Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Certain Songs #920: The Left Banke – “Walk Away Renee” | Medialoper

Album: Walk Away Renee / Pretty Ballerina
Year: 1966

On the short list of Prettiest Songs Ever Recorded, Baroque Pop Division, “Walk Away Renee” is one of those songs that can inspire an equal amount of chills and tears, depending on whether you’re fixating on the gorgeous melody or the heartbreaking words.

It’s also, for some reason, one of those songs that I’ve never dug that deep into, like somehow understanding would ruin the beauty. So there were a whole bunch of things I never knew about “Walk Away Renee” until just now.

That composer Michael Brown says it was written about a real person — the bass-player’s then-girlfriend — is pretty much par for the course for the 1960s, but I was surprised that I didn’t know that the Four Tops covered it, because now I understand why Billy Bragg put his Johnny Marr-powered semi-cover on the b-side of “Levi Stubbs’ Tears.”

But then again, why do we need to know anything about “Walk Away Renee?” Isn’t just experiencing the chorus enough?

Just walk away Renee
You won’t see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You’re not to blame

It’s so beautiful and so primal that it probably didn’t need the harpsichord, the string, and (especially) the flute solo, but it’s so beautiful and so primal that none of that mattered every single time they melted into the chorus.

And they damn straight needed the harmonies over lead singer Steve Martin Caro (then just known as “Steve Martin,” which no doubt confused some folks a decade later or so), because while Caro’s voice was already projecting every ounce of heartbreak he could summon, the harmonies sealed the deal: not only was Renee going to walk away, she was going to be gone forever.

“Walk Away Renee”

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