Love Songs, Nothing but Love Songs

Musicians and critics discuss their favorite aural aphrodisiacs

I stare into album cover, wondering what mystical message/being sent my way. Soon aching voice begins to describe far-off place. The Joint: where dreams of love are shaped like pink castles in sand, rising like fantastic confectionary creations/Willie Wonka proportions--alas--come crumbling to ground at feet.

"MacArthur Park is melting in the dark/All the sweet green icing flowing down/Someone left the cake out in the rain/I don't think that I can take it/'Cause it took so long to bake it/And I'll never have that recipe again/Oh, no!!"

The voice: one man's fight to hold on to sanity/live for another dream. Vows "drink wine when warm"/let "passion flow like rivers through sky." He, sweatily running forward, swimming against life's lonely current/careening toward me through fast rock-orchestral interlude. Man will survive epic ordeal/won't be EASY.

P-Jay Fidler

Think of all frilly heart-shaped boxes and bouquets of long-stemmed roses/not received again this year/know that I, too, will make it through/somehow.

--Steph Dickson of New York's Tulip Sweet


Hank Williams, "Settin' the Woods on Fire"

My favorite love song is Hank Williams's "Settin' the Woods on Fire," which went to No. 5 on the country chart about two months before the singer's death on New Year's Day, 1953. It's a song about poor rural people going out and having fun at a honky-tonk on a Saturday night. It's also about postwar optimism and a late-breaking update on the wonders of rural electrification.

But mainly it's awesome because partway through, Hank says, "You'll be Daffy and I'll be Dilly/We'll order up two bowls of chili." First off, who doesn't like a good bowl of chili? Second, what if you were so juiced on love that you decided you had to invent a whole new way to communicate the simplest relationships. We're not Bob and Wanda, we're Daffy and Dilly. It's silly. It's so silly that the simplest assumptions just disappear like a bad week or received history. Which gender is Daffy? What kind of class orientation do we associate with the name Dilly? It's 4,000,000 percent possibility--it's the sweet, joyous side Buddy Holly stole from the existentially wrecked Hank, and the Beatles from Buddy Holly, and the Sixties from the Fifties, and it's what anyone who wants to remake their world ought to steal from the one that's holding them back. It's exactly why we decide to fall in love in the first place, and it's why we get up the morning. Or why we can't.

--Jon Dolan, senior associate editor, Spin


Pilot, "Magic"

A while back I fell in love so hard, so good, and so bad that my musical tastes were permanently destroyed. I once worshiped Dexter Gordon and Erik Satie--I mean I had good taste, man. And now, nothing flushes my blood with pangs of bliss and regret like "Magic," by Swedish one-hit wonders Pilot, No. 63 on the 1975 Hot 100. "Oh-ho-ho it's magic! Ya know! Never believe it's not so!" "Magic" begins bravely with the chorus, which is also how The Boy operated: He came on bold and pretty, naked and slightly sad, like any great pop hook, and I was singing his song inside a heartbeat.

One night we listened to "Magic" on repeat while putting on makeup together. He wore lipstick; he was my soul mate. Then he was gone. Now I understand about being a one-hit wonder. Pilot are long defunct, but if you cue up "Magic" on the jukebox, they're suddenly the best band in the world, and everyone's singing. For three minutes, forever and ever, Pilot are alive and full of promise. Never believe it's not so.

--Kate Sullivan, L.A. culture writer


John Lennon, "(Just Like) Starting Over"

The most immediate love songs are promises, naive if rarely innocent, of a moment or a night or a life or an eternity. Leave it to rock's most ironic romantic, then, to pledge to revive that naive promise with the wise wink of married maturity. By turns warm and corny, Lennon's last great vocal dips sumptuously into overripe Elvis baritone and teeters up to pining teenboy falsetto, his desire as moony and Juney as his fabricated girl-group accompaniment is clackety and canny. But cocooned in the title's wry parentheses is the catch: Nothing can ever be "just like" anything else.

That doesn't mean we can't make believe, though, and relish the fantasy of love reborn while acknowledging how that abstraction could never encompass, let alone replace, the accumulated experiences of a life shared. Which is just another way of saying that love songs exist to limn a feeling that's "just like" what we imagine we once felt--or that love is a concept by which we measure our joy.

--Keith Harris, Minneapolis music writer

The Best Love Albums of All Time


Love. It's a bitch. It's like candy. It ain't fair. It's an ocean of emotion. It's all that's solid melting into air. We've got a million love songs--focus-grouped to sweep you up in two and half minutes and set you down 2000 light years from home.

But what about love albums? They last longer than a tryst, taking you through hell and heaven and back in little 50-minute mini-lives. Like poetry collections of stacked multi-track.

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