July 1, 2021

Always on my Mind

Of these uncomplicated love songs, free of boy-meets-girl cue.


As a teenager back in 1978, I remember resenting the obtrusive boy-meets-girl structure of all romantic songs, novels and movies. I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover at a scandalously early age, but such was my early conditioning—one can only lust after the opposite sex—that in my mind the author had to be female. When I realized a year later that D.H. Lawrence was actually a man, his novel became the first solid proof I had that I was not alone. And a beautifully worded proof at that.

In the little yard two paces beyond her, the man was washing himself, utterly unaware. He was naked to the hips, his velveteen breeches slipping down over his slender loins. And his white slim back was curved over a big bowl of soapy water, in which he ducked his head, shaking his head with a queer, quick little motion, lifting his slender white arms, and pressing the soapy water from his ears, quick, subtle as a weasel playing with water, and utterly alone. Connie backed away round the corner of the house, and hurried away to the wood. In spite of herself, she had had a shock. After all, merely a man washing himself, commonplace enough, Heaven knows!

Yet in some curious way it was a visionary experience: it had hit her in the middle of the body. She saw the clumsy breeches slipping down over the pure, delicate, white loins, the bones showing a little, and the sense of aloneness, of a creature purely alone, overwhelmed her. Perfect, white, solitary nudity of a creature that lives alone, and inwardly alone. And beyond that, a certain beauty of a pure creature. Not the stuff of beauty, not even the body of beauty, but a lambency, the warm, white flame of a single life, revealing itself in contours that one might touch: a body!

[David Herbert Lawrence in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 1928.]

I’m so sorry I was blind

Always on my Mind was written in 1970 and reprised by countless artists over the years, among them Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Roch Voisine and—I saved the best for last—Michael Bublé. Unsurprisingly, they all stuck to the original line Girl, I’m sorry I was blind, inevitably switched to Boy, I’m sorry I was blind whenever the singer was a woman. There were exceptions, though. When she recorded the song in 1972—the same year Elvis did—Gwen McCrae was the first to use the less stereotypical I‘m so sorry I was blind, probably because she rightly felt that boy was awkward. The Pet Shop Boys used that variant again in 1987 for the tenth anniversary of Presley’s death, in their now famous synth-pop cover—the same one that introduced me to this lovely song and got me walking all the way back to McCrae.

While the PSB are notorious for their fabulously interminable song titles such as I don’t know what you want but I can’t give it anymore or You only tell men you love me when you’re drunk, they were the first brave enough to trim the original lyrics of Always on my Mind from a clunky:

Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have

To a crisp:

Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should
Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could

Les Astres

A couple months ago, I discovered Montreal-based duo Gustafson and they significantly expanded my short list of uncomplicated love songs free of boy-meets-girl references. Adrien Bletton and Jean-Philippe Perras seem to be oblivious to gender warfare, or maybe they just have taste.

Here is a rustic version of the album they dropped in April. Les Astres is my favorite, you will find it at 00:17:36.

Si nous sommes
Des astres
Alors j’ai pleuré
Entre deux astres