Sunday, September 23, 2007

All I Want Is You

Summer days are gone
And winter nights are closing fast
And no-one knows how long they'll last
Till daylight comes again

Welcome to the special autumnal equinox edition of Fragments. We'll be listening to "All I Want is You", a light and sprightly little song, a throwback to an older songwriting tradition, one somewhere between Stephen Foster and the British music hall. The first time you hear this song, filling the space between Fear and Slow Dazzle on the Island Years compilation, you'll swear it's some ancient song that Cale's covering for sport. But you'll look at the credits, and - gee! - it's a Cale original. At least that's how it worked for me.

The gentle, steady propulsion of the rhythm guitar and drum part keeps the song upbeat and positive, despite some sinister modulations in the more rhythmically free piano lead. And the basswork - sinuous and adventurous on the verse, bouncy on the chorus - is excellent. It's an elegantly and cleanly performed bit of music - benefiting, too, from a vocal that's top-quality, moving from minor to major key bits with aplomb.

And for such a simple, "classical" song, it's not a bad lyric at all! It's another exception to my overly-broad observation that John Cale doesn't write songs about the natural world - it's a pithily written goodbye to the summer sun. But the fascinating part of the lyric, to me, is the first part of the second verse:

Summer days are gone
And everybody's in the dark
And no-one seems to want what you and
I have anymore

The confused dejection of the lyric is very piquant, and, combined with the traditional build of the song, makes me suspect that it may be a genuine moment of self-pity for our boy John. (To his credit, the explicit ones are fairly rare.) It's the sort of thing you write, I suppose, when you've written a masterpiece (Paris 1919) that nobody bought and that your record company wasn't interested in. I usually try to stay away from the psychology, as I hate to project, but this feels very naked and sincere.

So anyway: despite the rather grim message ("Summer's over, nobody really likes us, and our future's not so bright. Well, let's fuck.") it's upbeat. Grim-and-upbeat is the recipe for many of my favorite songs, and it works here. I wouldn't say it's worth buying The Island Years for, but it's one of my favorite outtakes. Give it a listen, if you're able.

I hope you, fellow residents of the northern hemisphere, had a nice summer - 'cause it's over now. (You southerners are probably feeling good, though.) Me, I like all the seasons about equally. Bring on the cold.


Mark of the Asphodel said...

I don't know about "ancient," as the verses and main piano hook have the same feel, to me, as some of Elton John's stuff circa Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I wouldn't think that this was anything other than a 1970s song and recording. The chorus is a bit more music-hall, I suppose. Anyway, it's cute if you don't pay attention to the words, hah.

Funny how this little ditty shares the name of one of U2's most turgid "classics," too. I saw the title of today's entry and thought, "Don't tell me Cale covered *that*!"

Ian said...

I'm a winter man (and a Canadian), so I'm happy to see it go away. It's taking too long, though! It's still been shorts and t-shirt weather up here.

Anonymous said...

Hardly cheery, sir! It always reminds me of Cale calling love need.

Vagabond Sun said...

Great song, there is something about this twisted little happy number that makes me often repeat it at least once when I listen to the Island Years.