“Hi, C. Margery Kempe here: I write erotic romance which disapproving people like to call smut, but it’s really about love and romance — well, yes, and the hot and heavy sex that it leads to in gloriously sensuous detail. Okay, you might still call that smut, but I think it’s very sweet.”
You can click on the song titles to play them in Spotify, or click here to listen to the whole list.
Because the Night – Patti Smith
This list would be different every day (it’s changed since I started it!) but this is likely to always be there. “Desire and hunger is the fire we breathe.” The genesis of the song sounds like many a love story, too. The coincidence of Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen recording in adjacent studios led to a collaboration. Patti tinkered with the lyrics to make them her own, but they both do incredible versions. Because the night does belong to lovers.
The lovely thing about this song is the transformation of the narrator, who loves someone who has a faith he doesn’t, but it gives him hope and a belief in possibilities. “And I don’t believe in the existence of angels / But looking at you I wonder if that’s true / But if I did I would summon them together/ And ask them to watch over you.” The ache that love can create comes through both in the narrator’s longing to have her walk into his arms and in the quality of Cave’s voice.
“Love is a burning thing, and it makes a fiery ring.” So much fire imagery in love songs, but we do burn with desire. Over his long career, Cash managed to cover a lot of different styles but this rockabillly rouser works so well because it really is elemental. His duo with wife June Carter, “Jackson,” gives an example of how that fire can destroy, too. “We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout” but that fire burns out (unlike their own real life story). How much is too much? Hard to tell when it burns, burns, burns.
I almost used “Aeroplane” instead (“I’m taking an aeroplane across the world to follow my heart!”) but this classic song evokes that hazy feeling the drug that is love often gives you. Lerner and Loewe certainly had a way with the simply effective love song. It’s a mood-altering experience: “Lately I seem to walk as if I had wings, bump into things like someone in love…” Central is the idea that we all know what it’s like and recognise the symptoms. But we do, don’t we?
Rainy Night in Soho – The Pogues
For all his wild times, there’s nobody who can break your heart with a song like Shane MacGowan. He’s written so many masterpieces that will be sung in pubs for many years to come, it was hard to pick just one. I have a long history with London, and this song really captures the romance I have with that city as much as the magical serendipity of love: “I took shelter from a shower / And I stepped into your arms.” It might as well be an Astaire and Rodgers movie. What better way to say, “I love you” than to say, “You’re the measure of my dreams”?
There’s such a sigh of relief to this song about being certain of love. There are always doubts and worries when it comes to love. The certainty and confidence of this song (however fleeting it may be, given the rest of Etta’s catalogue) give her voice such power and triumph. It’s impossible not to hear this and believe (even if you don’t find yourself in love at the moment).
Originally Kate wanted to record Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, setting it to music and simply using Joyce’s words. His heirs (who of course benefit from his work having done none of it) refused her and she captured Molly’s sensual reminiscence in tone though not direct words. And it was wonderful: “To where the water and the earth caress / And the down of a peach says mmh, yes…” This year she released remixes of old songs and a new version of this with Joyce’s prose and it turns out a much flatter song. Important lesson: overcoming hindrances helps creation (and should we say also, love?).
I’m Falling – Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3
I have Robyn Hitchcock’s signature in my Moleskin. He’s one of those musicians I just adore. His lyrics often have to do with (as one DVD of his work succinctly summed it up) sex, death and insects, but he’s so delightfully odd and funny, it’s a lot more wonderful than that might sound. In songs like “Intricate Thing” he examines the fun and sensuality of love, even on “the small setee.” Here there’s the fear and doubt: “There’s a thin line between what you are and what you aren’t / I’m afraid of loving you and you’re afraid I can’t.” But there’s a sort of drunken joyfulness, too: “There’s a thin line between what you do and what you should / Every time I cross it I just feel insanely good.”
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered – Ella Fitzgerald
I’d almost give the nod to Sam Posner’s less confident version of this delivered in The History Boys as he worships Dominic Cooper, but Ella’s version is just so elegant. Classic lyrics from Rogers and Hart, but they’re plenty saucy, too. “I’ll sing to him / Each spring to him / And worship the trousers that cling to him…” The magic and delirium of love captured so well. Wonderful!
The Whole Wide World – The Proclaimers
I have long loved the original rendition of this from Wreckless Eric, but a special friend shared this version with me and I have become completely smitten. There’s such a heady mix of stubborness, despair and mordant humour, how can you not love it? The terrifying idea that there’s only one person in the world for you, but they might live on the other side of the globe can’t help but make one feel faint. But the grim determination of the singer to “search the whole wide world just to find her” makes you root for his success. All I can say is: I love you, internet! :-) Now the whole wide world won’t stand in the way of lovers for long!
C. Margery Kempe writes erotica and erotic romance with wit and humour, including the sexy spy novel CHASTITY FLAME. Coffee Time Romance gave the novel five cups and said, “CHASTITY FLAME is one thrill ride after another.” UnBound writes that “Kempe is a delightful writer.” Rumours that Kempe is simply K. A. Laity in a hat have not been fully investigated at present, and Laity argues that she in fact looks a lot more like Kit Marlowe (albeit in a different hat).
Love Songs strand in which people share the ten tracks that sum up their love life. Would you like to share your list? Click here for more details.
Thanks for the chance to burble on about my favourite songs, Betty!
I loved the list – and particularly wanted to share that I’m grateful for the share about the Proclaimers – The Whole Wide World is the only Wreckless Eric single I bought (adored the B side “I wish it would rain” and I’ve never heard the version by the boys – it’s lovely! So thank you for exposing me to this new sound!