Unsubstatiated theory (and a something of a rambling one): It could well be that when I listen to a piece of music, I'm often not listening to what's actually playing, but some other version of the song that's playing in my head. Or it could just be that I remember music badly if I'm not concentrating.
For years Whole of the moon by The Waterboys has been at the top of the "Songs I love but don't own" list. I never thought it was a masterpiece but I liked the sentiment, the emotion conveyed by the singer, the absorbing repetitiveness of it, and the depth of the arrangement. So imagine my disappointment when I found it on YouTube and discovered that it's really a kid on a £9 keyboard trying to play Come on Eileen to drown out the sound of uptight father berating flighty mother in the kitchen. I must have only ever heard it on tinny radios and over loudspeakers in supermarkets and imagined subtlety and layers of emotion that weren't really present*.
After that little shock I decided to track down song #2 on my wish list and get all the disillusionment over in one sitting. The song was It's all coming back to me now. I couldn't remember the singer but assumed that once I found the video I'd then have fun listening to other things from the same musical genius.
It turned out the be Celine Dion, of course, and the video was... not in the least bit disappointing. Absolutely awesome in fact. It has everything could crave in a video for a melodramatic power ballad:
- Heroine running around a stately home in the world's best dressing gown.
- Exploding motorbike at the point when the intro explodes into the song proper.
- Candles aplenty on every available surface and billowing white curtains - to add that additional sense of serious fire hazard.
- Scenes of our heroine dancing with the ghost of her floppy-haired biker boyfriend, and seeing him moving in portraits and reflected behind her as she's brushing her hair.
- The aforementioned ghost biking down the staircase and along a corridor, leaving a solitary candle behind him.
It's all the things I pretend I don't like about Ghost Whisperer, novels by Barbara Taylor Bradford and Bonnie Tyler.
Wait a minute, didn't Meat Loaf also do this song? And it was a duet too, with carnival masks and a car crash! - surely this is shaping up be the greatest musical drama-fest of all time? Oh what a big steaming pile of me being wrong. First, to be fair, the plus points:
- Very nice time-slip effect with black and white present blossoming into a sepia-toned past.
- Excellent design of scene and costumes - our hero paces about the crumbling remains of his 1920s edifice, and takes part in a lavish costume party downstairs, with authentic atmosphere and details all carefully worked out.
- The scene where a bath full of rose petals (and the heroine) turns into a bath full of dead leaves.
There are a few weird inconsistencies, not least an extra mystery ghost in the corridor, but you'd have to be a very sad individual, at least as sad as me, to notice and be distracted by them:
The big flaw, which more than makes up for all the effort and good taste that went into the video, is that hero and heroine were clearly never in the same room together. Certainly not at the shoot, as Marion Raven's ghost obviously needed to be added separately (though the clumsiness could have been avoided), but also not at the recording studio. I know that's how these things work but that doesn't excuse the fact that there is no sympathy between them, no attempt to modify their singing style to match that of their partner. It's not a duet, just two people out-warbling each other in a "lalala, I can't hear you" contest.
I'm not quite sure what all of this proves except that I have an appalling memory for songs, artists, songwriters, and what their output really sounds like. I realised something about myself which may explain why I love music and consider myself a big fan, but can never bond with people over it or have a simple chat about it in the pub. I hope I'm not the only one.
* I'm now completely confused. I was trying to find one of the really bad recordings that caused my original crisis but all the ones I can find sound quite good, especially the various live performances (which I had also thought were rubbish). This performance on Jools Holland is worth watching.
There is also a chance that I heard the Little Caesar cover at some point and accidentally merged the two. If anyone wants to use me for a psychological study, I'm available weekends and Thursday afternoons.