top of page

Game over music writing

Wednesday 3/29/23

Soon there will be the first post in these pages about Casey Kittrell, a full-on bigot, who is the acquisitions editor at University of Texas Press, and who oversees the Music Matters book series. Keep things like this post in mind when you see that first entry about Kittrell's blatant and indefensible bigotry.


“She was just seventeen, if you know what I mean.” He’s telling us information and including us in the story. That “you” is huge. The listener thinks, “Yes, I do know what you mean at that, sir.”

We might think of this as the between-ness that is present in top-tier writing; there’s what’s said, what isn’t said, and a middle form of communication which is both wordless statement and intuited implication. One line and we have three pronouns. We’re all involved in this drama. The enthusiasm overflows, but there’s a focused attempt to make sure credibility is secured in place with the next declaration: “And the way she looked was way beyond compare.”

Did you know any kids who talked in that fashion? Way beyond compare? And yet, there’s no artifice in the line. It scans. This narrator picked the phrase up somewhere. Perhaps from a respected aunt. The point is, he’s choosing to use it now, because he wants us to trust him and this is a show of authority and making sure a description does its subject justice. And that he, the narrator, isn’t just some horny yob, which would, paradoxically, reflect back on this girl about whom he’s telling us.

She deserves tribute and class in his estimation. If he does think in terms of conquest normally—as the ultimate goal of his efforts—he’s not doing so now. For this moment, he is a romantic, trying to elevate our eye lines, as he puts this person above others of his social circle and the constituents of the world he knows. And the other girls.

This young woman sounds amazing on account of the sincerity we detect in the singer’s voice, and in the thought processes we can follow within his head. He’s trying to be exacting. You wouldn’t be exacting just for anyone. Then he does something startling. He asks a question.

“So how could I dance with another, when I saw her standing there?” It’s both a rhetorical device, and a gesture, a throwing up of one’s arms to the heavens, the fates, a cherub with a bow and arrow, and all but saying, “What do you expect me to do here? I’ve never known such feelings.”

Young men are prone to masking passions. Romance admits of vulnerability. Your friends can make fun of you. The listener is a de facto friend, because the listener has been trusted with the telling of the tale. This storyteller is out in the open. There’s nothing he’s hiding behind. The Beatles began this first record with a story that was tantamount to a young person baring their soul, with something that matters to a young person. And, frankly, something that matters to people of all ages, whether they’re looking back with fondness and gratitude, or hoping to move forward and locate that for which they long.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page