David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 8: Dawes (My Girl To Me)

May 4, 2020

Pop music is full of way too many songs about girls, sung by guys who usually were the wallflowers or dorks in their high schools. My favorite strand of that girl song is the brash rant about ex-girlfriends, whether it is Steely Dan's "Reelin' In The Years," Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer," or probably most famously captured by The Cars' "My Best Friend's Girl." It takes a lot to carry off the brashness. In my mind, the best one is carried off by a tall, geeky-looking guitarist. No, not Ric Ocasek, even though "My Best Friend's Girl" is a wonderful song. I mean Wylie Gelber, the bass guitarist for Dawes in "My Girl To Me," off of their album North Hills.

Lyrically, I am sure "My Girl To Me" is entirely Taylor Goldsmith's creation. In addition, much like all Dawes' songs, the instrumentation and musicianship is stellar from all members of the band. But this is a song where you start and end with the bass.

I have no idea if Gelber came up with bass line or had it handed to him, but since he apparently builds basses, the credit is almost certainly all his. Regardless, that bass line is what allows Goldsmith's brash observations about his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend work. If you ever need a musical equivalent to a strut, that's Gelber's bass. Even for a bass, the notes seem to come from somewhere deep and dark, and they roll along, carrying the song.

In the end it is a complete package from the band that makes "My Girl To Me" so memorable.  The bass provides the strut, the drums supply the swagger, while the keyboards and guitar make up the posse, slapping Goldsmith on the back with whatever the male version of "you go, girl" is.

They lend the authority necessary to support Goldsmith's glib statements about how the ex's new relationship is nothing of importance. Picture this: Goldsmith's narrator is the creepy ex-boyfriend, standing off to the side at a party, muttering catty comments, the best ones supported by the posse, and then post delivery, flourished with an arrogant strut out of the hearing range of the poor girl and the poor bugger now dating her.  Listen to the end of the first set of verses and then chorus. As Goldsmith whispers to the poor bugger on his way to the bar, "Oh, and I don't know what she tells you," the keyboard has swept in to provide the moral support. As he half turns to cackle," but she's still my girl to me," Gelber's bass provides him the walk off. The bass line similarly provides the walk-off after the other lines dropped to put doubt in the new boyfriend's mind: "I'm always watching my bridges burn/But if she didn't leave then she can't return."

Then, after the instrumental bridge, Goldsmith is boasting to anyone who can hear with the perfect line: "Oh, that's the way my sister might kiss/I feel so passively missed," getting the reaction he has been waiting for, "and she says in his ear/as if I wasn't here/the Quixote knows who he is," and, yes, there it is, Gelber's bass deeper and more pronounced. That's a mic drop, ladies and gentlemen. The new boyfriend telling the girl he is going to slug the old boyfriend, while she murmurs, "ignore him." Meanwhile, the narrator and his posse are out the door.

The link below is to the original North Hills version. Online one can find some great live performances, where Goldsmith's narrator's arrogance swamps the subtlety that was in the recorded version. It is still fantastic, mind you. In another live version, they bring in a saxophonist to amp up the posse. All of these versions show how dramatic the song can be live, but Gelber's bass gets lost in the mix (although his mannerisms in playing the song are worth the price of entry). No, the link will remain as the original, because long after one's heard the song that bass line stays in your head.

"My Girl To Me." Dawes. North Hills. ATO. 2009. Link here.

Day 7: The Band "The Weight."

Day 9: The Kinks ("Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman."

See complete list here.