Toys For Every Girl And Boy

I’ve never found it difficult to become besotted, and re-besotted comes just as easily, be it one month or fifty years later.

The musicology of this little 1965 masterpiece—its Baroque origin, its since-corrected misattribution to Johann S Bach, its inspired Motown arrangement—is fairly well known, but I offer A Lover’s Concerto here simply as a 2:45 minute respite from despair, cynicism, affectedness, and things masquerading as love that aren’t love at all.

The song has been covered many, many times, but so far I’ve heard no one but Barbara Harris and The Toys do justice to the disarmingly straightforward lyrics. The song is not about sex, and yet, of course, the Supremes’ version is dripping with the stuff. Cilla Black’s recording was strident, bossy, hurtful to the ear… am I allowed to say Germanic? The Divine One, Sarah Vaughan, seemed to miss the point with a swingingly pleasant but overly sophisticated reading. And even Barbara Harris herself, all grown up and professional twenty-odd years later, was a little too streetwise to convince as a wide-eyed romantic.

The lyrics by Denny Randell and Sandy Linzer lie sufficiently well upon the page for me to provide them here, sparing you the bother of picking them up from some execrable karaoke screen. As you can see, they are hardly sassy or brazen.

How gentle is the rain
That falls softly on the meadow
Birds high up on the trees
Serenade the clouds with their melody

Oh! See there beyond the hills
The bright colors of the rainbow
Some magic from above
Made this day for us
Just to fall in love

You hold me in your arms
And say once again you love me
And if your love is true
Everything will be just as wonderful

Now, I belong to you
From this day until forever
Just love me tenderly
And I’ll give to you
Every part of me

Oh! Don’t ever make me cry
Through long lonely nights without love
Be always true to me
Keep this day in your heart eternally…

Occasionally I’m asked if I’m staying busy and not letting the head go soft in my retirement, and just lately I’m inclined to answer that my days are pretty much taken up with the composition of a single sentence which doesn’t run on, and yet deals fully with the notion that the above lyrics, although displaying the writers’ familiarity with the works of the 19th century German Romantic poets whose hydrologically, botanically and ornithologically charged banalities were often set to music in the Lieder of Franz Schubert et al, by earning and parking their nature study merit badge in the first six lines, deftly avoid an effete, faux-innocent obfuscation of what is, after all, a love song to a human being, not to some winged halfwitted critter flitting in the foliage and fouling every brook and pond in sight. But I don’t.

L-R June Montiero, Barbara Parritt, and Barbara Harris

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

My dad used to say you could mend anything with library paste. I suppose I should have challenged him on this when, at age eleven, I found that no amount of library paste would mend a broken heart. But a broken heart wasn’t something to be discussed with a dad, or with a librarian, for that matter. And anyway, my dad wasn’t someone you challenged on anything, let alone his knowledge of the science and romance of librarianship.

Mothers are more receptive to questions about broken hearts, and mine suggested that time generally does the trick. She was right, of course, but it was to be another forty-odd years before I realized this, having in the meantime self-administered various other miracle cures (not all for that same heartbreak!), none of which was any more efficacious than library paste. Some didn’t even taste any better.

It is the Beatles’ fault that I find myself thinking about this today. Every day this year seems to be the fiftieth anniversary of Beatle this or Beatle that. I had hoped in vain that no one else would notice, and that memories of my 1964 would remain undisturbed by the banalities of others. Oh well.  My own contribution to the banality is to tell you that in matters of the heart, when your rival is a Beatle (and not just any Beatle, but the super-cool George, dammit!), you lose, chum.  Not so banal is Reba McEntire’s  If I Fell,  arguably the best ever cover version of a Beatles song. I may have to give up trying to nail the sublime guitar solo on my own bedroom-model Telecaster: if I smash it up in frustration, I have nothing but library paste for the putting back together again.

It’s Kenny McGhie’s birthday today, by the way. When I started writing about Winnipegland I expected I’d be offering you the occasional ripping yarn from the exploits of “Me & Kenny McGhie”, but after the first little story and a false start on a second, I realized that I have been delusional for decades; that in fact we were two extraordinarily well-behaved little boys. In my memory I’ve been persisting with a cute mythical formula by which he would get us into trouble and I would smart-talk our way out of it. Now that I think of it, though, it’s clear I was perfectly capable of creating trouble for myself, and, if caught, would be more likely to burst into tears than into unimpeachable cleverness. The same would have gone for Kenny, I guess, albeit with fewer tears and more cojones.  Happy birthday, my little pal. In Winnipegland time you are twelve today. I’ll catch up to you in a few weeks, and then it will be time for both of us to stop growing up.