Sunday, March 15, 2015

"You Belong To The City" ... But That Sultry Blonde Belongs To Glenn Frey

Some people don't know where they belong. Maybe they belong in a seaside resort. Maybe they belong in a one-room shack in Idaho. Well Glenn Frey isn't talking to those people. He's talking to the people who know where they belong. If you're listening to Glenn Frey's smash 1985 single, if you're really in tune with what he has to say, if you really understand him, then you know.

You belong ... to the city.

I'm a little suspicious though. I mean, if you really belonged to the city, you wouldn't have to write a song about it, right? Maybe he was just being borrowed by the city. Maybe he was just traded to the city for half a season.

Or maybe he was trying to write a song for Miami Vice. After all, once you've already starred in an episode of Miami Vice based around one of your own songs, you might as well record a song specifically for Miami Vice, right? I know movie soundtracks were popular in the '80s, but I didn't realize that television soundtracks were popular in the '80s. Can you believe that the Miami Vice soundtrack album was #1 for 11 weeks? And can you believe that Glenn Frey's two biggest solo hits weren't even from proper Glenn Frey albums? Who did he think he was, Kenny Loggins?
It starts, of course, with the sax. Without the sax, there is no city. Then the chug begins. The urban rhythms of the night. Or maybe it's Glenn's washing machine. Perhaps this is the birth of Laundromat Rock. Sorry, the washing machine in my apartment's been broken the last few weeks; obviously I've had laundry on the brain.

The great thing about "You Belong to the City" is that Glenn Frey gives it all he's got. The man thinks he's singing "Stand By Me" or "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." Glenn Frey is so into this song that he won't be able to crawl out of this song. Glenn Frey is so into this song that nobody's heard from him for weeks. His family just reported him missing.

But he works his way up to it. At first, he keeps things sly and sultry:
The sun rolls down, the night rolls in
You can feel it starting all over again
The moon comes up and the music calls
You're gettin' tired of starin' at the same four walls

You're out of your room and down on the street
Movin' through the crowd in the midnight heat
The traffic roars, the sirens scream
You look at the faces, it's just like a dream
I'm totally with him, right up until "just like a dream." That was the best he could come up with? What kind of a dream, Glenn? A good dream? A bad dream? Saying it's "just like a dream" is like saying it's just like anything. But Glenn is unperturbed, as the chords build behind him: "Nobody knows where you're goin'/Nobody cares where you've been." Yeah, and? And??? What does it mean? Is he going to cut to the chase here? You're damn right he is:

"'Cause you be-long to the city! You belong to the night!" There is it. The cold hard truth comes out. This is your world. This is your moment. This is your home. "Livin' in a river of darkness/Beneath the neon lights." A river of darkness, huh? It would probably be pretty hard to live in there. You'd need a wet suit. And maybe an oxygen tank. And one of those water-resistant flashlights. All right, I get it, it's a metaphor.

By the second verse, Glenn turns it up to 10:
When you said goodbye, you were onnnn the run!
Tryin' to get away from the things you've done!
Now you're back again, and you're feeeeeling strange!
So much has happened, but nothing has changed!
Whoa, dude. That is deep. Glenn Frey is tapping into the mystical zen of city-dwelling here. How could so much happen, and yet ... nothing change? It's a paradox, a mind-melting paradox.

And that's it, right? Oh no, sit right down, because Preacher Glenn's still got some more gospel to spread. He mutters a quiet "You can feel it." Then some sax. "You can taste it." A little more sax. "You can see it." OK, that one had some bite to it. So let me guess, he's naming all the senses here, up next is ... "You can touch it"? Well, that doesn't rhyme with "taste it." Looks like ol' Glenny Boy's painted himself into a corner. "You can face it." Ooh, nice recovery. "You can hear it, hey/You're getting near it!" Now the man's not pulling any punches. He's completely abandoned that whole call-and-response thing with the saxophone, because, damn it, he's gotta let it out. "You wanna make it!" Uh-huh. Go on. "'Cause you can take it!" Actually, I don't know if I can.

But even after that gripping testimony, if you still have your doubts as to whether or not Glenn truly belongs to the city, a quick viewing of the music video should erase any misgivings.

As with "The One You Love," right off the bat, there's the saxophone. Glenn Frey doesn't fuck around. The Manhattan skyline. The Brooklyn Bridge. Oh yeah. Eat shit Joe Jackson. Suddenly, that very same saxophone is ... on a TV monitor? Hey, we're in somebody's apartment. The camera pans back to reveal ... the King of Cool himself. He's leaning back on his bed, smoking a cigarette, the Empire State Building glittering through the window, his extremely sexy cat licking itself in the foreground. Another night, another mystery.

Then BOOM! We hit the streets. The man is on the prowl. But who's the lucky lady? Ah, there she is, all dolled up with nowhere to go, lighting candles, watching the tube. You know what she needs? She needs an exciter. She needs the Allnighter. Oh, also, every so often, there's a shot of a TV monitor showing random clips of Don Johnson and that other guy from the show (look, I never watched it) wandering through the same mean streets that Glenn apparently knows so well. In fact, if you've got some extra time to kill, there's actually a weird "alternate universe" video of "You Belong To The City" in which Don Johnson walks around Manhattan like a sex machine instead of Glenn. Pick your poison, America.

Anyway, Glenn's Goddess of Destiny hops into a cab, uncertain of the magic that awaits her. The cab almost hits Glenn a la Midnight Cowboy's "I'm walkin' here!" scene, but he can't stay mad for long, as a he catches a glimpse of ... the Woman. He's got to have her, traffic accidents be damned. She enters a bar, and he follows, but he sits on the other side of room; he's got to stake out the situation first. Some sleazeball tries to light her cigarette, he's probably trying to pick her up, but Glenn can see she's not interested in that guy. No way. There's only one man who can satisfy her PG-13 desire. He steps outside to hail a cab, but she's done messing around with amateurs. She and Glenn start to chat. They walk back to her apartment. The city (to which he so enthusiastically belongs, remember) swirls around them. Also, lest we forget, there's a shot of the saxophone every now and then.

Suddenly, it's morning. Like a Yuppie Rock Don Draper, Glenn casually pops out of an elevator, fresh from another conquest, turns off the security monitor ("Don't worry, Glenn Frey was here, nobody's going to harm this building"), and strolls out onto the street.

Or you know what? Maybe he killed her! Where are those damn vice cops when you need them?

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