Yesterday, I said I’d be singing Steve Wonder while riding my bike through the Brookline hills. Well, instead I took another turn with a similar theme: breakup songs that sound much happier than they actually are. “We Can Work It Out” is, on its surface, an optimistic song: one person in the relationship really wants dialogue to resolve issues at hand. Or, it could be someone, post-breakup, thinking back bitterly on the futility of their conversations and ironically stating “Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting,” while shaking their head in regret.
I think Stevie’s version is firmly planted in the former interpretation: he’s all about coaxing the other to reconcile, or even forgive him.
But let’s move to another Stevie, as in Nicks. Today’s song seems so happy with the intro’s muted strumming, the chiming acoustic guitar in one channel between singing, and the line “lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff.” On first listen, which I admit was only last week (I’m woefully ignorant of Fleetwood Mac), these were the three characteristics that stood out and it sounded jubilant, sunny, summery.
Yet despite the happy “bah-bow-bow-bow” singalong chorus, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks weren’t doing so well in 1977.
We can still sing it out the windows and on the bikes, right?