As the hours spent in my profession wane, I’ve noticed it is harder to keep track of what day it is. Especially during yet another lockdown. That must be the reason, COVID-19. It’s the reason for everything, the excuse for every avoidance, the aetiology of all ailments. I’m not sleeping well; certainly a lockdown symptom. Some of the dreams are odd, though.
Last night I was being asked to move my stuff, which was filling an office needed for other purposes. The request came from my boss, a young bearded man with a worried brow. He wasn’t angry, just needing me to move on. I was uncomfortable, telling him that I didn’t know where I was going next. When I awoke, I had a record running in my head. A record I knew very well, many years ago. An album I could sing along to in the late 1970s; probably now too. That’s the nature of memory.
Two songs from this particular album were jostling each other for the speakers in my head. What struck me about the songs, at least initially, was the contrast in styles. “You’re moving out today” is a comic pop song, essentially a list of items the singer* insists her unwanted housemate take with him as he leaves.
Pack up your dirty looks
Your songs that have no hooks
Your stacks of Modern Screen
Your portrait of the Queen
Your mangy cat away
Your baby fat away
You’re headed that-a-way
You’re moving out today
His collections, his trophies, his clutter. His selfishness, his habits, his disengagement. Clean them out, clear the decks, cleanse the space.
In that cavity another tune instantly appeared. “I’d rather leave while I’m in love”, a tear-drenched song about loss of love. But more than that, a strange, self-defeating habit of leaving before the love dies. How perverse, thought I, glancing away from a lifetime habit of avoidance as the front-line defence against any challenge.
Reality is tough. Often brutal. Is that why the singer desperately wants to keep her dreams “and just pretend”?
Too many times I’ve seen the rose die on the vine
Somebody’s heart gets broken, usually it’s mine
I don’t want to take the chance of being hurt again
And you and I can’t say goodbye
It’s said that one reason older people tend to have higher rates of depression is that they know that things do not always work out, that good does not always triumph, that love most certainly will not conquer all. Yet Carole Bayer Sager’s advice seems to be a recipe for loneliness.
(Biographical diversion: Carole Bayer divorced Mr Sager in 1978—the year after this album came out—before taking up with film composer Marvin Hamlisch, then marrying a certain Burt Freeman Bacharach a few years later. In 1999 she divorced the man who knew what the world needs now. It is not known whether she sang “I’ll never fall in love again”.)
If creativity fertilises growth (and vice versa), then perhaps it is the best defence against atrophy. A new focus is most definitely needed; the alternative is inexorable decline into mental and physical obsolescence. Sure, life is a virus that’ll get you in the end, but maybe the individual quest for a personally genome-sequenced vaccine is, in fact, the point.
* Carole Bayer Sager for me, though some may be more familiar with co-writer Bette Midler’s version.
- Carole Bayer Sager “Carole Bayer Sager” was released on Elektra Records in 1977. The LP reached #4 on the Australian charts.
- “You’re moving out today” was a #1 hit single in Australia.
- Bayer Sager wrote (or co-wrote) dozens of successful songs that have been recorded by artists ranging from Neil Diamond to Michael Jackson, from Diana Ross to Sheena Easton.