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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Please Come to Boston

…is a pop song by David Loggins which some of you might remember from your youth, that is, if your youth and the 1970's intersected at any point. Otherwise your exposure to it is limited to the occasional airing on the oldies station. It was Mr. Loggins' only big hit, and I'm sure he feels not just a little bit overshadowed by his considerably more successful cousin Kenny Loggins. In fact, I would hazard a guess that when I mentioned David Loggins above, your first reaction was, "don't you mean Kenny Loggins?" Nope, David Loggins.

I hadn't given the song much thought over the past few decades, until I heard it emanating from the bedroom of young David, son of Bruck, a few weeks ago. It was being covered by country music bad boy David Allan Coe, to whose music young David has taken a recent liking. BTW, by "bad boy," I'm don't mean to place him in the same strata with the current gaggle of CMA makeup- and ponytail-wearing plush toys, but serious no-class, politically incorrect, offensive, heavily-tattooed, in and out of reform school and prison bad boy. At any rate, DAC did a very respectable cover of Please Come to Boston, at least the studio version. He claims in an interview (CoeFan, September 1997) that it's his favorite non-original song.

A song's lyrics are important to me, even for instrumentals - I can't really like a song if it has bad lyrics, no matter how catchy the tune is. For your edification, below are the lyrics for Please Come to Boston. And for all of you campfire entertainers out there, the chords are pretty simple - I, IV, V, & VIm; you can figure out where they go. I do the song in A; DAC does it in D; the First Amendment to the US Constitution secures your right to play it in whatever key you wish.

Please come to Boston for the springtime
I'm stayin' here with some friends
and they've got lots of room
You can sell you paintings on the sidewalk
By a cafe where I hope to be working soon
Please come to Boston, she said no, boy,
you come home to me.
She said hey ramblin' boy
why don't you settle down.
[Boston | Denver | LA] ain't your kind of town.
There ain't no gold and
there ain't nobody like me.
I'm the number one fan of the man from Tennessee.
Please come to Denver for the snowfall
We'll move up into the mountains
so far that we can't be found
& throw I love you echoes down the canyon
And then lie awake at night
till they come back around.
Please come to Denver, she said no, boy,
you come home to me.
Now this drifter's world goes round and round
and I doubt it's ever gonna stop
Out of all the dreams I've lost and found
and all that I ain't got,
I need to cling to. Somebody I can sing to.
Please come to LA, we'll live forever.
The California life alone
is just too hard to take
I live in a house that looks out over the ocean
And there's some stars that fell from the sky
livin' up on the hill.
Please come to LA, she said no, baby,
you come home to me.

So, what's it all about? At first blush, it would appear to be a Mars/Venus song about a man who has an egregious mix of wanderlust and loneliness, in love with an equally lonely woman with a strong homing instinct and interest in family and security. The song ends with the conflict unresolved; we're left to supply the missing puzzle pieces from our own imaginations.

I think there's more to it, however. Whether or not he intended it, I believe Mr. Loggins may have written the Great American Epic. Or at least a pretty good American epic…

Let's do some deconstruction, shall we? First, if we turn up the magnification, we can see that these aren't just disconnected points in place and time, but actually the course of a man's life, and the changes that take place over time.

Verse 1: The singer is in Boston, looking for work, presumably young and idealistic. Staying with friends, offering spurious opportunities, these appear as the hallmarks of adolescence and young adulthood. Meanwhile, he recognizes that he is missing something by not having his loved one with him.

Verse 2: The singer has made it as far as Denver, and presumably is in at least a good enough financial position to choose where he lives, and is not expressedly tied anywhere geographically. He wants to retreat from people, so far up the mountain that he can't be found, but he doesn't want to be alone up there either. To me this indicates themes and emotions of middle adulthood; retreat from the superficial world, having grown weary of chasing the rainbows of one's youth. So basically, he's growing up, but is still lonely.

Verse 3: The singer is now in LA, and is apparently now reaping rewards of a successful, productive life, living in oceanfront property among Hollywood stars. His introversion seems to be replaced by feelings of invincibility, a perspective more often found in successful people in the AARP age range. But still, even in the paradise of the southern California coast, he realizes that his lonely life is incomplete.

Chorus: The singer is always being called back home throughout his life, by his presumably would-be bride who seems to hold the answer that the singer is looking for, that true wealth and happiness lies in being with her, at home in Tennessee. Verse 3 somewhat gives lie to this, however, as the singer seems to have struck it rich to some degree, indicating that perhaps her definition of wealth is larger than just material riches.

Okay, fine, Bruck, nice analysis, but I took high school English too. What's this "epic" business then?

Well, the main thing that tipped me off was the geography. When I first started hearing the song, even as a youngster in the mid-70's, I wondered why would a woman from Tennessee, or at least one with a jones for Tennesseans, be interested in a man from Boston? Or, why would a Tennessee man be in Boston voluntarily (recall, he's not even working yet), and why would he entertain the preposterous expectation that a Tennessee woman would want to follow him there? It's cold in Boston. Southerners don't like cold weather. And they don't serve grits there. And it's chock full of yankees, the kind of yankees that other yankees don't even like.

Answer: Boston represents the American Revolution for independence from British rule, and is also one of the economic mainstays that supported our country in its infancy. Note that two of the three middle lines of the first verse are explicitly economic, and hopeful. Presumably things worked out for the singer in Boston, as they did for the fledgling republic, at least well enough to get him to Denver.

Next question, same as the first: why would a man from Tennessee want to go to Denver, of all places? Again, no grits, lots of yankees, and even in the 70's, when the song was written, Denver was a little more "fruits 'n' nuts" than your typical southern man would be interested in.

Again, the answer is geographic and historical: Denver symbolizes the western expansion of the young United States. Intrepid pioneers pushed west in pursuit of greater opportunity than what the eastern states offered - gold, oil, industry, land, independence. And in these pursuits, they endured great hardship and deprivation, facing the snowfall and mountains without benefit of Thinsulate and Chapstick.

Southern California, where LA is the most prominent city, represents the culmination of American culture, the fulfillment of The American Dream. It's a place where we as a country can enjoy the fruits of our labor, and focus our energies on creative, aesthetic pursuits, rather than war and conquest.

Wait just a minute, now, you may be thinking, what about the girl? What's this business about always being called back to Tennessee? I believe Tennessee represents "home" in the spiritual sense, i.e., the religious foundations of the colonies and young republic. Wherever we go as a country and a nation, we are always being called back to our roots, and our denial of same results in the gnawing emptiness that no amount of physical or material wealth can satisfy.

And note again that the conflict is not resolved; I would hazard a guess that this is a mirror that many of us see ourselves in, both as a nation and individually.

So, what is it, cheesy pop song or Great American Epic? Top 40 fluff or window into the American soul? Like the unfinished story in the song, it's up to the listener to supply the last word!


  • At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Pffffft! You call that 70's music? Step aside...


    Interesting deconstruction of a song, anyway.

  • At 9:14 PM, Blogger Bruck said…

    That video changed my life.


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