I found this last night when I was dying on the couch, and Vincent was dying in the bathroom. He accidentally ate some peanuts (but is okay now), and because it was so much fun last time, I've gone and gotten another kidney infection (and am not okay, but at least I've stopped sweating).
I've been entranced by this song since I was little and knew The Left Banke's version. I think I knew quite early what unrequited love was, from Anne Of Green Gables and an imagination given to romantic stories, but I thought the song was simply about heartbreak, and I loved how wistful it sounded. At the cafe where I worked when I was sixteen we had a strangely high number of soundtracks (the most popular at the time was Dawson's Creek), and I used to listen to the Vonda Shepherd version of the song on the Ally McBeal soundtrack. It was around that time that I fell in love for the first time, with someone who didn't love me, and in the self-conscious way of a sixteen/seventeen-year-old, I spent a lot of time thinking about what a sad state it was; the saddest, I thought for a long time (though not anymore). I'd always thought unrequited love the epitome of romance in movies and books, but only when it was men pining for women; my experience was decidedly unromantic, full of unhappy drunk afternoons, not eating, and an infected nose-piercing.
When I listened to this it struck me how important it is to have articulate and creative people in your life, and how connected they make you feel to other people because they show how universal things are. Listening to it, I remembered when I first fell in love with Vincent, and how everything - songs, books, movies, seemed to be about us, and how heady it all felt; like nothing was in focus except us and the time we could spend together. Billy Bragg is a hero of mine, although what he does is so natural (plus he is alive) that I don't think I properly realised it until this week. He was the first socialist musician I ever knew, and he also wrote some of the most beautiful lines about love (usually not very happy love) I have ever heard. In some ways I feel similarly about him as I do about Springsteen; they're so genuine and their intentions are so real and honourable that it can be almost embarrassing to listen to them, like they're showing you some enormous scar, or telling you a story about being bullied for wearing a cape to school. But within that feeling is one of safety and admiration, and a desire to be as much like them as possible. On Friday, my beloved sister, Vincent and I will go to see Billy Bragg play the Town Hall. I feel lucky that the two people I will be with at the show are like that; true to who they are and genuine, that it makes me feel both proud and protective of them.
Half of the show will be his own songs, and the other half the songs he and Wilco did together using previously unheard lyrics by Woody Guthrie (the Mermaid Avenue albums). Woody Guthrie's daughter Nora got in touch with Billy after hearing him play at a Guthrie tribute concert, and offered him the lyrics, which I think is fucking awesome. There are lots of songs I hope to hear during both sections, but I can't imagine being disappointed by any omissions.
Having said that, a Billy Bragg show wouldn't be complete without this song (awesome version found by Vincent a few nights ago).