I first heard it, what seemed like a million years ago; a spotty suburban teenage kid with feathered hair, listening to a new wave station called KYYX as it beamed in songs that were from half a world away.
I hadn’t heard a new-wave song in waltz time before, and it enchanted me. Hugh Cornwell crooned it with this odd mix of pensiveness, wrist-to-forehead romance, and a slightly arched eyebrow. And Dave Greenfield’s harpsichord danced, crystalline and lovely, in the background.
I didn’t know who it was—only managed to tape 2/3 of the song off of the radio, missed the intro. I listened to that two-thirds of a song repeatedly. One day, the K-Mart audio cassette I taped it on got devoured by my tape player, beyond rescue. I mourned its loss, then the song’s haunting beauty was covered in metaphoric sand as my teenage self found hundreds of other sonic treasures, on the radio and while combing the shelves of record stores.
It took several years, but I rediscovered it out of the blue, sandwiched between other songs as a YouTube playlist of post-punk chestnuts surged forth on my unattended laptop. The minute those twinkling harpsichord notes and the gorgeous staggered vocal harmonies faded, I bought a digital copy. I listened to it on repeat, for a couple of hours.
I’ve walked with it in my ears frequently. When I lived in South Lake Union, I’d sit on the patio of the secret garden nestled in the center of the now long-dead apartment I lived in, sneaking a clandestine pull of herb or just staring lucidly at the stars in the cool night air as it curtsied and whirled in my head. Fell in love to it, almost by accident. Shared it with the source of my ardor; she fell for it as hard as I had.
It came on, during a random shuffle as I walked late at night last Friday; late enough to where there was no one else out and I didn’t have to worry about dodging careless, maskless plague carriers. Beautiful and dark revisit, evocative of a dark-haired figure swaying to its shuffle, silhouetted by candlelight, when the world and I were a bit more carefree; yet also capturing the ambiguous, uncomfortable darkness seething restless while humanity fights not to collapse in on itself.
It’s beautiful and perfect, and it still haunts and obsesses me every time I hear it. Of course it’s about drug addiction, and love. At once. They’re the same a lot of the time, cliches be damned. Even if you and I didn’t already know and feel it, Hugh Cornwell—and Dave Greenfield’s harpsichord notes—said so.
Dave is gone, taken on May 3 by this strange and awful disease that’s sent us all into needed but extremely unwelcome hermitage. I hope he knows, wherever he is or isn’t, that he co-created a thread that’s run magically through someone’s head and heart and ears in a lifelong continuum. Distilling and stirring all of those feelings in the space of 3.5 minutes is why some human beings create art, and why others hold it to their hearts.
Many thanks and deep respect, Dave. Never a frown.