Friday, May 9, 2014

DB's Song of the Day (day 129): "BLUE FLOWER" (1990) Mazzy Star

Mazzy Star got our attention with So Tonight That I May See, released in 1993, and appropriate for a somewhat subdued transferal, in our world, from Princeton, NJ, to Hamden, CT. Kajsa, with my tutelage, was making discoveries of early R.E.M., John Cale, Leonard Cohen, and Mazzy Star fit in well with all that. Going back for their first album—the one with the lovely photo of a hotel in Brussels—She Hangs Brightly (1990), I found a sound even more in tune with how the Sixties returned in the Nineties, and not just because I was trying all that ancient history out on KDB. Mazzy Star’s sound is at times like a merger of The Doors and the Velvet Underground, and on their first album, and today’s song in particular, they seem about as dylanesque as anything could be expected to be after the Eighties. Recently I got the album on a new vinyl pressing and, need I say, it is so much better than the CD. All their albums are better on vinyl but this one in particular.

“Blue Flower” is a track by a band called Slapp Happy from 1972, who did it as more up pop. The sound Mazzy Star—and especially David Roback, their resident guitar genius—gets here churns more toward something edgier, grungier even.  And a lot of the feeling comes from Hope Sandoval’s almost slurry vocal that seems to come from some in vino veritas moment. “Superstar in your own private movie / I wanted just a minor part / But I’m no fool / I know you’re cool / I never really wanted your heart.”

That slur is maybe what makes me think of the song as “dylanesque”—it’s got a bit of the put-down in it, and Sandoval sings it with as much glee as she ever manifests (indeed, that first album has her at her most mercurial, vocal-wise, while I would say its Among My Swan (1996) that has the most mercurial guitar sounds from Roback). “Blue Flower”—great title by the way, since that’s the emblem of German Romanticism via Novalis—struts with a happy to be on the street and away from you vibe. “Waiting for the signal to change"—whether behind the wheel or on the curb, there’s a lot to see in those moments, no? “Walkin' through the city / Your boots are high-heeled and are shinin' bright” has that strut, and a line like—as Sandoval delivers it—“have you forgotten what your love can do” seems to claw a little bit too, like your love can do so much but you ain’t been spreading it lately. Can you spare it, sporty?

I suppose that’s the tie in for me today. That feeling of something being withheld though it maybe once was offered. Like any kind of fellow feeling, it comes and goes, and what I like about the feel of this song (the video shows them playing it on the Jools Holland show in 1994) is that the singer seems fine with all that, as if it’s a breath of fresh air to be out and about with no strings, no hard feelings, and no expectations, as the Stones might say.

“I never really wanted your heart”—just “a minor part” would be fine in the movie of the superstar’s life—which could be a way of saying “I know you’ve got more important people on your radar,” but is also a way of saying, “there’s only so much I ever wanted to give you or to take from you.” “Never really wanted your heart” isn’t a put-down, if the heart is never offered, but it doesn’t strike me as a sour grapes line. She means that all she really wanted was,  uh, maybe some other part.

Flower in the morning rain certainly suits this morning.

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