Nobody but you

Posted Fri 18 Mar
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Editor’s note: This is redacted from a much, much longer piece. That post got overly long, in that it analysed four songs, line by line, and disappeared up its own arse with way too many references to different political, philsophical and theological dotrines. So it has been stripped back. Yeah, yeah, I know.

There have been many landmark records over the years, but for this post, I am only going to consider that oft-imitated, oft-derided, oft-celebrated decade, the 80s. Overblown hair-metal, dandy fops, depressed teenagers wearing black, throw-away pop and the genesis of many a genre.

But did any of the output in that vacuous ten years mean anything? Were there albums covering the big themes, the reason of living, the why-are-we-here perennial questions asked by the thinkers of old? There were, quite a few, but one of them stands out in its intensity, in its total philosophical outlook, in its wise and deep insights into the human soul and condition.

‘Heaven on Earth’, by Belinda Carlisle.

Before you splutter over the original vinyl pressing of some awful Morrisey dirge or other, let me explain. Ms Carlisle’s output might seem to be overtly chessy feel-good throwaway pop, but there is a message in there, underneath it, a vibrant, feminist, libertarian message, with nods to Socratic methodology and inquiry.

It doesn’t make sense in one way to take each song in turn, in order, as there is something cleverer underneath that (I will leave that as an exercise for the reader, for I think I still have one left somewhere), but for sake of non-shuffle, I will do them in the original placing.

1. Heaven Is A Place On Earth

A theological opening, the grand statement of intent. Affirming a life-stance, an outlook, that two people against everything else can make everything seem…better. Seem right. I reach for you/and you bring me home. Drawing inwards, realising we aren’t alone, and we can be made whole in another. In this world we are just beginning/to understand the miracle of living. No arrogance, a wonder at who we are and where we have come from, but underpinning it all, the acceptance that it is love is love comes first then the result will be heaven is a place one earth. And now all these three remain, faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.

2. Circle In The Sand

After the, some might say, simplistic viewpoint of the opening track, which hides the fac that within it all the teachings of every major religion, we come to her reminding us that not only is life not easy, but we need each other in a deeper way than the joy of love. Something not quite so superficial. The bright sunshine of ‘Heaven on Earth’ becomes walking through the summer’s end. But although our love is all we need, and the ying/yang of I begin baby where you end, she knows she isn’t alone, but always on the edge of being reminded of her apparent position in society, with the final cry of can you hear me calling?

3. I Feel Free

So while on reading of ‘Circle in the Sand’ shows her possibility in the inferior position of the relationship (although it could be read from strength, but the ordering implies her journey through philosophy and theology, with the simplistic opening to a higher power, to the doubts over that, and indeed the balance inside the relationship) we have another affirmation. Yes, this is a cover version, but it fits the narrative at this point perfectly. A confident, all encompassing love, where I can walk down the street and there’s no one there/but the pavement is one huge crowd. Solid in her belief. But we have more to think of here, and looking back on the final refrain of the previous song, it now seems to be a search, looking for meaning in the world, and finding it somewhat in a religious experience. Mimicing the evolution of man, with the pure thrill in the primitive experience, the searching and seeking in the dark of childhood, and now the freedom only a true convert can feel. At this point, it is the description of her spiritual journey and awakening, a mystery feeling and how she is dealing with it.

4. Should I Let You In

Euphoria of the religious can, and mostly likely should, lead to some self-examination. Can you tell me/is it worth the risk anymore? A blatant cry for some validation, verification and vindication. The time, effort and portion of her very soul she has laid out, maybe now there are real doubts. There is still belief, in herself, but now, in growing up, it is a two-way relationship, and now she can see her tradiitonal role as inferior, but she knows she has a choice, and in the end, it has to be hers and hers alone.

5. World Without You

Most theological system of thought have been majorly influenced by their more aesthetic thinks, those who have removed themselves from worldly influences to ponder the nature of Man and God. But this denies that, and is a hymn to the world, but again, underpinned by the interaction with others. You know it would all be worthless/If you weren’t here with me. Almost anti-Platonic in tenor, and accepting of realities and hardships that could come, but still uplifting, darling if I had to/I would trade pleasure for pain, and in the end, completely anti-materialistic, I could have the world in my hands/but it wouldn’t mean a thing. The Eastern influence that has been creeping in from almost the beginning, despite her couching it in her own personal Western context, is gaining traction.

6. I Get Weak

Maturity, and her Bhuddistic stepping through the steps of meditiation, she has passed beyond adept. Letting her being move higher, ecstasy and enlightenment become mingled, I can’t speak when I look in your eyes. Not some submissive relationship, but as an equal, as that is the only way she could be eye to eye with her lover. A dangerous point in her spiritual life, as she has moved away from the pure love of light, into the loss of self in the here and now.

7. We Can Change

Given the dalliance of ‘I Get Weak’, the shift here is interesting, as there is the insight that things are now different, but no, nothing remains the same. This isn’t a Wittgenstein reversal, but a maturation. We can change the world/and make it better/but first we got to change together. Personal responsibility, no reliance on some central power. The roots of her almost Randian brand of libertarianism can be seen here, living all those years with our fears/and you wonder why. Questioning after the glow of physicality fades, there was a time when we had everything/we got to stop living in that dream. The time has come to put away childish things.

8. Fool For Love

With the first political awakenings comes the snap back to her original theological nature. I think overall, she is more a theological creature than a philosophically political one, despite the more overt nature of the next song. If not a frivolous reaction against her own questions, this is a reminder to herself of joy, perhaps even somewhat ironic. But still underneath the If I’m a fool for love/I don’t care is the inferrence that even so, she has still her own mind, a feministic streak despite her needing and wanting to be whole in the presence of a mutual lover.

9. Nobody Owns Me

This is the most blatant of her musings. A negation of all of Eastern esoteric philosophy, nobody own me is a bold statement of self, no journey to the negation of nirvana. Nobody owns me/nobody but you Now we have the switch. Laying out her individualistic tendancies, she reiterates she is also part of something more than herself. There is never an implication that she is alone, these lines are all in reference to others, and about her strength of mind, along with realising she is a social being. Here we can imagine she is reinforcing the value of the πόλις, all that entails, the self-reliance, the knowing that no person is an island, and we have to interact with others, but have to be afforded our own mind. In fact, this could almost be a speech as given by Περικλῆς on the eve of the Peloponnesian War. There is so much history and thought in this one song, we wonder what we have been hit with. There’s another side of me/that only you can see. A summation of all that has gone before, the initial flush of a new love, the doubts, the need, the want, the passion, but within that, the statement of self.

10. Love Never Dies

And we close with a companion piece to the opener, a mature musing on all she has considered up to now. A footnote to ‘Nobody Owns Me’, a day comes to end/and time moves on, but initial core of her belief, her belief in love conquering all, love lifting her to a higher plain, love as light and hope, has come along with her.

So maybe not quite the political take I initially thought, more a representation of mankind’s theology, from pre-historic times to the Desert Fathers with the nugget of all religions sewn in. Optimisitic yet realistic, grounded but non-materialistic, an hymnal example for everyone.

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