Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Magnetic Fields -- "Walk a Lonely Road" (2010)

Walk a lonely road with me
I will walk with you
Half as lonely we will be
When we walk as two

There's a lot of faux innocence in the world today.  But true innocence is in short supply.

Perhaps the most unashamedly innocent artist of the last several hundred years was William Blake, the English poet, painter, and printmaker.  His Songs of Innocence, a collection of short poems accompanied by the author's engravings that was first published in 1789, addresses childhood and innocence.

"Walk a Lonely Road" has the feel of some of Blake's poems.  The song is quite short -- two eight-line verses and an eight-line chorus.  It uses very simple language (I don't think there's a three-syllable word in the entire song) and both the verses and the chorus have a very simple rhyme scheme: A-B-A-B-C-B-A-B.  The average fourth-grader would have no trouble reading and explaining the lyrics.

Here's the first verse, sung by a male singer:

When I was a little boy
Way out in the the wood
I had neither friend nor toy
Never knew I could
When I found this lonely road
Off I walked for good
When I was a little boy
Way out in the wood

Here's the second verse, sung by a female singer:

When I was a little girl
On the lonesome plain
I had neither pal nor pearl
Mostly wind and rain
One day I set out along
A little winding lane
When I was a little girl
On the lonesome plain

Here's the chorus, the first four lines of which were quoted above.  It is sung by both singers after the first verse and then repeated after the second:

Walk a lonely road with me
I will walk with you
Half as lonely we will be
When we walk as two
If the road goes straight uphill
We'll admire the view
Walk a lonely road with me
I will walk with you

"Walk a Lonely Road" is from the Magnetic Fields' 2010 album, Realism.  The male singer is Stephin Merritt, and the female singer is Claudia Gonson, who have known each other since high school.  Gonson also manages the band.

The group is named after the novel Les Champs Magnétiques, by French author Andre Breton, the founder of surrealism.  That's about as intellectual as it gets, boys and girls.  

Merritt has never met his father, folk singer Scott Fagan.  Fagan have a brief affair with Merritt's mother, who was married to a man named Merritt at the time.

Scott Fagan then
Scott Fagan now
Scott Fagan doesn't seem to be playing with a full deck these days (if he ever was) -- I'd say he's at least half a bubble off plumb.  Click here to visit his website.  

This is what Fagan had too say when an interviewer asked him if had left Merritt and his mother when Stephin was just a year old:

No, I don't know where that story came from, the fact is I have never seen the little knobby noggin in my life, and I wasn't even sure that he existed until very recently.
Fagan then went on to compare himself to his very successful "little knobby noggin":

I am delighted to have become aware of Stephin and his music.  I'm amazed at how much alike we sound and further, how unbelievably familiar the song writing is to me considering that we have never met.  I'm equally amazed at the many parallels in our lives.  It is really extraordinary. I am happy for his success.  I know better than most, how difficult a life in music can be.

However, Scott Fagan is not completely devoid of self-awareness:

I think that Stephin's manager, Claudia Gonson has done a really superb job for him.  My career, on the other hand, has been mismanaged by the most preserverent [sic] and defiant "idiot savant" I've ever known.  That would be me.  I wish them every possible success and happiness and look forward to meeting someday. 

Merritt is openly gay.  Claudia Gonson may or may not be gay.

Claudia Gonson
Read this quote from her and tell me what you think it means:

When we started Magnetic Fields we purposely had one lesbian, one gay guy, one straight woman, and one straight man. The audience could identify with whomever they wanted. I hang out with more gay women now, but I guess I'm more of a fag hag than a lezzie hag.

The Magnetic Fields have released almost a dozen albums over the past 20 years.  2 or 3 lines is very late to the Magnetic Fields party -- which is not exactly a man-bites-dog story.

Stephin Merritt
I'm not sure if I will ever be a big fan of the group's music, but I do know that this is a unique and noteworthy song.  Listen to it a time or two -- it does cast a certain spell.

Click here to listen to "Walk a Lonely Road":

Use the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

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