Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bread on the Pyre

Sometimes you have to sacrifice for a friend.  Back one summer, now almost lost in the mists of time, I loaned my favorite Bread album to a friend.  She took it and wore a visible trench in the vinyl by playing one song over and over for days on end.  It’s what she needed to save herself from despair.

        For both the sake of her dignity and the survival of our forty-year friendship, we’ll leave real names out of this–let’s call her Sue.

       Sue had been dumped.  There’s no kinder way to say it.  She’d been unceremoniously, unfeelingly, inexplicably dumped. And it didn’t matter one iota that everyone except her could clearly see the guy was all wrong for her.  She was bereft and the only thing that brought her solace was listening to “Baby, I’m a Want You” nonstop–every... waking... hour.

       I’m not embarrassed to say I was rather fond of that album.  I’m a kind of big-tenter when it comes to rock, I like a little bit of everything, and people who set themselves up as arbiters of what’s cool and what’s lame get on my last nerve. So yeah, I admit it, I listened to Bread and I liked them.

Gates had the kind of voice I’m drawn to, slightly vulnerable, a little nasal. He didn’t try too hard and he had the courtesy to look slightly chagrined when he sang the lyrics–”Baby, I’m-a want you?  Baby I’m-a need you?”  Seriously?  But they made it work somehow. Bread turned out some infinitely listenable soft rock and I appreciated them for their contribution. Course, by the time Sue had been at it for the first full day I thought I’d go mad from hearing that song.

 I can never hear it again or hold the album in my hand without remembering Sue’s heartbreak. Much as I love my records, I didn’t mind offering up that album on the pyre of her pain if it helped at all.  And I think it did.

Sue?  She got over it eventually and went on to a wonderful life with an amazing guy. But Bread will always be part of the soundtrack of her life–and mine.

 How about you?  Do you have a heartbreak song?  Did one of your friends have an experience like this?  Is there a song you find heartbreakingly sad?



  1. I find it so amazing that Vera Lynn is at the top of the charts in England. Does that indicate we may have a revival of love songs with lyrics that can be understood on first hearing? I grew up listening to my mother's old 78s from WWII and I loved "We'll Meet Again" even though I didn't fully comprehend why it was so poignant.

  2. I have a poignant memory of Bread, too! As a sophomore in college I adored a young man who had a girlfriend back home, but he was taken with me, too. He gave me a Bread album, and I remember the refrain of one of the songs he sang along with constantly, "if you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with." Fortunately I realized this wasn't enough for me, and I ended it. Thank goodness!

  3. In junior high I had a crush on my best friend's twin brother. I got myself invited to spend the night every week--just so he could see me first thing in the morning when I was all cute. Our song--in my sick little junior high fantasy was an instrumental called "Blue, blue, my love is my world, blue is my world, now I'm without you."

  4. I remember listening to Rachmaninov piano concertos and just weeping for the sheer beauty of them. It's a different kind of heartbreak...they just grab at deeper emotions inside of me. ~Andrew

  5. Ah, I couldn't have been much older than my son is now--6--when I played "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" over and over again on my little record player in my bedroom. I was so proud of that thing; it came in a plastic case with a handle and played both 45s and--what were the larger albums? 78s?? That's my earliest memory of vinyl:)

  6. I've always been a sucker for sad songs. Does anyone remember 'Patches'? "Paaaat-CHEZ, oh what can I do?? I swear I'll always love you!" Now that I think about it, I guess that was one of those suicide songs.

  7. There was a Landslide cover by the Smashing Pumpkins that I would always listen to when I needed a good cry as a teenager. At that point in time, I really lacked the amount of living it requires to get at heart of what the song was about. But on an emotional level I think understood. I could tell that the song was about a feeling that would be both good and sad and that the understanding would come only with time and experience.

  8. All the sad vinyl songs that have most affected me were the old ballads, particularly those Joan Baez included on her first two albums-- probably the first l.p. albums I actually owned. Those included "Dona, Dona," "Down by the banks of the O-hi-o" and other old folk songs, for example. Later John Prine's "Old Folks," a weepy piece also covered by Joanie, my hero in the old days, was another sad song I loved, as was Prine's song about Mr. Peabody's Coal Train hauling away his lonesome old West Kentucky town on the banks of the Green River. I wore grooves in all those albums, and they are still on my shelves in their battered covers, worthless to anyone but me.