Monday, September 18, 2017

Certain Songs #992: Love – “You Set The Scene” | Medialoper

Album: Forever Changes
Year: 1967

The sessions for Forever Changes were famously difficult.

Well, maybe not “famously,” given the fact that Forever Changes is a forever cult album, but you know what I mean. Written under the watchful eye of Bela Lugosi’s ghost, who no doubt watched with a combination of jealousy and head-shaking as the band dabbled in acid and smack and fought enough to hemorrhaged members.

So that kind of chaos was always an undercurrent in Forever Changes, adding tension to a group of songs that were otherwise meticulously arranged, none more than the mercurial closing anthem, “You Set The Scene.”

At my request I ask for nothing
You get nothing in return
If you’re nice she’ll bring me water
If you’re not then I will burn

At first, “You Set The Scene” leaps away from the bouncy “Bummer in the Summer” powered by an infinite acoustic guitar, Ken Forssi’s room-filling bass and Michael Stuart’s quietly propulsive drums, and your assumption is that it’s going to build and build, but instead, after the second chorus, it slows way down and turns into a march towards mortality.

This is the time and life that I am living
And I’ll face each day with a smile
For the time that I’ve been given
Is such a little while
And the things that I must do
Consist of more than style
There are places that I am going

But here’s the thing: with the horns blaring and the strings glistening, it’s a joyous march, because by coming to grips with his own mortality, Lee also realizes that the only thing to do with your life is live it to the fullest. Which I know, sounds stupid. But are you doing it? Because it’s almost impossible. But you still need to keep trying.

It’s not easy to do, but at the ending of “You Set The Scene” — which is just another way of saying “choose your own path, mannnnnn” — when Lee is chanting “time!” “time!” “time!” “time!” and the horns and strings and strings start playing round robin against each other in a glorious cacophony, at that ending, anything seems possible.

“You Set The Scene”

“You Set The Scene” performed live

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