Ah, Valentine’s Day. Something about a rebellious priest from Rome in the third century AD arranging forbidden marriages for soldiers, who were banned from marrying because Emperor Claudius II felt that unmarried men made much better soldiers, or something, caught and sentenced to death on this very day back whenever it was, I’ve forgotten already. His was the first Valentine, as he’s said to have fallen madly in love with his jailer’s daughter, as you might in his circumstances, leaving her a love letter not-so imaginatively signed “from your Valentine” – as that was his name. Who knows, maybe this story is true. True or not, now we all, at some point, must be someone’s Valentine. It’s probably the law by now.
Are you feeling sick yet?
Hallmark Cards, never slow to spot an opening although perhaps a bit slow on this occasion, to be fair, produced their first in 1913. A century on, more than a billion Valentine’s Day cards are now sent all around the world, sealed with a kiss. Only Christmas sees us needing to send more and preferring to seal these with saliva and the adhesive-gum stuff provided instead. Love is indeed the drug. They’d have us all believe that all you need is love. And cardboard and paper and Christmas, obviously.
Oh, alright. Even though I think it’s a load of sentimental nonsense and unarguably the tackiest ‘holiday’ known to man, as well as many women, seeing as today is Valentine’s Day and as it’s fallen on a Friday it will be dragged out all weekend and there will be no escaping it, let’s do love songs. Fine.
That crazy little thing called love…
There have been some brilliant, charming love songs (Billy Joel’s ‘Just the Way You Are’, Nilsson’s ‘Without You’, The Platters’ ‘Only You’). There have also been some repulsive ones (I’ll let you name these or else I’ll be all night). Overplayed and selfishly exploited by Hollywood, covered again and again and again and again and again and again, with varying degrees of success (commercial success as well as the ability to make large numbers of people throw up on cue), music has thoughtfully given us a Love Rollercoaster, Train and a Boat. Boy, did we need these.
Often sickly-sweet, I can think of none sweeter than ‘Sugar, Sugar’ – our David’s favourite. (Just kidding, he hates it. He once chose Bob Dylan’s ‘To Ramona’ when asked by Little Nicky Horne for a favourite love song to play on his radio show, which was an excellent choice.)
For all the saccharine-sweet stuff that’s been poured slowly into our ears, like a form of sugary torture, there’s something so pure and lovely in Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1984. Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ is one that a great many couples – well, those that don’t want to show off to the world on YouTube by body-popping to something that most of their friends and family find awkward and completely inappropriate – still choose as their wedding dance (Take my hand, take my whole life too). Who doesn’t smile like a proud parent at the opening line of Slade’s ‘Coz I Love You’ (I won’t laugh at you when you boo-hoo-hoo, ’cause I love you)? Just what is the matter with some people? Young love…
And to bring it back ’round to Bob Dylan, as I am adept at ensuring most things come back to him eventually, even if kids today think his words are Adele’s, the man sure can pen a good love song (I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue, I’d go crawling down the avenue, There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do To make you feel my love).
Best love story in a song? Bob Dylan wins again with
‘Tangled Up In Blue’, perhaps.
Best version of ‘Unchained Melody’? Has to be a toss-up between the Righteous Brothers and Sam Cooke. I can’t decide.
Maybe you don’t care because you’re sticking with the J. Geils Band in thinking ‘Love Stinks’. Tell me. I care.
Let’s have some silly love songs. The best and the worst, with beautiful lines that warm your heart or gooey ones that make you retch. Feel free to share the demeaning and downright condescending along with the exquisitely and achingly beautiful.
In a final celebration of Valentine’s Day, with love in the air and all around, here’s a list of Billboard’s Top 50 ‘Love’ Songs of All-Time. That’s songs with the word ‘love’ in the title, should the lyrics not make it clear enough that it’s meant to be a love song (and with today’s so-called ‘love songs’ I find I do often need this clue). The list covers seven decades of Hot 100 history, and the rankings are based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart. Enjoy. You probably won’t enjoy more than half-a-dozen, and even then only those from the first three decades, but please know that I tried.
For extra points and a welcome distraction from accidentally listening to any of the later songs featured in this list, perhaps you noticed: how many love songs did I reference in this post? Really, please tell me, I wasn’t keeping count and I was trying to be clever.
Have a good weekend, everyone. I love you all. Love me do.