Sunday, March 18, 2012

That's What Happens to Love





The album that eventually became FSGBOC went through many changes before it was finally released in January of 1984. Because I was writing and recording almost constantly I was always coming up with new songs that edged out others on the list. As 1981 ended - along  my short but intense relationship with Dianne - I had 10 songs recorded, an album title (Save the Unicorn) picked out and even an idea for the cover picture. Needless to say, the songs were all about Dianne, my most recent romantic folly. Only one song from that first group, "Heart Thief", ultimately made the cut because it fit very neatly into what would become the album's theme.

1982 was a tumultuous year for me, I'd broken up with Dianne, changed jobs, met Sara and reconnected with Nancy. I also started a new musical project, The Rummies, with Arlene and downstairs neighbor Bill Bergstrom (who heard us practicing one evening, grabbed his guitar and came upstairs to join in).

Finding Nancy, once I'd put my mind to it, turned out to be easier than I thought I would be. I discovered through mutual friends that she was living in Berkeley, renting a cottage behind someone's home while she prepared to buy a house. I was able to ferret out her unlisted phone number through friends at the phone company. One weekend when Arlene was in L.A. visiting Olga I picked up the phone and dialed Nancy;'s number. She wasn't particularly pleased to hear from me but agreed to meet for lunch.

We met at a Japanese restaurant in Berkeley and caught each other up on what had been happening in our lives for the past year or so. To my great surprise Nancy told me that she had discovered that she was pregnant, decided to keep the child and not tell me but had miscarried a few weeks later. She was now working at a phone company office in San Francisco. After lunch, she took me across town to show me the house she was buying, a two bedroom bungalow on Hearst Street in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood. Soon after that, I met Sara. Any romantic rekindling with Nancy would have to wait. As it turned out, it didn't have to wait long.

Doin' what he did best - shades, champagne and a sly smile, 1982  
After our drunken night together Steve's I saw Sara twice. Once the following week when I met her at the mall where she worked. She was wearing some kind of uniform and I remember thinking that she worked in the mall's theater. I don't know now whether that was fact or assumption. In the daylight - and sober - she looked every bit as beautiful as she had appeared to me the week before. She lived with her parents and they had somehow found out about me (she must have told them) and had, in her words "totally freaked out" and had forbidden her to have anything more to do with me. A month later - towards the end of October, I think - I saw her again and she seemed sad and distracted. We sat on a bench in the mall holding hands. She told me she loved me. We kissed and made plans to meet again in a few days. Then she disappeared. I would see her only one time after that, two years later at Steve's - a fraught encounter that posed more questions than it answered. It would be another 23 years before I would begin to understand what had happened.

But in November and December of 1982 all I knew was that I'd met a beautiful, funny and amazing girl who had simply vanished. Her phone number was disconnected. I couldn't go to her parents - they hated me. We had no mutual friends besides Steve and he didn't really know her. Steve's girlfriend, who had brought her into my life, turned out to be no help at all. She didn't even know where she lived. I realized that I knew next to nothing about this girl and, barring a miracle, I was never going to find her.

"That's What Happens to Love" is a song I tossed off almost immediately after writing "Rockin' and Rollin' in Heaven". I had no idea what had happened to my new girlfriend. Did she find someone else? It's a lighthearted song that's disguising my worry and despair. I recorded it quickly, playing acoustic guitar and singing, then overdubbing harmony and lead guitar.

D                                                              Em
The ticket-taker down at the theater well I know her
                                      G  
I used to know her in the biblical sense
                                     D
Now our relationship is past tense
                                                              Em
Her father caught us out on the local bus kissing
                                   G                     A
And he insisted in was morally wrong
                                      D
Now our relationship is all gone
G                  D                    G                        D
That's what happens to love - you see it every day
G               D                              G                     A  
That's what happens to love - it's always slippin' away - away
                   G             D     A        
Well it's the same old story again
       G        D              A
The same old story again
          G          D         A
It's the same old story again
G       D   A
What can I say?
       G         D              A
I let situations take my woman away
        G                   A            D                 GDA   GDA  GAD
I let situations take my woman away

Although I loved her she loved another - I was thinking
Thinking it really shouldn't matter to me
Now our relationship is his'try
I coulda had her - what does it matter now, I'm older
A little older now a slightly confused
Now our relationship is old news
That's what happens to love - you see it every day
That's what happens to love - it's always slippin' away - away
Well it's the same old story again
The same old story again
It's the same old story again
What can I say?
I let situations take my woman away
I let situations take my woman away


It's a simple song but I've always liked the wordplay - the way the lines circle back on themselves - and the sly references to religious morality in the first verse and the many different ways I use to say "it's over". A jaunty little pop song about the futility of love.

I'm calling her Sara White, but the truth is I don't really remember her name. I remember her wearing a uniform for her job at the mall but I don't remember - if I ever knew - what that job was. In the song I refer to her as a ticket taker but I don't know if I knew that or made it up. During the night we spent together we starting talking about how we were both light-skinned black people who were often mistaken for white - and ended up giving each other fake names. I was John White and she was my wife, Sara. I remember that but I can't remember her real name. Like I said, my recall is bit patchy.

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