One line is all it takes. Sometimes, it’s just one word.
It happened to me this morning. “Jeff, how long have you been standing there in that same spot? You looked so focused, but content.” This was the first greeting I received at my office today. It’s because I was thumbing through the song list on my phone like I was throwing a discus, trying to find the one song I needed to hear in that moment — all for one line. It was “The Bones of You” by Elbow.
“When out of a doorway
The tentacles stretch of a song that I know
And the world moves in slow-mo
Straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day….
… and I dealt with this years ago
I took a hammer to every memento
But image on image like beads on a rosary
Pulled through my head as the music takes hold”
Had to have it.
At this point, I had not had my morning coffee yet so the ‘The Bones of You” was to go straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day. Consider it a healthy hit.
Six years ago, I had no idea who Elbow was. I had Palladia on in my living room and they airing a Glastonbury Festival special. Elbow happened to be performing. I was in the process of fixing a front door when all of sudden I whipped my head around at the sound of Guy Garvey’s voice. That’s just it — I’m talking about a particular line of song here, but much of the gravitation has to do with the singer’s delivery. Garvey took a deep breath, dug deep, and fired out … “And IIIIIII dealt with this years ago….”
Dealt with this years ago? What does that mean? A recurring problem? A beautiful persistence? I still don’t know, but I am continually fascinated by that line and how it connects back to the verse that precedes it (quoted above). It strings together the song, the passion and a “high” all through word placement and it’s position within the composition. Garvey recognizes that then shoots it into the sky like a flaming arrow.
There are a few songs like this for me. It’s like having a shiny pair of sneakers right in front of you, but you have to wear your worn-out Nike’s in the closet because they are reliable and give you a stability to take on the day like no other pair. It’s trust, but it’s also a calibration. That one line or word matches what you feel in that moment. It gives you an injection of exactly what you need to get right. It’s an understanding.
With that in mind, here are my five. What are yours?
“Hard to Imagine” by: Pearl Jam
Line — “…I hope this works somehow.” Disclaimer — this is one of my favorite songs in the universe. But at the last chorus, Eddie Vedder changes one line. Gone is the floating lone “somehow.” Three words are added to the front in …”I hope this works.” It’s so strong and vulnerable at the same time, and I feel it encapsulates the movement of the entire song.
Line — “And the ocean of time.” The ocean of time? I’ve never heard anyone make that analogy before, but Daniel Johns does it perfectly. This is such a melodic (and rare) song to begin with. The verses are like smooth waves and this is the 4th swell. The ironic thing is the line before this reads “in the dark of my mind.” Whoa. Intense. But “and the ocean of time” balances it out. What a mirage. An ocean of time — it could be anything.
“Overjoyed” by: Stevie Wonder
Word — “Over”. This is a unique one because it does not center around a particular moment in the song. I’m not eagerly anticipating the 1:47 mark. The word “over” is used 13 times throughout the 3 minute, 43 second song and I’m constantly focused on it. Over — time, over — dreams, over — hearts, over — love, over — me, over — you, over-joyed. The genius that is Stevie Wonder uses the word “over” to guide the entire journey. He stresses the two-syllables each time and leverages it to send you on your way through the next topic. It’s like one of those toys that you open up where there’s a smaller version of the exact toy inside. Then you do it again and again until you find there are about 12 renditions of the same figure all contained in one. “Overjoyed” has a bunch of tiny “overs” all layered into the main figure, which is overjoyed. Off topic — but this also song reminds me of my mom who always encourages me to continuing writing pieces like this.
“All Night Thing” by: Temple of the Dog/Chris Cornell
Line — “I do not know… what’s going on?” It’s the pause between “know” and “what’s.” These lyrics soar above an organ and for me, it’s multi-dimensional. Cornell always had an uncanny ability to have profound lyrics that were deep and could serve as your friend. If I ever I feel puzzled by life’s twists and turns I listen to “All Night Thing” and feel a reassurance by Cornell’s spiritual admittance of I do not know what’s going on. Speaking of which — I miss Chris Cornell terribly.
“The Bones of You” by: Elbow
Line —”And IIIIII dealt with this (years ago)” already in the intro, but I just got re-mesmerized (?)… like the first cigarette of the day.