Friday, January 24, 2014

Maggie May

The protagonist of Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" may be rock's greatest unreliable narrator. His travails, he wants the song's Maggie to believe, have been extreme, in relation to her; yet, we never get to hear her side of the story. It seems likely that she has one. Still, Stewart's protagonist, unreliable or not, is so touchingly human that it is difficult not to be moved by his plaintive narrative; especially as Rod's voice is, in its sand-and-gravel texture, so unique. For this to be a hit single in 1971 made it a major rock moment, even more so than the Beatles and Stones Sixties singles; because this kind of narrative sophistication and nuance in popular culture is extremely rare. "Maggie May" still sounds as heart rending today as it did forty-three years ago; it courts timelessness successfully.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Every Breath You Take (The Police)

Not many rock songs pull off the neat trick of being simple and profound at the same time. "Every Breath You Take" not only pulled this off, it was a massive hit into the bargain. The magic is in the lyrics, which are easily mistaken for conventional love song lyrics. On closer inspection, they may or may not be the ravings of a deranged, dangerous psychopath. But the poignance of the melody, which has a lingering quality, makes the song's emotional heft stick. And it is universal- we all have a little bit of the voyeur somewhere in us. If this song sounds down the ages, that's the reason.

Friday, January 17, 2014


As per "Rhiannon,"; the lyrical game Stevie Nicks plays here is sophisticated, and unique for rock music, if not for poetry. The narrative structure of the song forms a kind of triad- the narrator holds up one end, narrating to the frazzled, beleaguered knight-at-arms, as he beholds Rhiannon, a witch-wife or demon enchantress, who she (the narrator) blazons. It's an intriguingly skewered lyrical perspective, which recurs in "Gold Dust Woman" and "Gypsy," slightly tinkered with.