Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 215
Mon. Sept. 16, 2013
Most artists spent their careers attempting to pen the perfect love song but not Paul Westerberg, he’s been making a career writing lyrics about life and romance’s ache of imperfection that flicker with a resonance of truth and everlasting memories that’s more realistic and last longer than any Hollywood happy ending ever could. Talking about capturing this spirit for his 1996 album Eventually, Westerberg told Seth Mnookin, “I think a lot of the album is perfect in its imperfection. Like the breakdown at the end of ‘Love Untold,’ it could have been redone to make it more dramatic or something, but that’s really how it was. We just all sort of stopped playing. It was real. It was passionate. You know, you write music, you string together notes and sounds, and you’re trying to capture a spirit, the essence of rock ‘n’ roll. And I think I did that pretty well on this album.”
Some may argue that Paul’s been penning the same song since his days as lead songwriter and singer of The Replacements. And there is some precedent. Have you ever noticed the way 14 Songs’ “Even Here We Are” echoes Pleased to Meet Me’s “Skyway” which also birthed the very similar sounding “Time Flies Tomorrow” from Eventually? When asked about by Russell Hall how “Love Untold” sounds similar to another cut from 14 Songs, Paul replied, “Someone told me yesterday he thought “First Glimmer” and “Love Untold” were one and the same. I was like, “Yeah, well, they’re probably the same tempo.” The bass pattern is the same, but…” “Love Untold” sounds to me like the song sequel and continuation of the romance that Westerberg penned on “First Glimmer.” The story continues but what they all have in common is their fateful eventuality, the longing of a romance that can never come to fruition.
Paul doesn’t apologize for penning songs with unrequited conclusions when he famously told Vicki Gilmer, “I guess I’m proud that I followed the muse where it took me, which was a very solitary, dark place.” On Eventually, Westerberg found ways to give his trademark imperfected lyrical love stories, a traditional pop song kick as he did on “Love Untold.” Paul told Alan Paul how Eventually’s first single came to be when he explained, ““Love Untold” is the first single and whatever it took, we got one magic, live take. We thought we were going to make a great record, but it didn’t work out that way. We ended up with one great song and two really good songs. That’s not a bad two weeks.”
Westerberg actually shared a glimpse inside his writing process with Mark Brown when he said, “I didn’t just sit there and, like, recite that as poetry. I do have a book of lyrics and phrases and lines. We knocked out that rhythm and chords and I had the chorus. I went through three or four pages and figured I’d use this line, this and this and this. It never comes as pure inspiration. But actually, ‘Love Untold’ did. So I shouldn’t say never. That was just written from the first word to the last.”
Later, in an interview with Russell Hall talked about the secret inside his songs that he longs his fans to discover when he explained, “People usually don’t see the layers. A lot of people take the song for its initial value, and maybe it takes someone who thinks a little more deeply to see that the song has more than one meaning. A lot of people see only the obvious, and that’s okay. In a way, I’m proud that I can write songs like that, because it gives an option to people who want to go beyond the first meaning. But a lot of people don’t.” That’s what I love about Paul’s songs like “Love Untold.” It’s a continuation of a very carnal love story that keeps dragging on like a spark of a cigarette that’s about to go out but Westerberg’s focusing his lyrical light, a snapshot before the eventual fail. “Love Untold” reflects the passion, the kisses, the yearning for a forever after a moment that never comes to pass.
Chicago Tribune rock critic, Greg Kot, and author of my favorite book on Wilco: Learning How To Die, had an interesting take on Eventually’s first single when he wrote on July 04, 1996, ““Love Untold” led into a chorus line of Replacements’ favorites, but it was the new song that left the deepest impression. In many ways, it’s the song that Westerberg keeps rewriting, the story of the missed opportunity, the shaggy dog stumbling home alone in the rain, “the saddest love of all” and “We were gonna meet on a crummy little street . . . but it never came to be.” Winding up into the last chorus, Bland evoked Hal Blaine’s epic percussion for Phil Spector, and Westerberg twisted his voice a little higher, a reminder of the greatness still within his reach.”
Maybe Westerberg isn’t trying to rewrite the same verse over and over; I believe each song is a sequel of a “Love” he’s trying to bring to life but keeps coming back masterpieces that Westerberg’s leave’s “Untold.” Here’s hoping the song stories keep coming to life and that Paul never reaches his lyrical dénouement. Until then, each song is like a first glimmer inside the poetic genius of Paul Westerberg. Re-experience the magic of Paul’s romantic story inside a three minute pop songs as he invites you to relive those sparks you buried inside that chapter of life better known as your “Love Untold.”