Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 276
Sunday, Oct 14, 2012
Ryan once described living in the Big Apple as, “When I’m in New York, I just want to walk down the street and feel this thing, like I’m in a movie.” This is what I think of when I listen to the climatic last song on Love is Hell; “Hotel Chelsea Nights” sounds like an actual lyrical movie to me. “Nights” is Ryan Adams’ “Purple Rain” epic set in New York City.
“But Love Is Hell is anything but a shit record, It’s a lot like Heartbreaker, but better and more severe. Its complex and it’s damaged, a genuine, freaked-out, psychedelic wall of soundscape, and I think for subject matter it can’t be beat. There are songs about ghosts.” Ryan Adams said describing his controversial follow-up to 2001’s Gold. Most purists prefer Heartbreaker but my heart aches for Love is Hell because this was Ryan’s most darkly intimate album and “Hotel” reflects this.
If Heartbreaker was Adams Nashville tinged tragedy to lost love; Love is Hell is wandering from another failed romance, cursed postmortem-like in New York. Ryan described the feel of my favorite of his albums, when he said, “Love Is Hell has the potential to be a doomy record that can befriend people who are in a doomy place. And that wasn’t a career move that my label felt like I needed to make at that time. I was going through a lot of personal things, a lot of heaviness. All you have to do is listen to the album, and all the answers are there. The one thing I had ever done that doesn’t owe shit to anybody else except for a few borrowed Smiths riffs, and [Adams’ label Lost Highway] didn’t want it. Those songs are me going out of my head. I made this totally bombed-out record about killing yourself. And they didn’t get it. They didn’t hear a single.”
You would think with all the battles Ryan had his record label Lost Highway, it would give him enough pause to want to walk away from making music— no chance as Adams told Clash Magazine in 2007, when he explained, “You know, I wanted to do this so bad my whole life. I wanted to write; At this point, my writing, it’s a bit more daring, interesting stories, sharing my fascination with all of it. It always feels kind. Even when the writing could be cruel, when the subject matter is dark or tense, it still to me feels like a very good thing to share.”
One of the things that Ryan’s fans connect with his songwriting is—we feel his pain. I’ve never been to the Big Apple but when Adams sings in “Hotel Chelsea Nights” it feels like I’m literally stepping on pedals on those cold and damp sidewalks and dead end streets of NYC. Adams shared his thoughts about his songwriting connecting with his audience, when Ryan said, “I ultimately think that everybody probably goes through these same feelings, same discussions, same romantic feelings, same type of confusion, and I guess my job – if I have one, if I’m able to keep my job – is just to be honest about what it’s like for me. And then what happens to it afterwards really is just up to a person if they want to invest their time in it and if they find similarities to their own life or it explains something that maybe they couldn’t explain. Or maybe they just hear a song and they go, ‘Oh, I’ve felt like that before,’ you know? I think it’s a good place to be. I personally look forward to every day that I get up and the typewriter’s sitting there, and I’m always happy to see it, I really am. Something funny always comes out of that thing, and a lot of the time it’s something I didn’t even know that I knew or something that I didn’t even know that I was gonna think about. It’s kinda wonderful.”
A wonderful and hauntingly beautiful classic is how I described epic that is “Hotel Chelsea Nights.” This rarely played timeless cut is one of the best and most underrated songs from Love is Hell. I know everyone loves Ryan’s incredible rendition of Noel Gallagher’s “Wonderwall” but “Chelsea Nights” is the song that best defines Ryan idea of Love is Hell. It may be hell you don’t hear Adams giving up on falling in Love or writing his songs. “Hotel” captures the feeling when you’re angry and screaming at the heavens as the rain falls but you just want to feel the magic again. Adams once said, “I used to play it like I was touching myself. Now I play the guitar like I’m touching a girl.” What are you waiting for? If the guitar solo in “Hotel Chelsea Nights” is any indication, when you spin this epic, you will be grinning satisfied rhythms not sorrows, from the torch song maestro that is Ryan Adams.