Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Yvonne Fair - It Should Have Been Me (1976/ No. 5/ 11 weeks/ Motown)
The period trappings lead you to expect something rather different, a classy lovers' thing. It starts off with a George MacRae ticky-ticky shuffling beat, a cymbal periodically tshing away as in one of Isaac Hayes' epic meditations, the strings sounding a lot like Barry White.
However, the incorporation of wedding bells suggests that this might be more sentimental than such songs normally are.
And then the voice comes in;
"I saw my love
Walking down the aisle
And as he passed me by
He turned to me and
Gave me a smile..."
We know from this information that this isn't a happy situation, but already the vocals carry something that we didn't expect, enormous strength and control. From the moment that the voice comes in, the seemingly smooth trappings of the song become incredibly tense, snares and cracks. The first chorus of hurt breaks out from the voice with a tremendous disruptive force;
"The preacher joined their hands
and all the people..."
The repetition of "people"sounds dangerous here;
"began to stand
When I SHOUTED"
Capitalisation can't really convey the absolute force of this shift;
"IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!"
By rights, the song - and quite possibly the entire world - should stop at this point. That the song continues, in the same measured arrangement, leads me to start to speculate that it might be telling the story of an out of body experience, the body still functioning normally and the singer in reality still behaving sensibly, in the face of supertraumatic shock at the sheer injustice of it all.
But oh no! The second chorus leaves us in no doubt that all of this is really happening;
"Then the preacher..
The preacher asked that
There be silence please"
This request does seem to indicate that a scene has already been made;
"If any objections to this wedding
Speak now or forever...
Forever hold your peace"
(The slightly more measured and reasonable delivery of the preacher's line is magnificent characterisation, by the way. This isn't really a song about anything other than the singer's wounded feelings, yet the actuality of the church is still established)
With some horror, we now know what's coming up next. Amazingly it occurs with twice the force that it did before;
"And I stood up and said
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME! OH - OH - IT SHOOUULD HAVE BEEN ME!!
Jumped out of my seat and SCREEEAAMED
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!!!"
"Oh ho somebody call the police...
That woman down there -
IS A DOG-GONE THIEF!"
You don't doubt that the police are going to arrive, but the bride isn't the woman who they are going to arrest. Nor do you doubt the rightness of the spurned woman's cause.
Life can be so unfair sometimes.