A love letter to the lyrics of Pale Blue Eyes by The Velvet Underground.
Bergen, Norway 10/03/2012 by David Jones. Used under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2.0 license.
Linger on your pale blue eyes.
Pale Blue Eyes makes this sound like a run of the mill love song. It isn?t. The operative words in each chorus relate not to eye colour but to plaintive resignation. Lou Reed wistfully lingers on ?linger on? each time he sings it. Imagine him burning down a quarter cigarette in a single draw and singing through the exhalation.
It is a love song. Just not that kind.
Sometimes I feel so happy. Sometimes I feel so sad. Sometimes I feel so happy, but mostly you just make me mad. Baby, you just make me mad.
?Sometimes I feel so happy, but mostly you just make me mad,? makes this sound like a run of the mill break-up song. Or a standard issue it-was-great-while-it-lasted song. Or straight out of central casting for you-drive-me-nuts-but-I-love-you-too-much-to-leave-you songs. I?m mad at my girl. My girl?s mad at me. I can?t quit you, babe. Lou Reed and the hapless frustration that has driven him to song.
Frustrated for sure. But not in the way that you think.
Thought of you as my mountain top. Thought of you as my peak. Thought of you as everything I?ve had but couldn?t keep.
?I?ve had but couldn?t keep,? makes this sound like a run of the mill unrequited love song. She?s out of his league. She?s out of his life. A romantic value exchange that is all out of kilter. Imbalanced. Unsustainable. Tears cried for no one. She doesn?t need him.
This song is tragic. Just not in that way.
If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see, I?d put you in the mirror I put in front of me.
?I?d put you in the mirror,? makes this sound like a run of the mill love of my life song. Obsessive love. Put you in a mirror, put you on a pedestal. The possessive insecurity. His desire to refashion the world against the yardstick of her purity. The pressure on her to be unique and perfect. An absolutist infatuation. Impossibly high expectations that inevitably drive her away.
This love is doomed. But not in that way.
Skip a life completely. Stuff it in a cup. She said, ?Money is like us in time, it lies but can?t stand up. Down for you is up.?
?Down for you is up,? makes this sound like a run of the mill letting him down gently song. She delivers a post mortem for the relationship while its body is still warm. It was good while it lasted. It?s not you, it?s me. It?s not me, it?s you. It?s us. Run of the mill clichs. We weren?t meant to be.
This song turns things on their head. But not in the down is up verse.
It was good what we did yesterday, and I?d do it once again. The fact that you are married only proves you?re my best friend. But it?s truly, truly a sin.
?The fact that you are married,? reveals this to be an extraordinary song. A love song with a sting, with a sin, in its tail. Whatever they did yesterday, be it frivolous, romantic or carnal, it was anything but transactional. It couldn?t be waved away as meaning nothing. He has done the crime, and must now do the time. He will linger on those pale blue eyes one more time before being taken down to do the lovelorn porridge.
Pale Blue Eyes is anything but run of the mill. It is a testimony of weary regret. A five verse tragedy. Hopelessly romantic, but delivered with detached, studied, stage five acceptance. Heart ruled head. But heart knows that head is wresting back control. The only emotion in the rug-pull final verse is supplied by a tortured guitar string over the word married. It is stretched in mid note as if being tuned and played at the same time. A metaphor for Lou Reed?s heartstrings on the rack.
This is a love letter to a remarkable study in quiet desperation. It is a longing look, at a lingering look, into a pair of pale blue eyes.
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If you liked Pale Blue Eyes, you might also like Hurt (below).