Monday, January 30, 2023

This Year: 1974

"This Year" is a series of weekly posts, each about one song from one year of my life. See the introduction for more.

I don't know if all happy families are exactly the same, but sadness and negative emotions are stronger and more resonant in music - songs of happiness and cheer rarely touch me, while songs of depression and nihilism get played over and over again.

This is one of the saddest songs I know, bleak to its core, a warning sung to a newborn about what to expect from the world. My song for 1974 is The End of the Rainbow by Richard and Linda Thompson.

"I feel for you, you little horror" is how it starts, and it gets more specific from there. Richard Thompson sings it straightforwardly: he's not gloating or lamenting, just being honest. These are things the baby needs to know, the truth of the world that baby has just landed in, and Thompson isn't happy to explain it, but he needs to.

Because "life looks so rosy in the cradle," a baby is coddled and cared for, every desire fulfilled as quickly as possible. But the rest of the world is full of  "tycoons and bower boys" and "all the sad and empty faces." The words may seem over-the-top, far too extreme, but the delivery is so deadpan that it comes across as understatement: the world is at least this bad.

I love this song with the same part of me that loves Houseman's "Terence, this is stupid stuff": the part that wants to believe the worst, is ready for disaster at every turn, the catastrophizing mind that never turns off. That part of me is sure that there's nothing at the end of the rainbow, and only needed the Thompsons to make it clear.

No comments:

Post a Comment