Saturday, March 24, 2012

Q: Why Is It Better to Have Loved and Lost? A: Because Then Sad/Love Songs Say So Much More

"I'm still not sure where I stand on the idea that it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, but damn, dusting the cobwebs off your memory, digging into the depths of your soul, and writing about lost love can be quite the emotional landmine. No wonder so many great writers were drunks -- or suicidal!"

That's what I wrote as my Facebook status update five days ago. I stand by those words as representing exactly how I was feeling at the time, immersed in my current project, a memoir/travelogue about the last six years of my life, recollecting painful memories of one of my greatest loves of all. Today, though, I'm reconsidering -- and I have A Flock of Seagulls to thank for it.

Randomly and unexpectedly, two of my friends posted the same video by the '80s band on Facebook over the course of two days. Just as randomly and unexpectedly, it wasn't the clip for "I Ran," the song most associated with A Flock of Seagulls that went to No. 9 in 1982. Both of my friends flashed back to "Space Age Love Song," the band's follow-up hit, which only climbed to No. 30, but should have risen at least 29 notches higher.

It was always my favorite song by A Flock of Seagulls, closely followed by "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)," the last of its three Top 40 U.S. hits (No. 26, 1983), and the only one to be a major hit in the band's native UK, where it reached No. 10. Boy, were these guys experts at capturing the tortured, quiet desperation of love, or what?

As much as I adored "Space Age Love Song" at the time, it sounds even better today, which has little to do with the music or the production. Though it was as ahead of its time at the time (as its title might suggest), today it sounds like the artifact of early '80s synth-pop that it is. The key to what, for me, is its enduring appeal is in the lyrics.

"I saw your eyes
And you made me smile
For a little while
I was falling in love"

At 13, I totally missed the point. I didn't know the first thing about love. I thought the symphony of synthesizers sounded amazing, and I was digging the way the vocals were buried in the mix. Oh, and I loved the lead singer's hair. I never paid much attention to the song's lyrical sentiment. It was called "Space Age Love Song," so I knew it was about love, and "what's love got to do with it?" pretty much summed my attitude at the time.

But all of these years later, I'm on the other side of 40 and listening to the song for the first time in what must be nearly 30 years. It's almost like I'm hearing a brand new song. Now, I get it. That's what love is. And it's because I've been fortunate enough to have loved and lost that I know. To all the boys I've loved (and lost) before, thank you.

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