For those who look forward to Feb. 14 and those who abhor it: Our second-annual playlist, and this one’s half dedicated to space-aged love songs, the other half a soundtrack of gut-wrenching weepies. (To listen via Spotify, click here.)
Side A: Anti-love songs:
“Love Song,” Simple Minds
Not sure how much of a love song this actually is. Simple Minds were in their determinedly impenetrable phase, so who knows? Classic 80s freaking-out-the-squares video.
“Love Song,” The Damned
Not sure how much of a love song this actually is either. The Damned, in their second incarnation, with their first proper hit, unveiling their hidden secret: Captain Sensible was a really good pop songwriter.
“Love Part 1 (Poem),” Dexys Midnight Runners
This definitely isn’t a love song. “Love Part 1 (Poem)”, from Dexys’ classic first album, is a sour, spoken-word refutation of the very existence of love. When I interviewed Kevin Rowland for Mad World: The Book, he claimed to have no memory of the song’s existence.
“When Love Breaks Down,” Prefab Sprout
Possibly something of a theme emerging here? Prefab Sprout’s most straight-forward song is tasteful slice of heartache.
“The Other End of the Telescope,” Til Tuesday
I’m a big fan of Til Tuesday’s Everything’s Different Now album. Though it starts with the optimistic ode-to-new-love title track, it’s filled with some of my favorite sad love songs, like “J For Jules,” Mann’s breakup ballad for ex-boyfriend Jules Shear, and the single “(Believed You Were) Lucky.” But the one that’s really stood the test of time is this bittersweet duet with Elvis Costello.
“Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me,” The Smiths
How many nights did I soak my pillow while listening to this on my Sony Walkman in my teenage bedroom? How many teens are doing that very thing right this minute? How many ADULTS? “The story is old, I know, but it goes on…”
“Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Joy Division (Thank you to @Tammy Hiller for this suggestion.)
Though the jangly guitars and singsongy melody sound upbeat and happy, this Joy Division classic — Ian Curtis’ swan song to his marriage — is the penultimate it’s-over track. I dare you to read the lyrics and not get a lump in your throat.
“A Promise,” Echo and the Bunnymen (Thank you to @Tammy Hiller for this suggestion.)
For every person who’s tried to change their partner (that would be every single human being ever): Don’t.
“Never Say Never,” Romeo Void (Thank you to @Davido222 for this suggestion.)
“Old couple walks by/as ugly as sin/But he’s got her/And she’s got him.” Yep, that sums about half the world’s feelings on Valentine’s Day.
Side B: Mushy New Wave Love Songs
“Stripped,” Depeche Mode
I’ve never read 50 Shades of Grey, and I have no interest in seeing the movie. But, for my money, this is what sexy sounds like.
“Home and Dry,” Pet Shop Boys
This latter-day PSB track is the ultimate long-distance dedication: “Oh tonight I miss you/Oh tonight I wish you could be here with me/But I won’t see you til vou’ve made it back and again/home and dry.”
“Wishing (If I had A Photograph of You),” A Flock Of Seagulls
New wave men were so romantic — just listen to the soaring synthesized melody! The wistful lyrics! I would totally have dated Mike Score back in the day, hairdo and all. Hairdo especially.”
“Wonderful,” Adam Ant
I remember how shocked I was when Mr. Goddard released this romantic ballad. Equally shocking: it managed to be romantic even with the lyric “…when I nearly hit the face I love.” Thankfully Heather Graham got out before the going got rough.
“Save A Prayer,” Duran Duran
It’s everybody’s favorite new wave slow-dance jam. Somehow Simon Le Bon managed to convince Duran’s teenage fan base think the climactic love-‘em-and-leave-‘em couplet comparing one-night stands to paradise was something to sigh over.
“Just Like Gold,” Aztec Camera
Sixteen-year-old Roddy Frame ablaze with poetic fervor pouring his heart out on his first single.
“Lets Get Together Again,” Human League
Hard to imagine the Human League haven’t tried to forget they once covered Rock N Roll Part 2 by the evil predator, Gary Glitter. But the band’s Glitter connection goes deeper. On their patchy 1990 Romantic? album, they took a shot at the Glitter Band’s awesome glam hit “Lets Get Together Again” which is safe to post until wizened members of the Glitter Band start getting arrested.
“I’m In Love With A German Film Star,” The Passions
Which one? Gert Frobe? Horst Bucholz? Curt Jurgens? Thomas Gottschalk? We may never know?
“Goodbye Joe,” Tracey Thorn
Sultry cover of the already sultry Monochrome Set song
“(I Love You) When You Sleep”, Tracie
Paul Weller’s teenage prodigy sings an Elvis Costello song about how love can be at its strongest when the object of affection is unconscious.