|Day 22: The Go-Go's (Forget That Day)
May 18, 2020
As someone who has obsessively categorized his music collection for years, at some point I have had to justify for myself the essential qualities that make for perfect songs. I try to maintain a personal standard for these perfect songs, and think I have done o.k. I may have identified about 75 perfect songs, which might be .005% of what I have overall ranked. And with a perfect song, I often want to identify a moment that allows it to transcend everything else I might hear. That moment is usually just a second or two in a song, such as Mick Fleetwood's drum fill during Lindsey Buckingham's guitar histrionics near the end of "Go Your Own Way."
Then there are the songs that make that "kick-it-up-a-notch" moment last more than just a second or two, as The Go-Go's do with "Forget That Day" off of Talk Show. "Forget That Day" may have been the song that broke up The Go-Go's, as it has been reported multiple times that Jane Wiedlin, guitarist and writer of the song, wanted to sing it, but Belinda Carlisle would not relinquish lead vocals. Wiedlin left the band not long after.
For the first 2/3 of the song, it is already a masterpiece. The bass, drums and the keyboards bounce off each other, with Wiedlin's guitar providing the underlying current through an opening verse recounting a narrator falling in love that is lyrical perfection, culminating in the perfect self-delusion: "My head felt light/I knew I'd lost my heart/But I just said 'I hate heights.'"
The chorus is spectacular too, with the instruments blending together alongside Carlisle's vocals to create the perfect angst of a spurned lover:
Why'd you say you loved me/
That day, that day/
When you knew you wouldn't have me on/
This day, this day/
Now you're fine, I'm not okay/
And I can only stay away/
I can only kneel and pray/
Try and try to forget that day.
When the song reaches its instrumental bridge, it still maintains an awe-inspiring aura, but when it kicks back in, after a Gina Schock drum fill worthy of legend, to repeat the first verse, everything is elevated to spine-chilling levels. I have always thought the tendency to repeat the first verse after the bridge is songwriting laziness (not that I have the right to judge anyone), but The Go-Go's show that if you are going to do that, you better bring something new to the party. And, boy, do they ever, in the form of Wiedlin's voice. They then proceed to do that for the final minute of the song. This ain't no moment of greatness, this is a stretch of greatness.
For the repeated first verse, Wiedlin joins Carlisle as a second lead vocal (I suspect musical theorists could describe better than me what is going on, but sorry you got me, an academic). Her pixie voice lilts on the boundaries of Carlisle's; however, when they return to the chorus, while the band is at its creative height, Kathy Valentine's bass punctuating the beat, Charlotte Caffey's keyboard dancing throughout, and Gina Schock's drumming filling the space, you get the feeling that Wiedlin is going to out-fucking-sing Carlisle if it is the last thing she does.
And maybe it was, for a time, the last thing she does as a Go-Go, although they did tour some to support the album and of course reunited in 2001 to record God Bless The Go-Go's, a pretty decent reunion record all things considered. But for that day back in 1984, it seems like Wiedlin channeled her "I'm not o.k." into the best song The Go-Go's ever did, and in my humble opinion, one of the best songs any artist has ever done.
"Forget That Day." The Go-Go's. Talk Show. I.R.S. 1984. Link here.
Day 21: The Raspberries "I Wanna Be With You."
Day 23: Beth Hart "Thankful." ->
See full unfinished list here.