Alphabet Soup: Favorite Songs for The Letter W

Indulge me while I get rather introspective in this jumbo-sized installment of Alphabet Soup.

The Letter W

1. Wester – AFI

I know it shouldn’t matter – it shouldn’t even be more notable than hair color, ideally – but I want to know who plays for my team. For every working “gaydar” and the rightful growing acceptance, I feel like those of us who fall under (what I like to call)”the “equal opportunity” heading are just sitting in the open doorway of the closet. We’re lounging back on the door frame, ready to explain ourselves when asked, but reluctant to initiate the conversation. For every person who has had real feelings for both genders, there’s some girl who makes out with other girls only because her boyfriend thinks it’s hot. Like most news stories, we can’t always control who gets the attention.

Oh, and it’s not like the first half of the acronym helps much. Most of the time, I feel like the “B” in GLBT is tacked on as a courtesy because, “Come on, they’re just confused. They’ll be saying they’re gay in no time.” While I fully understand that they’re scouting for their team as well, and that some people really are trying to figure out what and who they want, I am not that person.

The misunderstandings about equal opportunity attraction could fill pages. I’m in danger of going too off-track. To summarize, it’s hard to be “out” for fear of being lumped in with people whose experiences and attitudes have more to do with low self-esteem than actual preference. It’s hard to be “out” when the some ends of the spectrum don’t fully believe there’s middle ground. Plus, when you’re already settled into a happy relationship, dating possibilities cease to be an issue. Most of the time, it’s easier to not say anything unless someone brings it up.

Yes, I know it shouldn’t matter, but I would really like to claim Davey Havok for the Equal Opportunity/Bisexual Team. He has indirectly mentioned boyfriends and crushes on female celebrities, but that’s about it. Call it a hunch, however misguided. While I commend him for not making his personal life the focus, I selfishly want someone so lovely and talented in our corner.

I’ll meet you tonight
In the whispers when no one’s around
Nothing can stop us now
Tonight, in the whispers where we won’t be found

“Wester” is right up there with “Silver and Cold” as far as my favorite AFI songs are concerned. Though I’d seen a few minutes of AFI’s set at the 2000 Warped Tour (still disappointed that I didn’t pay more attention to that one), it wasn’t until my husband mentioned Davey during a discussion about celebrity eye candy that they really registered. I have fond memories of blasting The Art of Drowning and Black Sails at Sunset while cleaning our Missoula apartment. From the very beginning, “Wester” stood out with its great punk drumming, call-and-answer chorus and lines like this:

I creep through the twilight to that hidden place
Beyond the lonely, I’ll meet you

I can feel you dreaming of me

Of all the love songs he’s written, it is the least complicated, the least doomed. He sings of the first thrilling moments when two people find each other, each private moment needing to be recreated as often as possible. When he’s not wrapped up in drama, his imagery captures adoration so well, even if it all occurs in the shadows.

The theme of private life extends throughout the album. One of my favorite lines out of any song I’ve ever heard occurs during “Of Greetings and Goodbyes:” Deep within divinity let’s start another secret show.

2. We Float – PJ Harvey

My senior year of high school, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea spent most of its life in my car stereo. Every sound, every murmur and yell rippled through my brain like a constantly running program, essential for everyday functioning. I can almost smell the interior of my old and angry Volvo when I play it, that mix of aging upholstery and overpowering sage-citrus air freshener. I sang along in the heat when my air conditioner no longer worked, and I sang while plowing and spinning my way through the snowy streets. It reminds me of being alone in my thoughts, going to and from work.

We wanted to find love
We wanted success

For around two years, I worked as a “confirm processor,” a fancy way of saying envelope-stuffer and mail clerk, and after a restructuring of what the work entailed, I no longer had co-workers who shared my position. For the first half of my shift, I waited for the day’s stock confirmations to arrive, and then I sorted them alongside the ordinary and unassuming computer guy who printed them for me. He wasn’t my boss, and I don’t know what his work entailed during the day, but for about two hours each afternoon, our jobs intersected. We got along fabulously, entertaining the sort of friendship that had to take two healthy steps back in order not to complicate itself. I don’t know how many years we had between us – no more than fifteen – but I was on the wrong side of eighteen for most of the time I worked there.

Until nothing was enough
Until my middle name was excess

I had no problem rambling on about my life (clearly), the mention of relationships included, and I also didn’t mind the unspoken flirting undercurrent. I guess the arrogant side of me appreciated the power in it all, the conversational dance. He found my madness entertaining and he was the right kind of humorous loner. I know from the outside it sounds inappropriate, but nothing happened other than talk. Everything stayed dialed-back, hung between the punctuation of everything else. I was a horrible girlfriend in high school. Just horrible, and though I knew it, I mostly ignored it. Somehow I managed to have the same boyfriend for two years, one who didn’t trust me and shouldn’t have, and we wandered through our uneven relationship where neither of us ever had both eyes on each other at the same time.

And somehow I lost touch
When you went out of sight

Over ten years have elapsed since that time, and like anyone, I’ve changed. I understand more now about relationships, desire, fairness, and trust. Maybe I don’t always get it right, but I do spend a great deal of time thinking about it (again, clearly).

I’m still alone in my thoughts when I listen to this album. Something about Polly Jean’s delivery is very cathartic. The mind tends to sort itself through repeated listening, and the album has grown with me. Every movement builds into another. Every reaction to every moment is a result of what has come before.

But one day we’ll float
Take life as it comes

3. Walkin’ After Midnight – Patsy Cline

“Crazy” is probably my favorite to sing, but I love this song too. Patsy Cline is outstanding, so let us rectify my only giving her an Honorable Mention in The Letter C and talk about “Walkin’ After Midnight.” I love how unapologetically she sings about heartbreak. Once asked on American Bandstand how she sang like she did, she answered, “Oh, I just sing like I hurt inside.”

And as the skies turned gloomy
Night winds whispered to me
I’m as lonesome as I can be

Alan Block and Donn Hecht originally wrote the song for Kay Starr, who turned it down, and Cline didn’t much like it either. Still, the record company convinced her to record it by allowing her to back the single with “A Poor Man’s Roses (or a Rich Man’s Gold),” the song in which she was most interested. (In that song, I can definitely hear where Reba McIntyre found her inspiration.)

The record company, financial chicanery aside, did at least have the good sense to know that Cline’s voice would make the song a classic. I love the steel guitar and irregular phrasing she uses in the lines “just hoping you may be somewhere, I’m walkin’…”

Actually, can we talk about “Crazy” a little bit? Because I need to admit something: Up until a couple months ago, I had no idea that Willie Nelson originally wrote the song. Despite paying a small amount attention to both Cline and Nelson over my musical history, I’d never picked up on this information. When a friend covered the song – yes, the same friend I keep mentioning and I wish he’d put out his own album already so I could link to that and tell you all to buy it – I said something to the effect of, “Oh, the Patsy cover, well done. I love that song.”

“Patsy?” he said. “Patsy? No, no, that is a Willie Nelson song, thank you very much.”

(He’s a major Willie Nelson fan, in case that wasn’t obvious.)

So, this might one of those facts that most everyone of a certain music fandom knows, but if you didn’t, just let me tell you here, and you can possibly save yourself some embarrassment later.

4. Winter Hill – Doves

“Winter Hill,” “Why,” and “With or Without You” had a mental rumble to earn Top 5 status. I love them all, but here we are. “Winter Hill” wins because after the very first time I heard it, I immediately had to play it again. Doves fill me with such possibility; they make me want to get to work.

Wherever you go, you’ll be with me

The feeling of carrying someone within you, no matter the circumstance? That’s the sort of thing I write about, the sort of attachment with which I’m well familiar. At times, music and people form this blurred relationship in my head and in my heart, and I want to curl right up in the headlong mix of vice and sweat and breath. I want to hold life right there because if there is a way for me to reach enlightenment, it is through art. It is through the people who make it.

Wherever you go, you will return safe
And when you will walk, you’ll be walking with me
But if comes the day you meet someone new
You will be with them, but I’ll be thinking of you

Maybe it’s selfish, to use someone else’s outlet, their music, as a sort of personal drug. And maybe I’m foolish for thinking that something outside of myself will solve the mystery of… whatever it is I am searching for, but I carry that light within me. My love. When I say I love your song, your words, you, do not doubt my sincerity.

5. The World is Yours – Glasvegas

I dreamt you were mine

Oh, does this song bleed. James Allan can cram so much longing and big heart-swelling sentiment into just a few minutes, and when I talk about wanting to carry the work that makes me ache in such a satisfying way, I mean Glasvegas. Beneath that thick Glaswegian accent is a man who says that he’s not sure why he’s in a band, but that “simple words put together in the right way can be so powerful.”

Since my eyes saw yours
If I’m your world
then the world is yours

This song is all anticipation and hopes dashed, that high feeling of adoration and fearing that your adoration will jeopardize everything. First time I heard this song, I wished it was available in IV form.

Through letters of love saying the words
In the right order can be awkward and tough
Time is slipping through
To express how I desire you

Allan is also one of my favorite songwriters who does not give a damn if his lyrics have any typical song-like sense of rhyme because the words are as they should be. He will make the music fit them, not the other way around. He is not afraid to write about his insecurity, his anxiousness, and his romanticism, even if it might be difficult to say it directly to a person who inspired those words.

Within this song is the truest line I’ve ever heard:

You don’t need me as much as I need you.

And beneath that, silently, is the thought, And I wish that weren’t true.

Honorable Mentions:

With or Without You – U2 (A beautiful, lonely song. It reminds me of every greedy feeling of love for someone that is troublesome in its severity. Bit of a theme this week, yeah?)

Why – Fleetwood Mac (Mystery to Me is my favorite pre-Lindsey/Stevie FM album. Christine McVie’s voice is so sad here: “There’s no use in crying / it’s all over / and I know there’ll always be another day.”)

Whatever – Oasis (“I’m free to say whatever I / whatever I choose / and I’ll sing the blues if I want”)

With Arms Outstretched – Rilo Kiley (“And if you want me / you better speak up”)

Waterfall – The Stone Roses (Sing us out, Ian Brown…)

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

16 replies on “Alphabet Soup: Favorite Songs for The Letter W”

Wonderwall by Oasis will always be a very bittersweet song for me and not because of the lyrics. One of my best memories was my friends and I singing that song in my friend’s bedroom during my 30th birthday party. There’s video of it and watching it makes me sad since I had a falling out with some of the people there.

And there is my introspective rambling on a “W” song.

Ack, I keep forgetting to comment on these.

Walking with a Ghost by Tegan and Sara. I know a lot of people can’t stand this song, but I’m a fan. The White Stripes cover of it is not to be sneezed at either.

What a Good Boy by BNL: I feels like this song was written about me personally sometimes.

Why Don’t You Quit Leaving Me Alone? by Rosanne Cash: I lack words for how much I love this song.

I have so many good W songs! “Whatta Man” by Salt N Pepa, “What I’ve Done” by Linkin Park, “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance, “Wait and Bleed” by Slipknot, and I will always have a soft spot for  “Walk the Dinosaur” by Was (not Was).

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