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The Perfect Song
by Richard Watt
May 14, 2003

Everyone imagines they know the perfect song. The one which encapsulates everything which ever needs to be said about a subject, and still sounds fresh even after all these years. Everyone imagines they know it, but how many people could simply pull the title out of the air at the drop of a hat? Go on, try it's more difficult than it looks.

Of course, if I'm posting this here, I'm writing about a Roddy Frame song, and everyone reading this is already shouting the name of their favourite it's 'Oblivious'; it must be 'How Men Are' or 'Goldmine'; he's talking about 'Spanish Horses'". Well, no. No, I'm not, but it is a song from 'Dreamland'. The album is full of surprises on first hearing, and each introduction catches the ear in a different way these can't be Aztec Camera songs listen to the piano, listen to the drums, listen to well, all of it. It's a delight in so many ways. And just when you think it's over, here comes the final surprise. Strings? Oh, no, you groan, strings just aren't going to work. And it all sounds so polished, so not-Roddy. And then he starts to sing.

There have been numerous songs on the theme of 'she married the wrong man' whenever I think of it, I hear Elton John wanting to kiss the bride (yeah, right) but there has never been a better written one. We're standing there with our hero, on the lawn of the country hotel where the wedding photos are being taken, and he's well, not crying into his drink, but he's putting a brave face on it. He's saying all the things he meant to say to her, but he's saying them under his breath, and only we can hear him. How could you marry him look at him, he's a fool, he won't treat you well is it just because he's rich? We listen and sympathise, and when Roddy lowers his voice and says what he should have said in the church: "I have something to declare", our hearts break right along with his.

Then the middle eight the melody pulls us out of the heartbreak, but the words are still as bitter "you'll never know". He's resigned to it, he'll never kiss her, he won't make a scene, and by the final verse, he's ready to let her go, to let her "glide into the night". And so she goes, and he wants to say it's all right everything will be fine. And maybe he convinces himself that he has said it, but we can hear him, he's shouting, yelling, desperately trying to convince himself as well as us, and we're not fooled. All the while, the glorious, heartstopping melody is surging and flowing all around us this could be the best melodic line he's ever written, and as soon as it's over, we want to hear it again.

The second time you hear it, you know what's coming, and it still surprises you the melody still stirs; the words still tug; the whole thing just bursts with emotion. And as it dies away for the second time, you find yourself thinking 'that song's just about perfect.' And it is I don't honestly think there's any such thing as the perfect song in truth; imagine the disappointment of knowing you'll never hear anything better but I do think this is as close as it gets. And I know there is nothing else which needs to be said about the subject; there will never be a better crafted song about this most heartbreaking of situations. And, most astonishing of all all this in just three and a half minutes.


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