[EDITOR'S NOTE: THERE USED TO BE A PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN SHORE HERE, BUT THE LAW CAME AND TOLD US TO TAKE IT DOWN. WE DID, GLADLY. HERE THEN IS A LINK TO THE PHOTO WE REFERENCE IN THE FOLLOWING POST.]
The thing about loneliness is that everybody is lonely differently, in their own way. Which is either, a) why it's called loneliness to begin with, or b) doubly lonely, when you think about it, or c) both. It's like when a song comes on the radio and you're suddenly filled with the sweetest reverie for a bygone moment and the person you're with says, "I hate this song."
By now I've accepted that I'm alone in certain things. And one of those is my continuing fascination with the instrumental albums of Burt Bacharach. I just found a copy of Make It Easy on Yourself from 1969. Upon first listen, a lot of people, Dewey Dell included, immediately reject what they're hearing. The 1960s "period" sound strikes people first and usually blots out any further consideration. That's fair. It sounds like muzak or something your parents once heard in a hotel lobby in Vegas.
But bear with me.
What begins to happen when I listen for a while, with imagination, even meditation, is that I can start to feel like I'm walking in a museum of pop gestures, a melodic Pop Art exhibit with huge canvases of glockenspiel and trumpet and tremolo surf guitar. That probably sounds like an "ironic" experience, Warhol lite. And occasionally it is. But sometimes a revelation can happen when a mellow horn line or a leisurely piano melody suddenly bonds with a personal association, like an image seen in a musical Rorschach: a green vacuum cleaner being run over an orange carpet by a brunette in curlers in a cool, sunless room, white curtains, a Hawaii Five-O re-run in the background; the brightly-lit popcorn maker at Sears; a sea-green counter at a Woolworth's diner on a winter afternoon; the silhouette of a man in a long burgundy Buick driving at dusk across a flat landscape in warm 35 millimeter. I'm reminded of the photographs of Stephen Shore, the Warhol acolyte, who drove around America in the 1960s and 70s taking pictures of hotel rooms and empty parking lots (see above, Room 110, Holiday Inn, Brainerd, MI, July 11, 1973).
When you let this music sit like a still life, without received judgment, the inspired images can have an oddly emotional tincture, the distillation of some faded American loneliness, like a recovered memory belonging to someone else, but no less sad for that. And maybe sadder. The real irony of this music is not in its cliches, but in the embedded human sympathy that's somehow revealed in these faceless orchestral vistas. I start to imagine Burt Bacharach as the loneliest man who ever lived while making these songs. Because nothing in the music is about him, personally. He's utterly solitary with a full studio orchestra, painting these lush and gleaming landscapes. And we can see ourselves in them, lost in time.
[Editor's Note: links to these songs were taken off to satisfy copyright warnings.]
She's Gone Away - Burt Bacharach
The Guy's In Love With You - Burt Bacharach (Listen for Bacharach humming along to the melody
Pacific Coast Highway - Burt Bacharach