David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 134: The Waterboys (She Tried To Hold Me)

September 7, 2020

Because we lived in Caledonia, Michigan, such a short time (3 years), and at a period in my life when I wasn't necessarily buying a lot of music, I have few associated memories of songs for that location. Whatever ones I do have, I associate with Alaska.

Alaska Avenue was a lovely stretch of road just outside of our subdivision with a few farms, including one that housed the annual Cowpie Music Festival -- yes, you read that right. Sylvester, our labrador/chow mix, and I walked Alaska, sometimes north, between 84th and 68th streets, sometimes south, between 84th and 100th, everyday for those three years. When Sylvester passed in Fall 2017, I wrote about those walks, but I neglected to mention how important my I-Pod was for our daily excursions. Longer songs were especially welcome, as Sylvester and I could go great distances before some songs ran out. Those longer songs particularly allowed me to lose myself in the setting.

During that brief 3-year window, I had purchased, unheard, The Waterboys' Book Of Lightning, my first Waterboy purchase in 20 years. Frankly I had lost touch with what they had been doing since the late 1980's with the classic Fisherman's Blues. Book Of Lightning quickly reminded me how The Waterboys specialized in captivating longer songs, reliant as much upon unrelenting rhythms, variations of a musical or lyrical theme, without the spectacular flourish of instrument solos. Even though The Waterboys fluctuated between traditional rock and Celtic-influenced folk, every album usually featured a couple of longer, rambling songs that were easy to lose one's self in: "December" and "Savage Earth Heart" from their debut; "Don't Bang The Drum" and "This Is The Sea" from This Is The Sea, just to name a couple of early examples.

With Book of Lightning, of which upon purchase I had no assumptions, Mike Scott, in essence The Waterboy of all Waterboys (Wikipedia identifies 70 musicians who at one time have been Waterboys; Adam Sandler never one of them) offered up two more lengthy tracks: "Everybody Takes A Tumble" and "She Tried To Hold Me."  The latter would have been the final song on side one if we still had albums in 2007, so it ended about halfway through the disc, which meant that Sylvester and I would be a good mile and a half or so from home and ready to turn around. I used to try and see if we could get a little further each time before making the turn back home when the song ended.  I am sure Sylvester hated me as that meant he couldn't take the time to sniff that groundhog hole that fascinated him so much.

The thing about "She Tried To Hold Me" is that it is one of those songs that I love musically, yet cringe a little at it lyrically.  The chorus is beautifully simple:

"She tried to hold me/she tried to hold me/

She didn't know/love is letting go."

The verses, however, in describing her hold, rivals There Goes Rhymin' Simon and Dr. Seuss with their rhymes, not to mention some extended figures of speech. At the end of verse one, the writing starts to get a little strained:

"She executed her enchantment/

Secreted me in her encampment/

With diversions and pretenses/

She dismantled my defenses."

The start of the second verse digs even deeper into the rhyming dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus.

"She told me I was unrealistic/

And then she went ballistic/

In her powder blue pajamas/

Me some flotsam in her drama."

"Flotsam?"  Who uses "flotsam" in a rock song?  Who uses "flotsam" at any time?

However, that lovely, lovely chorus, with the organ swelling all around it, keeps saving the verses. "She tried to hold me/she didn't know love/was letting go."

The third verse used the poetic license even more:

"With a driving wind a'gin me/

And shame exploding within me/

It took me six years to begin again/

To feel secure in my own skin again/

For she lingered like uranium/

Like a demon in my cranium."

Nevertheless, the song skipped along, with that fabulous organ riff, some guitar solo flash near the end, so much so that one could miss most of the words while watching the latest calf being born, or listening to the Thornapple River current bubble, or smelling the fresh cut grass (or occasionally the cowpies). Or while yanking on Sylvester's leash so that we could set a new record for distance covered while listening to Book Of Lightning.

Poor Sylvester. I am sure he too wanted me to understand that love would have been letting him go.

"She Tried To Hold Me." The Waterboys. Book of Lightning.  Puck. 2007. Link here.

Day 133: Sly & The Family Stone. "Everyday People."

Day 135: The Doors "The End."->

See complete list here.