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A Good Year For The Moroseness

Stuart Bailie | 09:05 UK time, Thursday, 20 September 2012

In the most recent episode of New Girl, Jess deals with a broken heart by playing 'River' by Joni Mitchell. Again and again. At first, her friends and flatmates offer consolation. By degrees, they grow weary of the song and the listener's self pity. They become antsy and eventually, they make up a mocking dance routine, turning the sadness into high comedy.

But hey, we've all had those moments. Music and melancholia are long-standing companions, and there's nothing like an album's worth of wretched tunes to accompany the ride. When long-playing vinyl came into its own, Frank Sinatra was there to commiserate with 'In The Wee Small Hours', tasting the woe like a proper connoisseur. Ava Gardner had torn him apart and didn't we know it.

In The Seventies, the singer songwriters became the ruling nabobs of sob. Joni Mitchell was thin-skinned and desolate on 'Blue'. There was another bust-up chronicle with Bob Dylan's 'Blood On The Tracks', and a more bitter response with Marvin Gaye's 'Here My Dear'. Classics all.

It's a mark of your humanity to have a saddo soundtrack. Over the years, I've favoured 'Almost Blue' by Elvis Costello, a bit of Hank and Billie, Sinead, Spiritualized and Nina Simone. You cannot stay unmoved by 'There Is a Light That Never Goes Out' or Aretha getting lost on 'Somewhere'. And while I'm not massively keen on the chorus of Dylan's 'Just Like A Woman', I still quake when Bob sings about the day when he'll meet his ex girlfriend again. They may be introduced as friends and will probably smile at each other. But actually, they'll be concealing deep fathoms of their tragic, shared history.

Many years ago, I made a morose mixtape for a friend. On some level I must have been enjoying her pain, because I included 'I'm Still Waiting' by Diana Ross, a testimony to self-abasement only rivaled by Jacques Brel's 'Ne Me Quitte Pas'. I capped the tape off with Soft Cell and 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye'. It was the 12 inch version, mind, with the clarinet solo and the unending spiral into desolation row. The perfect finale. Dry your eyes, mate.


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