My very good friend Laura is as I write this trying to get over a breakup. She’s doing incredibly admirably, and certainly far, far better than I’ve ever done with one. But she said something to me the other day that I realized was so true I had lived by it always but could never admit it. We were talking about the various tv shows we’re into right now and she mentioned she has yet to finish Game of Thrones and the reason was at first she didn’t want to because her ex had introduced it to her. But then she said, “Then I realized that’s bullshit. It’s too good not to watch.”
Damn, girl. You said it. I have always felt that way about music I’ve been introduced to by my ex-girlfriends. Well, at least the stuff that’s really good, that is. I’ve only ever been in love with a few women in my life and they’ve (mostly) given me some music that I can’t help but love and will probably never stop listening to. Below is a chronological list of the three women I’ve been in love with the musical remnants I’m left loving. And as an added bonus, these are songs that I listened to during the period of being heartbroken or trying to get over them.
Paul Simon said on the title track of Graceland “Losing love is like a window to your heart – Everybody sees you’re blown apart, everybody sees the wind blow.” Maybe this is true. Certainly anyone riding in my car knew this to be true when they heard these songs come on…over and over again.
“Sympathique” by Pink Martini
Both Claire and I grew up studying French for at least 10 years or so, and I doubt we can still both speak it. But I know exactly what each word of this song translates to. This band was introduced to me by Rahnia as a teenage favorite, a local band where she grew up (Portland, Oregon) who has since risen to semi-national prominence. I’ve kept up with them ever since, but this album and particularly this song will remain with me because of how depressing it really is. The chorus translates to this: “I don’t want to work / I don’t want to eat / I just want to forget / And then I smoke.” That tends to be how I feel after every breakup and this, the first really hard hitting breakup, may have started that trend.
“Long Black Veil” by whoever wants to a do a version of it this week
This song is trouble, as was Lee. We never actually dated, which makes this story rather pathetic. I was desperately in love with her and she either didn’t know and didn’t care or did know and liked to manipulate how I felt about her. I became the “good friend” that no one ever wants to be, stuck in the zone of perpetual melancholy and self-pity. It lasted years. At some point, I found this song and attached all the significance of my unrequited love and her antipathy towards me into singing it all the time. Whenever I sang it, all I could ever think about was her and how happy we could be together. Listen to the lyrics. That’s an extremely dysfunctional thing to think about a song that is about going to the gallows to protect your adulterous lover. I still get requests from people who went to St. Mary’s for me to sing this song, and I do it. But hopefully I’ll never be drunk at 3 am and want to play it when I’m by myself again.
“The Hazards of Love 4: The Drowned” by The Decemberists
The first song I listened after we broke up was “Tears Dry on Their Own” by Amy Winehouse (an artist she also introduced me to) but I doubt there is a band I like as much that I’ve been introduced to by any significant other than The Decemberists. And I hated them at first. But once I started really loving them (and her), we went and saw them in concert and they played all the way through the album this is on. The experience was incredible. I rushed out and bought the album and listened to it all the way through many, many times. But I always turned it off before this song, thinking it to be really boring. It wasn’t until a couple months after we broke up that I actually listened to this song and how desperately heartbreaking it is, in both lyrics and simple, sparse guitar lines. The guitar part is not the usual broken lines that Colin Meloy loves, but rather big, wide open chords with some small arpeggio grace notes to accompany it. It’s straight up gorgeous. And heartbreaking. And now I’m stuck with it forever.