David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 281: Edwyn Collins (A Girl Like You)

September 7, 2023

I can spend hours and hours breaking songs down, trying to pinpoint all of the fantastic elements that make them memorable. The truth of the matter is that often they come down to just a few things, like great distorted guitar and a few really unforgettable lines.

In those cases, such simplicity as beauty can be captured by "A Girl Like You" . . . the Edwyn Collins' song. I am hard-pressed to identify if the guitar riff or a few of the quirky lyrics are what I remember most about the song. The guitar riff took a back seat for a long time, until I found a YouTube clip of Collins performing the song on Later . . . With Jools Holland. Upon seeing that, I realize how incredibly clean the lead guitar chord sequence is, especially on that fuzz-induced 7 chord sequence during the verses. (Even the keyboard part in the song seems pretty simple when seeing it performed live.)

In the absence of a traditional chorus, this relatively spartan (recognize this is being said by someone who has never played the guitar) guitar riff fills in the song gorgeously. For all the guitar heroes throughout rock and roll, Hendrix through Page through Vaughn through May through Van Halen through Knopfler, Collins' guitar performance here probably inspired just as many kids to pick up an axe and form a garage band.

Additionally, in the absence of a chorus, and despite the recurring "I've never known a girl like you before" as a pretty sharp hook, Collins provides some lyrical gems. Even when he was barely 20 and forming the post-punk band, Orange Juice, Collins showed a deftness with the pen (especially when his "favorite song's entitled 'Boredom'"). As a result, Gorgeous George, the CD from which "A Girl Like You" comes, is full of lyrical insight and charm. "A Girl Like You" is preceded by the Dylanesque "The Campaign For Real Rock" where Collins completely obliterates the standard oldies act performing in a summer festival, "the truly detestable summer festival":

"He's wondering why we can't connect/

When he's sworn to us he's totally wrecked/

On the rustic charm that he affects/

On a public schoolboy whim/

With a raggle-taggle plastic gypsy Robertzimmerman frame/

With a synthesized accordion a-scramblin' up my brain."

Where does a guy go after writing scathing lyrics like that in turning to a love song, or at least a song of deep lust leaving him with bleeding hands and knees raw?

First, he elevates the discourse for his lust. "You made me acknowledge the devil in me," Collins sings in the bridge, leading him to hope "I'm talking metaphorically," "allegorically." That's an interesting connection of the dots (or of the rhyme), Edwyn, to get from devil-inspired thoughts to ideals of allegory.

Well, la-di-freaking dah. I can't see real good: is that Bill Shakespeare over there?

Well, Matt Foley, he ain't far off. I could see Shakespeare nailing a version of the most memorable line from the song: "I don't feel like I belong/too many protest singers/not enough protest songs," the potential concession to the world made by the same musician so bothered by the "detestable summer festival" performers a song earlier, and who would slam Guns 'n' Roses as evidence of living "south of Hell" in "North Of Heaven." His saving grace, maybe our saving grace? The angel who comes along, the girl never known before.

I will pause while I let that guitar riff go through your head again.

Here's to a song like you, "A Girl Like You," that reminds us that simple is gorgeous. It's alright, yeah. It's alright, yeah. It's alright, yeah.  O.k., maybe that coda, if I can call it that, is less Bill Shakespeare and more Bill Withers. Still not shabby at all.

Collins, Edwyn. "A Girl Like You." Gorgeous George. Setanta, 1994. Live performance link here.

Day 280: Gladys Knight & The Pips "Midnight Train To Georgia"

Day 282: Thompson Twins "Lay Your Hands On Me"

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