Sunday, August 7, 2016

"Since You've Gone": Belinda Stares Straight Into The Heart Of Yuppie Darkness, Doesn't Blink, Impresses Future Self

Bewildered with their star's new, um ... "stylistic direction" as they may have been, IRS Records decided to ultimately release three official singles from Belinda. However, a fourth track was released as something called a "radio" single, which I believe meant that it was sent to DJs for promotional purposes but was not made available in stores. Well you know what? They probably should have released it as an official single because, as true Carlisle-ophiles will tell you, aside from "Mad About You," it was arguably the best song on the whole freakin' album. Mundanely generic title aside, "Since You've Gone" actually marked the birth of a new subgenre for Belinda, one that would have seemed wholly inappropriate merely three or four years prior, but one that she would quickly master like nobody's business: the power ballad.

Oh, and Lindsey Buckingham wrote the lyrics. Or rather, it is credited as a Lindsey Buckingham/Charlotte Caffey composition, but sources tell me Buckingham wrote the lyrics, which would imply that Charlotte wrote the music. I have absolutely no idea how the only male member of golden era Fleetwood Mac not named Fleetwood or Mac got roped into this shit, but hey, I'm glad he climbed aboard the Belinda train. Still, as much as I love Stevie Nicks' former musical/romantic partner/nemesis, the music probably outshines the lyrics. But it's all irrelevant when the singer outshines the words, music, the toilet paper hanging in the studio bathroom ... all of it.

Somehow, one way or another, Buckingham found his way into the desolate heart of the Yuppie experience, and captured it in song. However, while he may have filled up the gas tank, Belinda turned the fuckin' key. Those who were concerned that her storybook marriage to a rich dude had killed off her sense of inner torment and despair had no cause to fret. On the surface, she may have seemed like a brand new Belinda, but as "Since You've Gone" shows, somewhere, buried beneath all the mascara and the lip gloss, that frightened, desperate child remained.

Note: The studio version used to be on YouTube as recently as last year (when I began drafting this post) but it looks like it's been taken down again. As impressive as the version of Live At The Roxy is (discussed below), it is no substitute for the studio version, which truly remains in a category of its own. I will add it to the post if it pops up again, but if you choose to download it yourself, mark my words, you will never regret it for as long as you live.

Here we find her, alone in a shadowy bar, grand piano at her side. Some noir strings briefly stir the pot, setting a funereal mood and then quickly receding. Enter our fragile Yuppie queen:
Since you've gone
Nothing really matters
All I do
Is hang out with my pillow
I wait in anticipation
For your call
That never comes

Since you've gone
Don't care about tomorrow
Since you've gone
My heart's barely beating
I wait in anticipation
For your touch
It never comes
Can't you just picture sad little Belinda, lying in bed, clutching her pillow, with cute little Belinda tears in her eyes? Awww. I just want to burst into her bedroom and rescue her. Do anything Belinda, but please, please, don't just lie there and hug your pillow! The image is too unbearable to contemplate.

Then the bass lets out a frightening blast, the drums and guitars kick in out of nowhere, and Belinda starts rocking out:
Another wild Friday night
And I'm waiting here for you
My head says stay home and die
But my heart says break on through
Now this is the Belinda I remember! Frenzied, hungry, reckless. The girl's still got a little Go-Go left in her yet. Listen to the way she elongates "wild" and "stay" - such intensity, such raunch! When she sings "another wild Friday night," you better believe she's known more than her share of wild Friday nights, OK? The music calms down again, but Belinda refuses to calm down with it:
There were times
When you really loved me
All the times
We would run together
To the heart
The heart of the city
Dreams that filled
The night
She really belts out "all the times," like she's thinking "This MOR shit ain't holding me back now." Then she repeats an earlier verse, but hardly repeats her earlier delivery. At 1:53, "since you've gone" becomes "siiiiince you've goh-honnn!" as she pushes her throat to the limit, creating some serious mic distortion, but that's child's play compared to 2:05, where she lets out a terrifying "it nehhh-ver comes!" that could have cleared Nazis from the battlefield. "You want mic distortion? I've got your mic distortion right here."

Just when you'd think there'd be nowhere to go except down, then BOOM! The second time through the chorus, Belinda manages to strip herself to her tattered, shambling core. This time she lingers over the words "wild" and "stay," relishes them, like she's rediscovered her inner bad girl and suddenly remembers how good it feels to be bad. The overly-processed drums thunder in the background as she milks the drama for all that it's worth, her torment brought to new levels of grandeur at 2:31 with the unexpected assistance of female backing vocalists joining her on "break on through!" Just as it couldn't get any more tormented, Belinda suddenly hatches a futile escape plan, a long-shot way out of her empty and meaningless Yuppie existence: "I oughta get into my car/Hit that pedal hard!" Yeah! Yeah! Step on that pedal Belinda! Drive, drive on through the Southern California night, speed out of your ostentatious mansion in your shiny new convertible, flee from the sickening dread that's engulfing your wounded soul! I hope she had larynx insurance, because she practically destroys that thing as she proclaims "I'll drive until I'll find my waaaaaay!" But no. She knows that not even a cathartic late night drive through Malibu is going to cure her of that omnipresent existential void, and retreats with a heartbreaking, voice-cracking "Since you've gone away." Then she crawls back into her bed and hugs her pillow.

Although nothing can top the sleek majesty of the studio version, I have to admit that, as this clip from Live At The Roxy demonstrates, Belinda certainly brought the heat to "Since You've Gone" in concert as well.



Funny story: so I watched this clip on YouTube just a couple of weeks before I read Lips Unsealed. It didn't really seem like a big deal. You're probably wondering why I'm even mentioning it. Well, little did I know, but I was about to experience a Charlie Kaufman moment. For as I made my way through her memoir, I stumbled upon this mind-blowing passage:
More than twenty years later, as I was redoing my website, I came across a video on YouTube of me from one of those shows, singing "Since You've Gone," a great song that featured Charlotte playing keyboards. Unsure if I wanted to watch it, I took a deep breath and clicked Play. I was surprised. I thought it was really good.
Whoa, whoa, hold on a second. You mean to tell me Belinda Carlisle herself was sitting in her mansion in ... France, or India, or wherever the hell she lives these days, and she was sitting there watching the very same YouTube clip I was watching?

Oh. My. God.

Dude.

Mind = blown.

And she wasn't even sure if she wanted to watch it! I love this. Well, yeah, that's gotta be awkward. I mean, how many older celebrities just sit around at home and watch YouTube clips of themselves from back in their youthful prime all day? Maybe David Lee Roth. And she had to take a deep breath before watching it! Like, "God, what if I sucked?" But no, she was actually really impressed ... with herself! Don't you see how weird this is? Both Belinda and I were sitting at home watching YouTube, watching the same exact video, and thinking the same exact thing. "You know, actually, I was pretty fuckin' good!"

That makes two of us, Belinda. That makes two of us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My preferred Belinda Carlisle song is "I Get Weak" mainly because I like the structure - the pre-chorus is pretty short and is of the "gear change" variety (i.e. an abrupt change with no preceding modulation) but does an excellent job of setting up the lush chorus. I've often wondered if it could reasonably be pulled off live what with all the harmonies. You want some dirt on the Go Gos ? I'll give you some - Back when they were doing early touring they came to Atlanta's famed 688 club where they turned in a pretty decent set after which a friend of mine enthusiastically complimented them as they left the stage. The crowd was modest maybe a 100 or so people. After my friend finished his (admittedly obsequious) compliment binge the guitarist (Jane) screamed at him "Who the f**k are you ?" and walked off. Those standing around couldn't figure it out. No one knows what she thought he said or if she thought he was trying to chat them up (I'm sure that was an unrelenting problem for them or any all female band) or if it was road fatigue. But you know there you go.