Tuesday, 19 August 2014

One for my Baby

Last Sunday, as I was feeling despondent, a Brighton friend invited me over to lunch, so that we could talk it all away over a good meal and lots of wine.

I needn't go too much into why I was feeling low - what in the 1950s and 1960s would be called 'feeling blue'. What an odd phrase that seems now...feeling blue. Nobody has said that in the last forty years at least. Some other stuff from past decades has popped up again, such as the use of the word 'cool', which was once so very 1950s. And then it resurged, so that it's now a perfectly usual expression, simply meaning 'great', but with the implication that the speaker knows what's latest, and is (dare I say it?) 'hip'.

But 'blue'...you associate it with the likes of Brenda Lee and Helen Shapiro and Dusty Springfield. Gene Pitney might have sang a mournful song about feeling blue, snapping his fingers to the slow sad beat. It was an old-fashioned word even by the 1970s, and I was surprised that ABBA used the word in so many of their early songs, as if Bjorn and Benny, cobbling together some lyrics in Sweden, were still using an English dictionary that recommended 'blue' as a current younger-generation word for 'sad'. Besides, 'blue' was an obvious rhyme with 'you'.

And what did I say up there, at the beginning of this post? 'So that we could talk it all away'. Now that phase comes from a well-known Frank Sinatra song, One For My Baby (And One More For The Road). It was first sung in the 1940s, and you have to imagine the singer, Frank Sinatra in this case, walking home after a terminal bust-up with a girl. He hadn't known her long. But she went deep, stirred him up, and now he has to talk about it with someone or he will hit a wall with his fist. He's tough, and he can be the man, but he's also a human being and he's sad, rejected, and confused. He's badly hurt, and he may have said plenty of wrong things, but he doesn't feel it was all his fault. Well, it's the big city - New York or Chicago: so there are late-night bars. He finds one. It's really late, and it's empty - just him and the barman.

Here are the lyrics:

It's quarter to three, 
There's no one in the place 
Except you and me.
So, set 'em up, Joe, 
I got a little story 
You oughta know.
We're drinkin', my friend, 
To the end 
Of a brief episode.
Make it one for my baby, 
And one more for the road.

I got the routine, 
So drop another nickel 
In the machine.
I'm feelin' so bad, 
Wish you'd make the music 
Easy and sad.
I could tell you a lot, 
But you've got 
To be true to your code.
So make it one for my baby, 
And one more for the road.

You'd never know it 
But buddy, I'm a kind of poet,
And I got a lot of things to say.
And when I'm gloomy, 
You simply gotta listen to me
Till it's all talked away.

Well that's how it goes,
And Joe, I know your gettin' 
Pretty anxious to close.
So, thanks for the cheer, 
I hope you didn't mind 
My bendin' your ear.
But this torch that I found 
Must be drowned 
Or it soon might explode.
So make it one for my baby, 
And one more for the road.

That long, long road...

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_for_My_Baby_(and_One_More_for_the_Road). And this YouTube video of Frank singing the song is worth a look too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m121tmJzcAc&list=RDm121tmJzcAc#t=45.

Well, I don't think you have to be the tough guy to feel like that, nor want to 'talk it all away'.

And what was my trouble? Well, someone important and well-loved who used to be in my life had had an important birthday. And the day had passed without a sign made to me - the briefest of brief texts perhaps - that, even though I couldn't be invited, even though it was all long over, and years had gone by, I hadn't been completely forgotten.

I shouldn't have cared, but I did, because the silence proved that our goodbye was so very final. Had it been quarter to three in the morning, in the big city, I'd have wanted to tell someone about it, just like Frank Sinatra did.

And did my Brighton friend banish the blues? Yes, she did, bless her. I wasn't driving that day, so there was no time limit on parking, and we spent hours getting through a mountain of lovely food and, between us, at least two bottles of wine (or was it three?). Two o'clock to eight thirty, in fact. Then I put on my raincoat and hat, and went home.


  1. What colour do you feel now Lucy? Funny you should mention the word 'blue' in this context, I used it in one of my songs written just a little less than two years ago. It may be symptomatic of my (and your) generation I suppose.

    Shirley Anne x

  2. Yes I suppose "feeling blue" has been replaced with "feeling down". Doesn't have quite the same ring to it does it? Abba were always a bit uncool even in the 70's, but I think that's why they were so appealing.


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