Goodbye to Love

This could very well be the most influential piece of music in my life.  Always has been, and it’s making a comeback from long dormancy.

There’s good info on this song in the Wikipedia article, and lots of tasty backstory about the Carpenters here and there.

So I won’t belabor the power-ballad, distortion solo aspects of things; if you care, you can read the linked article.

I stumbled across the chords for this (although I was low by a fourth) while I was noodling about on the piano.  It took me a moment to realize that I was re-creating something, then several minutes to catch enough of the scent to home in on — it’s KAREN CARPENTER UH,  AND IT’S IT’S IT’S UH, GOODBYE TO LOVE!

So then I had my bearings, and knew that I was in the chord progression from the end of the song.  I had the first four chords, and was really struggling with the next four.  Long story short, I looked up the chords online, and went at it.  Well, anyway, with my recent studies in music theory and my lifelong attachment to this song, I realized that much of the stuff I like to play (whether I wrote it or not) shares significant elements with this song.

Much of popular music features a descending chord progression, whereas I prefer a descending line within a series of chromatic mediants (I think).  This is true in what I play as well as what I listen to.  It’s hardly a filter, but it is noticeable.  Although, for all I know it’s the blue car effect.

If not this song, it would have been some other, to be sure, but it was this one.  It may or may not be historic and earth-shaking, but it was formative for me.  I also seem to have gotten more than just my taste in music from this song.

I have always loved Karen Carpenter. I was born in 1970, so, there ya go.  It’s not news to me that she forms a big chunk of my sweetheart archetype.  The voice, the eyes, the smile — all conspired with the chord progressions, the musicianship and recording quality to completely captivate me.    But don’t take my word for it — Wikipedia quotes Rolling Stone here:

 In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked Carpenter number 94 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, calling her voice “impossibly lush and almost shockingly intimate”, adding “even the sappiest songs sound like she was staring directly into your eyes”[…]

She was both real and unreal — unreal in that she was twenty years older and famous, but real in that she was very girl-next-door.  Later on, she would suddenly become very real, just another person with problems.

Great tragedies start as happy stories, and she brought happiness indeed to millions.  She had actually beaten anorexia and was killed by its aftereffects while maintaining a steady healthy weight.  I have always adored Princess Diana (I was born in 1970 after all), but in my experience, she was an echo of Karen Carpenter.  The fairy-tale princess, wedding, divorce, good works, and appalling death — seen this movie before.

I know that I have a fury inside me.  It’s always there, and I’m better at holding it some times, worse at other times.  Beware an old man in a hurry.  I’m not really old, and I’m not really in a hurry, but I can see both from here.  Things weren’t supposed to be like this.  I read a great description of a diagnosis of “rage”.  Rage is an anger that is always there, waiting, lurking just below the surface.  Unlike most men (my book is about men), who get angry at things, men with rage *are* angry at things.

What a waste.  What a god-damned waste.  Listening to this song and re-reading the articles about her life and death, and it just kicks me again.  That voice, like she’s staring into your eyes.

I’ve been listening to this song on repeat for hours now.  The sweetness is all gone from the guitar solo at the end, we’re not even in the same key anymore, and might as well be in a different song.  An angry song.  You hear that guitar?  This song was the first ever power-ballad, and there is none more powerful, not for me.  You want to know what the guitar says?

Have you said goodbye to love?  It’s not when love says goodbye to you — that’s the piano part.  This song is not about an unhappy event, some misfortune, a bad thing happened oh no.  Instead, it is a decision.  I will say good-bye to love, and that’s where the blistering guitar comes from.  There’s no noble sacrifice, no greater good, no Sophie’s Choice. What does it take to give up on love?  Whatever love is, be it divine, chemical, romantic, or a delusion, we seem to need it.  Or we seem to think that we need it.  We certainly tell ourselves and each other that we need love, every stinking chance we get to open our unloved mouths we just cannot shut up about it.

Life happens.  And sometimes, you just commit to 18 years or more — that’s a decision — despite having otherwise decided to take a different path.  No, not this one — some other.  But oh, what’s that?  Ah, this one after all.

Let’s see, thirty-four plus eighteen is about fifty-two, and probably need to pad that figure a little.  Not without its rewards, to be sure.  But Sophie’s Choice is a stupid movie, and would have been much more powerful if she had somehow engineered a way to foil the Nazis by sacrificing herself to save both children.  God knows it would have been a shorter movie, a better tragedy, and would have had a descending through line that made sense.  Instead it’s some cliched horse crap about infidelity and an unconnected event way in the past that forever changed the protagonist, but is not at all a part of the plot.  That cheap title pun would support a short story — at most.

Nobody’s at risk of dying around here, but death is not the only way to lose your life.  There are only so many days, and there is so much to do that sometimes it’s all one can do to get out of bed.

It’s after 1 AM now.  I was halfway through this when I realized it was after 12.  I was going to get to bed early, as I have an important phone call to Hawaii in the wee hours.  Looks like I’ll just push through, with that god-damned guitar on repeat.  I got my hate on.  And hatred is very close to love — they’re not opposites — they’re twins.

Karen Carpenter was 32 when she died.  She didn’t write the song — the was her brother and an additional lyricist — and the guitar guy was a one-off with a band and a career all his own.  He wrote the solo the same way that Clare Torry  wrote the vocals for Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky:  “Go crazy on this right here.”  But there she is, stuck at 32 which is no longer in the future, but the past, and not even close anymore.  She’ll never get old and God knows she already hurt and had poor health.  And she’s singing this song today, with that transcendent quality that puts her where you are.  Well, it certainly puts her where I am.

Last week, I spent some time with former co-workers (and current quasi-co-workers), and the atmosphere was just as poisonous as it was when I was there.  Fear, frustration, and pressure.  Long hours and abuse.  Great people and fascinating subject matter — ruined by man-grinding mindless processes.  And that’s the job with all the potential.  Meanwhile, I’m still stuck on the wrong side of the ocean, camping in my life, “waiting for my real life to begin,” as the Colin Hay song has it.  I fastidiously avoid getting too permanent here.  I stopped speaking the local language years ago, but my English is suffering too.

Every once in a while, a comet sails by, dissipating in the way of all things, approaching, heating, wrenching, and breaking free.  Sometimes the comet approaches me — sometimes I’m the comet.  But there’s nothing to be done about it.  Bodies in motion that never touch.

Sometimes when you make a decision, you do so with a set of assumptions that at best can be described as naive — but in all likelihood, you knew what was up, and just found a way to fool yourself long enough to get past the moment.  You drink the poison because you know it won’t hurt you.  Everything will be fine.  Once the poison kicks in, you have a whole new set of problems, but you get over it one way or another soon enough.  Rinse and repeat — but there isn’t time.

I think that the Fleetwood Mac song Sara perfectly captured the sound of being in love.  There’s a loss, a longing, a wistfulness, and an uncertain future — holding out hope.  The hopeful go to Heaven.  Guns & Roses’ November Rain captures a good deal of the pain of loss, and it’s awful, but it’s just suffering.  The suffering go to Heaven.

Goodbye to Love is a decision that must be repeated every day.  It’s not a solution, but the absence of a solution — the perpetual putting-off until there is no more place to put anything.  The hopeless and the quitters go to Hell.  That’s what the guitar says.

Man, that guitar.  Gonna grab me a beer.  It’s two o’clock

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9 thoughts on “Goodbye to Love”

  1. Haakon Dahl:
    I have always loved Karen Carpenter. I was born in 1970, so, there ya go.  It’s not news to me that she forms a big chunk of my sweetheart archetype.  The voice, the eyes, the smile — all conspired with the chord progressions, the musicianship and recording quality to completely captivate me.    But don’t take my word for it — Wikipedia quotes Rolling Stone here:  In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked Carpenter number 94 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, calling her voice “impossibly lush and almost shockingly intimate”, adding “even the sappiest songs sound like she was staring directly into your eyes”[…]

    She was also a heck of a drummer.

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  2. Sorry, but nothing compares to love songs Layla, You Look Wonderful Tonight or Something; songs written by two of the greatest musicians in the history of rock and all three about one particular muse.

    Ed Sheeran’s Perfect runs a close fourth.

    I’m not inspired by anorexic girls with an abundance of talent who wonder why they don’t have a boyfriend!

    However, kudos for posting anything performed by Stevie Nicks!

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  3. Haakon Dahl:
    But Sophie’s Choice is a stupid movie, and would have been much more powerful if she had somehow engineered a way to foil the Nazis by sacrificing herself to save both children.

    Boy howdy, do I disagree! If anyone has ever read a damn thing about the Nazis they’d know that those monsters relished in both physical and mental torture. For a mother to choose between her kids instead of sacrificing herself would be the worst possible option.

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  4. We all latch onto favorite songs because at some point, due to a series of events all coming together, they spoke to us, to that part of us that is usually protected and filtered and defended with all our will.

    It stays with us forever.

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  5. Karen Carpenter did have a beautiful voice. Steady and direct and seemingly effortless. I appreciate her more now than I did as a teenager when the Carpenters weren’t cool.

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  6. TKC 1101:
    We all latch onto favorite songs because at some point, due to a series of events all coming together, they spoke to us, to that part of us that is usually protected and filtered and defended with all our will.

    It stays with us forever.

    For certain. The 1964 Beatles reminded me of youthful crushes, Eric Clapton of passionate obsessions, and the Stones/Bowie/Reed of the rebellious phases!

    Music seems to come full circle however; my new obsession is Ed Sheeran who seems to bring me back to the early, sweet music of the Fab Four.

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  7. Sure thing. I have a tendency to get rather “expansive” about music whenever the topic is brought up. Sorry about that!

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