Friday, September 13, 2013

Favorite Song Friday: Please Come to Boston

I used to call this a “guilty pleasure” song. As in I felt kinda guilty for liking it as much as I do.

But then I thought, “Guilty? Why should I feel guilty?”

And then I realized that being raised half-Jewish and half-Catholic answered that question for me, so I decided to narrow it down in scope just a tid.

Why should I, or anyone, feel guilty for liking a song? Any song?

We shouldn’t. Such is the subjective beauty of music. One man’s drek could be another man’s wedding song, or a song that reminds him of a loved one who’s no longer here.

Warren Zevon wrote, “When the sky is grey, the way it is today, I remember a time when I was happy.”

That really could be exactly it and nothing more. We can conceivably find great pleasure in pieces of art that otherwise could be considered second or third rate. But if it makes us happy, if only for a few seconds, what’s wrong with that?

Nothing at all.

Favorite Song Friday – Dave Loggins – “Please Come to Boston”

Okay, for starters, there is plenty here that could easily make hardcore music fans groan. I get that.

Start with that flangy guitar, which very well might have seem dated the second Loggins stopped recording, and brings to mind one of those swirling, dreamy kaleidoscope effects we used to see on TV just before a cheesy flashback. There’s that.

The song is produced within an inch of its life as well. So much so that one feels all the studio gloss could cause even Don Henley to say, “Hey, man—ease up!”

And yes, the vocals seem to traipse dangerously close to the line between sincere and overwrought, damn near sounding like the whiny navel-gazing so many think of (albeit unfairly) when 1970s singer-songwriters come to mind.

That’s all fair.

I don’t care. I still love the song.

Because it’s a gentle and sweet little thought at heart. A countryish ballad with some nice twangy guitar that hangs over it and gives it some soul. What's more, despite some of the above-mentioned overreaching (“Pleaaaaase come to L.A. to live forevUH…”), Loggins voice is earnest and true. He sets out to tell a rather unconventional love story, one with an unresolved and possibly very unhappy ending, and he does just that.  

A singer—the narrator—wants to hit it big in the business, and he wants to go places. Boston, Denver, eventually Los Angeles. And what he also wants is the love of his life to join him on these adventures. Only she doesn’t want that. All she wants is the man she met and fell in love with. The man she is happy to be with right here at home, away from the glitz and stardom. That’s the man she fell in love with. She says it over and over again:

I’m the number one fan
Of the man from Tennessee

(NOTE: I and many others I know once thought this was a tribute to Elvis, and that he was the “Man from Tennessee.” And that line above does sure sound like a fan singing about him; after all, this is clearly a song about a singer leaving home to make it big. And Elvis did famously live in Tennesse. Alas, it’s not. “The man from Tennessee” is simply the singer himself at home, before all the stardom.)

(ALSO OF NOTE: I thought until like 3 minutes ago that Dave Loggins and Kenny Loggins were brothers. They are not. They are second cousins. Which now changes everything.)

Loggins structures the song like a series of flashbacks, three separate conversations he recalls having with his wife/girlfriend, all with the same ending. The more the singer drifts away, the more difficult it gets. He begs her to come away with him to these cities, and each time it’s clear he’s getting bigger and bigger—he goes from crashing on a friend’s floor in Boston to living in the mountains outside Denver to living in a virtual L.A. paradise that looks out over the ocean. And he wants her there to be with him, to complete the picture.

It’s the same thing that she wants—him there to complete her picture. Only her picture is entirely different. And each time he suggests a new great place for them to move on to, she responds the same, “No. Would you come home to me?”

Please come to Boston for the spring time.
I'm stayin' here with some friends
And they've got lots of room.
You can sell your paintings on the sidewalk
By a cafe where I hope to be workin' soon.
Please come to Boston.
She said, "No.
Would you come home to me?"

And she said, "Hey, ramblin' boy,
Now won't you settle down?
Boston ain't your kind of town.
There ain't no gold and
There ain't nobody like me.
I'm the number one fan
Of the man from Tennessee."

Please come to Denver with the snow fall.
We'll move up into the mountains so far
That we can't be found.
And throw "I love you" echoes down the canyon
And then lie awake at night until they come back around.
Please come to Denver.
She said, "No.
Boy, would you come home to me?"

And she said, "Hey, ramblin' boy,
Why don't you settle down?
Denver ain't your kind of town.
There ain't no gold and
There ain't nobody like me.
'Cause I'm the number one fan
Of the man from Tennessee."

Please come to L. A. to live forever.
California life alone is just too hard to build.
I live in a house that looks out over the ocean.
And there's some stars that fell from the sky
And livin' up on the hill.
Please come to L. A.
She just said, "No.
Boy, won't you come home to me?"

And she said, "Hey, ramblin' boy,
Why don't you settle down?
L.A. can't be your kind of town.
There ain't no gold and
There ain't nobody like me.
'Cause I'm the number one fan
Of the man from Tennessee."

“I’m the number one fan
Of the man from Tennessee.”

The song is unbelievably catchy and seems to capture that inescapable sadness that can come with confronting those choices we make in life—those things we need vs. those things we want. What’s interesting (and in my opinion, well done) about “Please Come to Boston” is Loggins really never takes a side. Both cases are laid out plainly and simply, and while each case is compelling, he never signals a winner, or even tries to nudge one way or the other. (As opposed to, say, many of The Eagles' biggest hits, where if there’s a conflict, it’s pretty much always the girl who’s to blame...and I just realized I am kinda laying into The Eagles today in this post. Oh well...tough.) Clearly both the narrator and the love to whom he sings believe they are in the right, and they make their pleas to one another with bare, raw honesty. But Loggins still leaves it to us to decide who is right and who is wrong. Or, maybe even better yet, for us not to decide.

And that’s what I appreciate the most about “Please Come to Boston.” I mean, I love the melody, and the “Man from Tennessee” tagline at the chorus is a serious trump card, and he gives us some downright gorgeous imagistic lines along the way (“We'll throw ‘I love you’ echoes down the canyon, and then lie awake at night ‘till they come back around”). But I appreciate, as I indicated many Fridays ago when writing about a very different Favorite Song Friday entry, when an songwriter gives us enough credit to not have to spell everything out for us. Loggins never feels the need to indicate to us, “See, she makes some good points but you know I’m right.” Even if he thinks it.

That’s why I am such a fan of “Please Come to Boston.” Listening to it is not a guilty pleasure. Just a pleasure.

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