Friday, September 13, 2013

Freda Payne -- "Band of Gold" (1970)

But that night on our honeymoon
We stayed in separate rooms
You may think it's just a coincidence that I'm following up a post featuring "This Diamond Ring" with one featuring "Band of Gold."  You may also believe it's a coincidence that this post is appearing on a Friday the 13th.  

But in the seamless web that is the world of 2 or 3 lines, is anything truly just a coincidence?

The British actor and author Heron Carvic once said that "If there were no such thing as coincidence, there would be no such word."  Apply that reasoning to this word, Mr. Carvic: "unicorn."

I much prefer what science-fiction novelist Emma Bull had to say on the subject of coincidence:   "Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys."  You may not be able to see the levers and pulleys behind 2 or 3 lines, boys and girls, but trust me: they're there.  And yours truly is pulling each and every one of them.

After a steady diet of Scandinavian crime novels over the last month or so, I recently decided to refresh my reading palate with Marilyn Yalom's How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance, which one reviewer has described as "an exploration of desire, romance, sex and passion à la française."

Author Marilyn Yalom
Yalom is a scholarly type, and her book thoroughly explores French history and literature in order to explain the Gallic culture of amour.  She begins at the beginning by telling the story of Abélard and Héloïse, two medieval lovers who rank right up there with Romeo and Juliet or Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater when it comes to unhappy romances.

Abélard was a thirty-something philosopher and teacher -- one reference work calls him "the keenest thinker and boldest theologian of the 12th Century" -- when he fell in love with Héloïse d'Argenteuil, a brilliant student of his.  

Many sources say Héloïse was 16 or 17 when her affair with Abélard began, although others believe she was more likely a decade or so older than that.

Héloïse's uncle was a canon at the great cathedral of Notre-Dame.  Abélard told the uncle that he could not afford his rent, and persuaded him to allow Abélard to move into his house in exchange for Abélard's tutoring Héloïse.

Héloïse and Abélard
My grandmother would have described this as letting the fox guard the chicken coop.  A medieval scholar might have said "Ovem lupo commitere," which can be translated as "To set a wolf to guard sheep."

In any event, much hanky-panky ensued.  In no time at all, Héloïse had a bun in the oven.

Abélard sent Héloïse to live with his family in Brittany, and she eventually gave birth to a son whom she named Astrolabe (after the astronomical instrument -- which is exactly the kind of thing a medieval brainiac like Héloïse would do).

A statue of the lovers
The couple were then secretly married because they feared that disclosure of the marriage would damage Abélard's career.  After the wedding, Abélard persuaded  Héloïse to go to a convent in order to protect her from her angry uncle.

Abélard should have dressed himself up in a habit and hidden out in a convent, too.  Because shortly after Héloïse left to live with the nuns, her uncle sent his henchmen to Abélard's room one night to castrate him -- "effectively ending Abélard's romantic career," according to Wikipedia.  (That's one hell of an understatement, Wikipedia.)

I continued reading Yalom's account of the rest of the unhappy couple's lives -- he entered a monastery, and she became a nun for real -- but it was hard concentrating with that image of Abélard being transformed from a stallion to a gelding in my mind.  (Shakespeare called what Brutus did to Julius Caesar "the most unkindest cut of all."  He didn't know the half of it.)

The couple's Parisian tomb
Our featured song, "Band of Gold," was a 3# hit for Freda Payne in 1970.  

If you're like me, you've always wondered just what happened to cause the newlyweds to end up in separate rooms on the night of their honeymoon.  

There are almost as many theories about that as there are theories about what Billie Joe McAllister threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge and who Carly Simon was singing about in "You're So Vain."

The singer of "Band of Gold" hopes that her new husband will walk into her nuptial bedchamber and "love me like you tried before."  So what went wrong when he tried before?  I'm guessing that the young lady resisted her man's first attempt to storm the citadel, causing him to walk out in frustration.

I base that theory on these lyrics, which seem to indicate that the singer is an innocent young thing: 

You took me from the shelter of my mother
I had never known or loved any other

Some people are confused by Payne's phrasing here, which makes it sound like she is saying this:

You took me from the shelter of a mother I had never known

That makes no sense, of course.  How can someone be taken from the shelter of a mother she has never known?

The alternate theory is that the young lady was raring to go, but the unfortunate fellow was unable to perform.

If that's what happened, let's hope he was able to eventually overcome his problem -- unlike poor Abélard, who would have needed a lot more than Viagra.
Here's Freda Payne lip-synching "Band of Gold" on Soul Train:

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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