Better to have lost in love (than never to have loved at all) - the Eurythmics
Continuing on the literary references in pop / rock, apart from Sparks (see last post) and Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet" there are disappointingly few really good Shakespeare approximations around. There is the laughable "Are you lonesome Tonight " by Elvis Presley where, in the talkie bit in the middle of the song he says:
"You know someone said that the world's a stage And each must play a part"
that "someone" being Shakespeare.
When I was a student, the nearest pub to my room in Whalley Range was the Whalley Arms (popularly known as "the Whalley") and it was a great place to drink except when one of its ageing regulars would get lachrymosely drunk and then he would embrace the old fashioned jukebox like an overweight lover, and croon loudly and tunelessly along with the king singing "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" No-one ever tried to stop him, and he would sing it over and over again, until either he collapsed or closing time. Apart from us students, no-one even seemed to hear him, and if we complained at the bar, they just suggested we: "put something else on if you don't like it." This was well nigh impossible as he always seemed to have put in a tenner's worth before he began, and anyway he embraced the machine so ardently that the slot was beyond our reach, let alone the selector bit. So one time, when he had arrived early in the evening and was still sober, I went up to him with the idea of putting a stop to it. I approached the subject obliquely so as not to provoke any aggression on his part by wondering if he knew that the "someone " alluded to in the song was indeed Shakespeare. He looked at me blankly.
I said "you know, the line in "Are you lonesome tonight?" ".
"No" he said.
"You know" I said, "that song by Elvis Presley"
"I can't stand the man" he said looking me hard in the eye.
I then asked him, why, if he couldn't stand him, he sang his song every night.
He replied that I must be mistaking him for some other ****** and, as his manner had suddenly become angry and threatening, I beat a hasty retreat.
A couple of hours later there he was as usual, howling out his Elvis, like a wolf serenading the moon.
Anyway, no Shakespeare, but here's some Tennyson, with Annie Lennox misquoting a line from Alfred Lord Tennyson's 130 stanza poem "In Memoriam AHH":
"I hold it true, whate'er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; 'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all."
This is a seemingly simple song that, like so much of the Eurythmics' music, gets under your skin and won't go away. But Annie Lennox's lyrics are poetic too in their grim realism:
"Cool tears flow upon my pillow. and I'm freezing blue with misery. you know that I never meant to hurt you but something always gets right in the way. so I'll fill this bedroom full of mystery. hang our last conclusions on the wall. and if this empty building starts to get to me please remember that it just might be your fault."
She sings the chorus hookline eight times but it seems like fifty and yet you never get bored with it. Is it because of the elongation of the words "to have" so that they lengthen like a memory that becomes more cherished as the days go by, that becomes a part of you?
"Better to have lost in love than never to have loved at all..."
Or is it because of the simple truth expressed? Or because it's such a great hook?
Take it from me you'll be singing it all day. Just like the guy in the pub.