Thursday, November 30, 2006

Melancholics Anonymous

Chet Baker - The Thrill Is Gone

The sunlight reaches through the blinds and splays its anaemic fingers across the duvet at the foot of the bed. The bedroom stands cold and alone, marooned in space. Nothing exists outside of these four tastefully decorated walls, with their shelves and paintings, books and plants. Everything is here, awake, waiting…for what? I’ve stared at the ceiling for six hours, wanting to reach over and hold her in my arms, whisper to her, laugh with her but she no longer exists. The girl who lies there now, also awake, only looks like the girl I fell in love with. Once we were like two exposed wires, crackling and sparking, dancing through the days with a vibrant conductivity but now we can barely ignite a simple conversation between us. She looks at me as if I’m some kind of sinister stranger; she looks through the television, listens to her own, internal radio. Her touch, accidental now, is hard and bruising.

When I tell people that this is my favourite recording, I’m greeted with disbelief. How can anybody gain pleasure from such pervasive misery? Well, I guess I’m a rampant melancholic (functional) and this is the finest whine love can buy. Honestly, this record makes me want to be dumped; I want to know how it feels. I want to write a song which is this free of hope and light, which is this real. This would be tragic enough for a teenager but for a man of my advanced years it’s positively wretched.

Chet Baker recorded this in 1953 before pretty much anyone was born (seriously, the world’s population in 1953 numbered in the low thousands). When he sang, which wasn’t often, we realise that his mournful trumpet was merely an extension of his voice. He sounds so flat here, beaten and defeated. This is the sound of the end, the death of love.

“This is the end
So why pretend?
And let it linger on
The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone”

Written in 1931 by Ray Henderson who must have had one hell of a bad day, it is as perfect as it can be and I can’t think of anyone who could articulate it’s numbed despair as well as Baker. It’s like wading through a bathtub of liquid valium while reading ‘Without You - The Tragic Story of Badfinger’. Listen to it, then put it somewhere safe, hopefully you’ll never need it.

Chet Baker at Amazon
Chet Baker website

Domino Jones.