Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Like The Whole World's Out of Sync

Tonight, out of nowhere, I decided to listen to 'Head over Heels' by The Go-Go's after many months of having not listened to it, perhaps even a year. Then, after some nice nostalgic blasts of old synesthetic imagery coming up from the depths of my mind and catalyzed by the song, I looked on here thinking I'd written a review on it - but found I actually hadn't, other than on the band itself.

So, three years after I started mentioning it around here, I'm going to do that just now.

The song was one of their later, or perhaps final, bigger hits from their heyday in the early 80s (my knowledge and past research in memory has rusted over with uncertainty and misplaced directness in all this time). I think it was written partly by Kathy Valentine, the bassist, which would make sense considering the obvious bass solo that mostly drew me into the song in the first place.

As the story goes, I heard it in a shampoo commercial for Pantene Pro-V. It is probably the only commercial I looked forward to watching thanks to the bass, guitar, and attractive backing vocals. I didn't look up the song back then because of my unawareness of many things (from YouTube to whether or not it was an actual song by an artist and not something created by Pro-V's marketing department).

Visual images affect how I see things synesthetically, and the commercial itself was no different. It featured two young women lounging about with nothing to do, then using the shampoo on their hair before some guy friend shows up to take them out. To maybe lunch or the park, not to assassinate them. Sorry, I'm describing a shampoo commercial from 2006 and I feel I should make it interesting somehow. I have a feeling blood ruining their Pro-V-perfect hair would sell less bottles. Anyway, it's two women wearing summer dresses, and while the entire thing plays out, an edited version of the song plays, focusing on the piano introduction, then the chorus, the bass solo, and then the final choruses. I'm guessing they put the song's bass solo in the central body of the commercial so the commentator had less distracting noise in the background with her voice. A quieter venue of song in which to talk.

I'm detailing the commercial from the song to the dresses the girls wore due to how it directly affected what I saw when I heard it subsequently. The song itself is already pretty feminine - particularly from the female backing vocals during the chorus - and the women in the commercial help accentuate it. The bass solo really caught me because it was fun and bouncy and gave me and image of me being the same way, but around other girls, as if I'm popular with them, and therefore they see me in a positive light. Do they, really? I doubt there's any light for them to see me in to begin with considering I know almost none, haha.

Years later, the bass line came to mind, and I tried figuring it out on my own directly from memory before looking up the commercial, and then looking up the song itself. Talking about it, it's a rock song I'd say, but pop-oriented. There's a bright, excitable piano in it and it's a simple, basic musical arrangement. To play the song on bass, you merely stay on one fret - the note of D - and then change strings from A to D next to it, on the same fret, playing a high G (which Valentine does during the bridge - otherwise she moves to a low G in the verses, which is two frets down and on the E string). There's one little bit where you do a C and a B, then G - but otherwise the verses are simple and made up of five notes - D, G, C, B, and A. The choruses are more difficult in terms of the extra notes arranged around the structure - but the structure itself is very common and used everywhere: D, A, E, B. Playing just those notes in order is like drawing an N on the frets but starting at the end, at the upper right, not the lower left. Valentine does exactly that at the very end of the song. Heck, the first three notes in the chorus essentially spell out D major note by note.

I'm not putting the style or simplicity of it down; most of the best songs are basic or simple or easy, and The Go-Go's achieved this in 'Head over Heels.' While the bass follows that structure, the guitar compliments it with chords of those exact notes - D, A, E, and B, and only once each time, no sustain to them, all staccato (which I like). All in the chorus.

Generally, the song is pink and bright yellow to me. Morning colours. That's natural to me for a song that starts on D major. The chord or note has always been pink and 'morning' to me (the way the colour is lit up is like the sun is shining on it from where it is in the morning sky, which is achieved visually through the direction I perceive the colour in). The yellow is generated by the guitar. For a time, I'd slow the chorus down to hear every synesthetic colour and image and texture come at me easily and more obviously, with time to hear everything at an easy, sharper, obvious pace. You wouldn't normally hear how tentative or shy (at least to me) Belinda sounds as she sings the word 'head' in the very first chorus, for the first time.

When I first heard it (so the chorus, really) I saw a pink wall and blue sky, and a girl I used to see on the bus home from school strutting across the sidewalk in front of the wall. This was all through the backing vocals, during the time the commercial was aired. Then in 2010, after really getting into the song, I got more involved with two girl friends, one of who pitched the idea of spending an afternoon together as friends, and throughout that time, I'd started assigning both of their personalities (or the way I saw them) as aspects of the song; I've said all of this on here before. The day I hung out with them, they coincidentally wore dresses of the same colour as the women in that original commercial with the song, so the commercial, the synesthetic meshing, and the circumstances envisioned by me in the song (all that positive, bouncy light) all came together in a rare state of perfect matching and connection. I laughed pretty hard at that realization back then. I was like the guy at the end of the commercial (without a gun), and I was maybe even seen in a bouncy, positive light like the bass.

Listening to it again tonight brought back some of those synesthetic images. The guitar - the yellow, grittier-textured abstract - translated into a feisty, happy personality that was strong-minded; the backing vocals were pretty and feminine and attractive. Those old, one-time friends applied to those each pretty well, but that's unfortunately so 2010. But it's nostalgic that way.

I'm not sure what the lyrics are about other than trying to keep yourself together in a crazy world, or something along those lines. "Just like the whole world's out of sync."

The highlights of the song are its chorus, bass solo (I don't see myself as much as I used to but I do see one of those old girl friends when it plays out D major note-by-note when it starts its solo) and the backing vocals. I don't really know what to say negatively other than it ends almost kind of abruptly and sometimes Carlisle's vocals sound a bit weird in places.

As for the music video, it's a simple performance piece that is all right but sometimes makes me think they're sometimes acting like silly little girls (the way Charlotte grins ridiculously while playing the piano, the colour-smiling headshot-colour intro, the silly scenes of each of them reacting to diamonds and spiders in the bridge, etc.) The slow-motion scene of Valentine playing bass during her solo with an aircraft passing by behind looks kind of corny or overplayed as well, especially with Gina Schock leaning in from the edge to grin while playing drums. I do like the strips of each of them singing near the end, though, which looks iconic, and the studio lighting. The sudden bit of Jane Wiedlin strumming her guitar immediately after the bass solo, though, and her expression and movement, is quite attractive. Especially when she's sounding an instrument with punch that makes me think of the personality and image of someone who definitely is.

After this extremely long-winded, over-worded review/nostalgic reminiscing, here are my marks:

Music: B+
Lyric: B-
Video: C+

It's great nostalgia after listening to it again. Even though unlike music I re-discover from the 90s, this is something I've only heard from the past seven years (starting from the commercial).

Justin C.

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