. All Cloud 9, the height of bliss.

But then: melancholy and a sudden end. It is first of the fall and she goes away. From hi to bye — too soon, too soon! — and as the chorus celebrates love in the heat it all fades into memory — but just before it does there is one more message:

Everything is cool.

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