David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 109: 'Til Tuesday (Coming Up Close)

August 13, 2020

As soon as I wrote the last line in yesterday's post -- "King reminds us that they [dreams] come true when we pull them up close" -- I knew what today's song would be. When a mind inevitably stores thousands and thousands of phrases from pop songs, you kind of know where you are likely to end up.

'Til Tuesday's "Coming Up Close" was inevitable for this series. In my opinion (and shared by others, including Nick Hornby of About A Boy and High Fidelity fame), Aimee Mann writes near perfect songs. In "Coming Up Close," we get a short story worthy of The Atlantic or The New Yorker, but never doubt that at heart it is an achingly beautiful song. Mann writes of a few stolen moments of romance with absolute precision and incision.  The anecdote is visual, sparse and stark, like the Iowa landscape it takes place in:

"One night in Iowa he and I in a borrowed car/

Went driving in the summer, promises on every star."

The couple's brief moments of unguarded emotions are captured perfectly with the opening verse's final line:

"I felt my heart beat back a weekend's worth of sadness."

The second verse begins with images of opportunity for a couple whose opportunities are few and far between:

"There was a farmhouse that had long since been deserted/

We stopped and carved our hearts into the wooden surface."

The third and final verse almost breaks the heart with its quiet march to a conclusion:

"We got back in the car and listened to a Dylan tape/

We drove around the fields until it started getting late/

And I went back to my motel room on the highway/

And he got back in his car and just drove away."

One could be mistaken about the potential silences within this narrative. One gets the sense that little is being said between the two, although maybe not so with eyes and hands. Luckily, the chorus, first coming between verse 2 and 3, and then at the end, will say everything. A superbly crafted chorus, it starts with what serves as a caption for the scene:

"Coming up close/everything sounds like welcome home/come home."

But then everything that is on the narrator's mind comes tumbling out, as if she has finally realized she only has a precious few minutes to tell her lover all that she needs to say. Listen to Mann's singing, the acceleration of the emotional parts of the chorus (italicized below) to feel the momentum of that moment:

And oh, by the way, don't you know that I could make/

A dream that's barely half awake come true

But she pulls up short, as if the words can't change the fragile existence they have:

I wanted to say/but anything I could have said

I felt somehow that you already knew.

"Coming Up Close" is a divine song; the sad part of it is that it rings way too true.  Mann, as lead songwriter for 'Til Tuesday, had so successfully captured the story of the potential mistress, or at least emotionally abused woman, in the amazing "Voices Carry," it was hard to believe the song wasn't cut straight out of Mann's life. The same here with "Coming Up Close," where the narrative rings so true, the emotion so accurate, that one wants to assume that Mann was dealing with a long-distance, almost part-time, romance.

I know none of this for sure, but almost nobody who knows the 'Til Tuesday catalog doesn't rate this as one their top songs. A lot of people are moved by this narrative, that haunting, delicate lead guitar, Mann's voice soaring through "come home," and that heartbeat-races-too-fast part of the chorus.

In fact the song's narrative exemplifies what the song is for me, 4 and 1/2 minutes of an intense relationship, over as quickly as it started, the feeling carrying me along for only so long before I need to be with it again.

This all sounds so trite, I know. I wanted to say so much, but anything I could have said, well, you know the rest. Oh, wait, "You Know The Rest" is a pretty nifty song off of 'Til Tuesday's first album. Ah, but I have now played both of my Aimee Mann cards. I have no more of her aces up my sleeve.

"Coming Up Close." 'Til Tuesday. Welcome Home. Epic. 1986. Link here.

Day 108: Carole King "So Far Away."

Day 110: The Sex Pistols "E.M.I."->

See complete list here.