'He's Given Me Things'

Pretty self-explanatory
Poor Deportee
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'He's Given Me Things'

Postby Poor Deportee » Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:53 am

This song seems to be generating resistance, and I understand that - I felt it myself.

Its problems are twofold, to my ear. One is the middle-eight, the 'customer's wives' part that follows 'what I give to him.' Like too many of EC's middle-eights (Burnt Sugar has the same problem) it sounds melodically strained, as though he had a lyric and just forced a melody upon it. This amounts to about 30 seconds of awkwardness in these songs, and just seems to be a chronic limitation on EC's part we have to live with. The other problem is vocal. EC is not the greatest singer in the world, and sometimes runs into trouble with lyrics that require nimbleness and subtlety. On this recording, he at times yells where he should be quiet, and his timing is ungainly. This hurts the song because it creates a kind of unhelpful anxiety in the listener, where we keep wanting him to slow down, dial back. (The falsetto is most welcome, though!).

So much for reservations. What I want to say is that this a tremendous song. It awaits an interpreter who can fully realize its power. But it's nevertheless a piece of art with a depth and complexity that EC could not have attained in his younger years.

The character of the 'trophy wife' has often appeared in EC's songs. But her inner life has never been unveiled with such control, subtlety, and compassion - a compassion that is appropriately qualified by a cold-eyed understanding of its dark core.

You out there with one penny
You are so many, we are so few

There's the narrator's argument in a nutshell. She hungers to be one of the few, at the window of the glittering tower (where you can look up and see her, but not touch, for the 'thin' air is not for you - and note the ambiguity in 'thin,' hinting at the hollowness that shadows the song). She loves the power to 'dismiss' her servants 'on a whim;' to know how to make an entrance and to exit amidst the impressed courtiers and socialites; and if the price is a loveless marriage to a patronising husband ('he calls me child, but it works that way')...well, the transaction is worth it:

Now I know why I come back to him, and...why you'll never do.

Her former lover, the song's addressee, is condemned to charm 'the customer's wives' - I guess he works in retail - and to inhabit a world where 'hopes are dashed, and trash is praised.' And despite a cutting remark here and there, it is quite clear that she knows she has traded love for money and its power:

To think you were exciting
When love was frightening!
But I was so young...

Hard not to hear the note of worldly regret here. The secret to reconciling with this truth is this:

He has an awful lot of money
The past can be bought and then erased.

The song is the goodbye of the trophy wife to the man she loved. Or loves. She will give herself over to the glittering world and let it dissolve the memory of what went before. That she condescends to tell him this is, in a sense, itself a testament to her love; that she does it so coldly - her regrets only implicit - a sign of the degree to which she has already been fully claimed by her new life.

Were I a compulsive pattern-seeker, I might point out that the speaker could be the bride described in 'When I Was Cruel No. 2.' But that's not the point. Instead, it's that EC has made the Trophy Wife a real, breathing person, with a difficult inner world, with competing desires she has struggled to reconcile. The portrait is laced with small tragedies - the cost she has paid; the cost her poor former lover, whose heartbreak or anger we can only infer, continues to pay; and above all, the injustice of a world of haves and have-notes, where the privileged inhabit rarified air, and where access to that privilege can involve betraying the best parts of yourself. The early EC might have sneered at her. The mature EC, himself inhabiting a world of million-dollar condos in Manhattan and Vancouver, with expensive art on the walls and moving among celebrities, writes from within that world, while retaining his critical eye. Who can truly blame her for not wanting to stay 'where hopes are dashed?' Not tis EC. Instead he lays out the awful truth, with all its fearsome ambiguities.

Stay with the song. It will repay you.
When man has destroyed what he thinks he owns
I hope no living thing cries over his bones

Hawksmoor
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby Hawksmoor » Thu Oct 25, 2018 11:03 am

Wonderful analysis of the song. Thank-you.

Neil.
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby Neil. » Thu Oct 25, 2018 7:30 pm

Fab review, thanks!

This song is growing on me, defo. I agree it's a fabulous portrait of someone who's made a pragmatic decision and gone with her head, not her heart, but genuinely believes she's done the right thing and has slammed the door on her previous lover for good. Such a great lyric, and the vocal, playing, arrangement and production are gripping.

However, I think it's a shame that Elvis sticks with the same melody over and over, apart from a brief detour (which I don't find strained, by the way - Elvis's middle eights are almost always terrific!). I kind of yearn for a little variety in the melody toward the end, even though all the elements I've mentioned help to cloak the repeated melody in fabulousness.

But that chilling ending is so superb. I feel for the guy she's left behind, but weirdly respect her honesty - she has one life, and she has to live it the way she wants.

I don't think Elvis should give up on this PFM show. Yes, mainstream Broadway might balk at the seriousness, but opera companies might be more than willing to take it on. A low-budget production paying enough for a great band, some great singers and some subtle lighting - it could be great.

FAVEHOUR
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby FAVEHOUR » Thu Oct 25, 2018 11:45 pm

Agree that it will be a damn shame if the new tunes written for the PFM musical don’t all surface. The three featured on the new album are excellent.

I think the person to whom He’s Given Me Things is sung is a portrait painter. I think the musical was going to be about the artist who painted the portrait in the title track of PFM, and his doomed love for the woman he painted. I think the customers’ wives are the women he paints on commission from their rich husbands. In this song, she’s breaking it off, and trying to justify her choice.

Dave

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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Oct 26, 2018 11:10 am

Insightful in an engaged manner equal to the lyric and melody you nimbly pin to the page. I expected no less. EC should have legions of such listeners.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

Poor Deportee
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby Poor Deportee » Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:37 am

Jack of All Parades wrote:Insightful in an engaged manner equal to the lyric and melody you nimbly pin to the page. I expected no less. EC should have legions of such listeners.


Ha! Why, thank you, Jack. High praise indeed from one of the most insightful and engaged EC listeners around! :wink:

FAVEHOUR, you may well be right that the spurned lover is a portrait painter. However, there seems to be no straightforward reason to infer that from within the lyric itself. That's to say, as far as I can see, his occupation is not central to the meaning of the song; what matters is that he occupies a world of dashed hopes 'where trash is praised.' To my mind anyway, this is a universal dilemma - the dilemma of the strivers and the workers of all occupations who struggle to make ends meet and find dignity amidst the degradations of capitalism - and pinning it down to a single, specific story doesn't add anything to the song's impact.
When man has destroyed what he thinks he owns

I hope no living thing cries over his bones

FAVEHOUR
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby FAVEHOUR » Sat Oct 27, 2018 12:24 pm

Poor Deportee wrote:
Jack of All Parades wrote:Insightful in an engaged manner equal to the lyric and melody you nimbly pin to the page. I expected no less. EC should have legions of such listeners.


Ha! Why, thank you, Jack. High praise indeed from one of the most insightful and engaged EC listeners around! :wink:

FAVEHOUR, you may well be right that the spurned lover is a portrait painter. However, there seems to be no straightforward reason to infer that from within the lyric itself. That's to say, as far as I can see, his occupation is not central to the meaning of the song; what matters is that he occupies a world of dashed hopes 'where trash is praised.' To my mind anyway, this is a universal dilemma - the dilemma of the strivers and the workers of all occupations who struggle to make ends meet and find dignity amidst the degradations of capitalism - and pinning it down to a single, specific story doesn't add anything to the song's impact.


Well, the lyrics about covering the canvas and washing the (paint) off your hands in the bowl in the hallway are pretty specific, don't you think?

I wasn't making any grand point about adding to the song's impact. Just putting some context in from those lines that help relate it to the overall arc of how the musical might have been structured.

Dave

Poor Deportee
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby Poor Deportee » Sat Oct 27, 2018 12:53 pm

FAVEHOUR wrote:
Poor Deportee wrote:
Jack of All Parades wrote:Insightful in an engaged manner equal to the lyric and melody you nimbly pin to the page. I expected no less. EC should have legions of such listeners.


Ha! Why, thank you, Jack. High praise indeed from one of the most insightful and engaged EC listeners around! :wink:

FAVEHOUR, you may well be right that the spurned lover is a portrait painter. However, there seems to be no straightforward reason to infer that from within the lyric itself. That's to say, as far as I can see, his occupation is not central to the meaning of the song; what matters is that he occupies a world of dashed hopes 'where trash is praised.' To my mind anyway, this is a universal dilemma - the dilemma of the strivers and the workers of all occupations who struggle to make ends meet and find dignity amidst the degradations of capitalism - and pinning it down to a single, specific story doesn't add anything to the song's impact.


Well, the lyrics about covering the canvas and washing the (paint) off your hands in the bowl in the hallway are pretty specific, don't you think?

Dave


True! Good point.
When man has destroyed what he thinks he owns

I hope no living thing cries over his bones

InvisibleMan
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby InvisibleMan » Sat Oct 27, 2018 5:57 pm

Thanks for helping me understanding the lyrics, Deportee. Looks like I didn't understand what was going on at all.

I was rather hating the song, I find it heavy and anguishing - lacking a strong melody, sounding more like an exhausting litany.
But it's a very intense and admirable piece of songwriting. I think it's finally convincing me, as the overall album - although, yes, I'm annoyed by a lot of things.

Anyway, I also don't find strained the bridge of He's Given Me Things.
io strombazzo!

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bronxapostle
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby bronxapostle » Sun Oct 28, 2018 7:02 am

:D :D haha yeah, who are all these music students and or critics here admonishing Elvis for his "middle eights?" I call it "the bridge" and it's what makes all good pop songs GREAT!!...the escape and return to the songs melody. :twisted:

Poor Deportee
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby Poor Deportee » Sun Oct 28, 2018 11:25 am

A music student I ain't! However, consider this: https://petercrosbie.net/2016/08/24/why ... -a-bridge/ That said, EC clearly uses the term 'bridge' for middle-eight on 'Flutter and Wow' (yelling 'to the bridge!' apparently spontaneously).

I've concluded that what put me off about this particular (ahem) middle-eight its opening couplet, which sounds more like a yelled version of the verse than the variation it's supposed to be. Anyhow, it's a minor issue, as I am obviously a serious fan of this dark and complex song.
When man has destroyed what he thinks he owns

I hope no living thing cries over his bones

bronxapostle
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby bronxapostle » Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:05 pm

Poor Deportee wrote:A music student I ain't! However, consider this: https://petercrosbie.net/2016/08/24/why ... -a-bridge/ That said, EC clearly uses the term 'bridge' for middle-eight on 'Flutter and Wow' (yelling 'to the bridge!' apparently spontaneously).

I've concluded that what put me off about this particular (ahem) middle-eight its opening couplet, which sounds more like a yelled version of the verse than the variation it's supposed to be. Anyhow, it's a minor issue, as I am obviously a serious fan of this dark and complex song.


That is my main point here..enjoy the song as a whole, rather than thinking too hard on it. Yes, i like deciphering bits in small portions. However, i rather just let the song wash over me...sometimes very differently and inexplicably too as the years pass. Best regards poor deportee, i surely did not mean any offense towards you AND I KNOW YOU TOOK NONE EITHER. benny

FAVEHOUR
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby FAVEHOUR » Sun Oct 28, 2018 4:09 pm

"Take it to the bridge, she sighs..."

Poor Deportee
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby Poor Deportee » Sun Oct 28, 2018 10:40 pm

It occured to me listening again tonight while walking my basset hound that her spurned lover might not be just a starving artist, but an artist who is painting either her portrait or a portrait of her and her new beau. Hence the command to 'cover the canvass...and never come back.'

If this is right, then the lover's situation is even more harrowing than I first thought. Excruciating.
When man has destroyed what he thinks he owns

I hope no living thing cries over his bones

FAVEHOUR
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby FAVEHOUR » Sun Oct 28, 2018 11:40 pm

Poor Deportee wrote:It occured to me listening again tonight while walking my basset hound that her spurned lover might not be just a starving artist, but an artist who is painting either her portrait or a portrait of her and her new beau. Hence the command to 'cover the canvass...and never come back.'

If this is right, then the lover's situation is even more harrowing than I first thought. Excruciating.


That's what I was describing in my post. He painted the portrait of her that is the subject of the song "Painted From Memory."

sheeptotheslaughter
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby sheeptotheslaughter » Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:31 am

There is a school of thought that sometimes if you ask Elvis to sing a song at a gig you are going to he will perform it. I asked for Shot with his own gun before one of the palladium shows and he performed it. Myself and VG looked at each other from across the hall in 'wow maybe he does read it'

Anyway back to he's given me things. This one and Dishonour the stars are the two it took me a little while to fall in love with but I found putting them on shuffle helped in the fact that I didn't know when they were coming and now I love them.


Anyway as others have said Elvis if you are reading this Look Now in my opinion is one of the greatest albums you have ever made. It is a rich stream of Elvis songs all the 'Face in the crowd' songs performed a few years back sounded great too.

Neil.
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby Neil. » Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:03 am

Yep, and if Elvis does read this - thank you for all your wonderful songs, and please don't give up on the PFM show! It sounds like a moody classic. Places like The Crucible, Sheffield or the Chichester Festival Theatre (artistic director Daniel Evans who often supports new musicals) might take it, or one of the opera companies like Opera North or Scottish Opera. Aria Entertainment produced 'Some Lovers' and 'Promises, Promises' by Burt: http://aria-entertainment.com/about/ - so they have a track record of doing work by Burt.

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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby InvisibleMan » Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:48 am

sheeptotheslaughter wrote:There is a school of thought that sometimes if you ask Elvis to sing a song at a gig you are going to he will perform it. I asked for Shot with his own gun before one of the palladium shows and he performed it. Myself and VG looked at each other from across the hall in 'wow maybe he does read it'


"I asked Streisand's Woman In Love, but strangely he didn't perform it"

(because I had a dream in which he was performing it on stage)
io strombazzo!

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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby sulky lad » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:20 am

Neil wrote
Yep, and if Elvis does read this - thank you for all your wonderful songs, and please don't give up on the PFM show! It sounds like a moody classic. Places like The Crucible, Sheffield or the Chichester Festival Theatre (artistic director Daniel Evans who often supports new musicals) might take it, or one of the opera companies like Opera North or Scottish Opera. Aria Entertainment produced 'Some Lovers' and 'Promises, Promises' by Burt: http://aria-entertainment.com/about/ - so they have a track record of doing work by Burt.


You forgot the plea for a role in the band or chorus for us, mate - I'd practise like crazy for a chance to perform these classics !

Neil.
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Re: 'He's Given Me Things'

Postby Neil. » Mon Oct 29, 2018 11:00 am

sulky lad wrote:You forgot the plea for a role in the band or chorus for us, mate - I'd practise like crazy for a chance to perform these classics !


Chuckle - I'm sure we'd sound great doing finger clicks and backing for 'In the Darkest Place': "Try ta find ano-ther lo-ver...!" with our voices of angels.


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