Say You Won’t

You have these memories — of being sixteen, of the music that was playing, of the magic of the music — and at forty-two that sixteen-year-old is still inside, looking out at you in the mirror with increasing dismay, whispering, “You were much, much cooler when you were me.”

So you try to find doors to let the sixteen-year-old out again; you try to recapture the wonder of those days. Little things — losing weight, tightening up the muscles, digging out old books and old music and finding out that some of them weren’t too bad and that others demonstrate only that you had pretty low standards before you got so damned picky.

Some things have held up so well. Tolkein — you were pretty smart for making the annual trek through The Lord of the Rings. Aerosmith. Mmm. Definitely Aerosmith. Weird guys, smart music. And Fleetwood Mac. Damn. They were so good for so long. Rumors was magic and that magic hasn’t dimmed. Tusk — amazing.

So, standing in the aisle, you are twiddling between the Best Of and an honest-to-God new Fleetwood Mac album, Say You Will, and the sixteen-year-old says “Get the Best Of; we know those” and the forty-two-year-old says, “Arrowsmith has grown and sharpened and repeatedly blown you away, maybe Fleetwood Mac has done the same.”

And the forty-two-year-old owns the checking account. So you go home with Say You Will.

And dreams die, and the sixteen-year-old shudders and hides and whimpers, “Promise me this isn’t what it means to get old.”

Tired, tired, tired. Say You Will is endless Stevie Nicks whinges done with her stunning* half-octave range, with tedious, arrhythmic non-rhyming lyrics and the same tune for every single song. There is a difference between introspection and navel lint-picking, and there isn’t a single Nicks-penned track that rises above the latter. She sounds like she’s doing a bad parody of herself. Interspersed between this lo-o-o-o-ong stretch of autobiographical hell is a bit of Lindesy Buckingham seventies politicking, with the serial numbers rubbed of to make it seem contemporary — but it doesn’t. And a couple of Buckingham songs that struggle to break free of the tedium, and almost get there. Steal Your Heart Away and Bleed to Love Her weren’t bad, but this is Fleetwood Mac, goddammit, and the inner sixteen-year-old and I, we’re looking for something better here than “not bad.” We wanted the next “Landslide,” “Tusk,” every track on the “Rumors” album. Hell, any track on the “Rumors” album. We wanted, and we did not get. And where the hell is Christine McVie? Fleetwood Mac clearly is not the same without her.

So … when you’re standing in the music aisles looking at old Mac and new Mac with a hunger for a taste of what was, this stands as testament to disappointment and a sad little warning from one (or two) who wanted to love. When you get to Say You Will, say you won’t.

*(stunning (STUN-ing) — Sensation of being repeatedly whacked between the eyes with a meat mallet.)

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

10 comments… add one
  • David Camfield Apr 22, 2003 @ 12:10

    I’ve been away from hollylisle.com for a while. Thank the recession and an impending layoff for that. I’m scrambling to replace my income. That sixteen-year-old you mentioned? Thank the gods he’s still around and has the sway to convince me that maybe, just maybe, I can make a go of it now as a freelancer. Some dreams die hard, and others lurk in the shadows waiting for the right time. We can only be certain of this one shot at living, and each moment that passes wasted is another moment that sixteen-year-old watches helplessly in disbelief.

    I can relate, Holly: I think I’m younger than the calendar testifies, and that sixteen-year-old points an accusing finger at the imposter in the mirror almost every day. Didn’t I enjoy sex and cigarettes in the dugout behind school just yesterday? Cutting third-period physics, I think. Now I’m fortunate if the lights are left on and there’s a shot of Yukon anywhere to be found.

    Fleetwood Mac was one touchstone–note the past tense? Few groups have the staying power mass appeal suggests, even Aerosmith, who started to decline about the time Liv Tyler appeared on the Hollywood scene…correlation? I mean, if I want a ballad to sway to, holding hands during a couples’ skate, that’s what Journey and Styx are for. Pink Floyd, Rush, The Steve Miller Band, Jethro Tull, Yes, Zeppelin…okay, MAYBE the Stones; I don’t think it’s nostalgia. There is little talent today that could hold a candle to what passion for the music forged in the legends then.

    But we can only lament the past for so long. Our best bet is to influence the future by our actions in the present. It’s all about causality. That sixteen-year-old in me is still alive and kicking…oooo! Can we toss Simple Minds into the mix? A different decade, I know, but they were some of the better Irish produce. Don’t start with the "What about U2?". I still don’t think they’ve found what they’re looking for. My inner teen still views the world as an amazing place of possibilities and not as a place filled with weak-minded hate and greed. If I have to listen to anyone, I choose to listen to him and not CNN.

    Thanks for the time trip, Holly.

  • Jean Apr 21, 2003 @ 7:43

    Sixteen was never really my year. In many ways, I’m much happier to be 42. I almost bought the new Fleetwood Mac this weekend, but after your commentary, I think I’ll stay with Best of. (Rumours–52 weeks at number one–That was the good part of the late 70s!)

  • Jean Apr 21, 2003 @ 7:42

    Sixteen was never really my year. In many ways, I’m much happier to be 42. I almost bought the new Fleetwood Mac this weekend, but after your commentary, I think I’ll stay with Best of. (Rumours–52 weeks at number one–That was the good part of the late 70s!)

  • Jaye Patrick Apr 21, 2003 @ 1:57

    I read all that with a sigh. Yeah, my nearly forty-year-old body remembers. But… now I can buy all those X-men comics I was denied when I was younger. I can date whomever I want, stay up late, drink myself stupid, listen to all that fabulous music, up loud and not be told to ‘turn that awful noise down’. Heh, heh. My sixteen year old self is finally free, and she aint about to retreat; she holds her new treasures to herself, and I love it. (Never really did like Fleetwood Mac, heathen that I am!)

  • Alison Apr 20, 2003 @ 23:05

    Since 16 was the Year from Hell for me, I can’t say I miss the experience of living it at all. At the same time, something I do miss from around that time was the spirit of experiment in my writing. I hadn’t worked out what I wanted to say, but on the way to working it out I was picking up literary effects from here there and everywhere and trying them out. A lot of the YA literature from around then was pushing the boundaries both in form and subject matter. I do miss that sense of exploration.

  • Katherine Apr 19, 2003 @ 22:33

    Ugh. Thanks for the warning. When I’m tempted to go buy Say You Will, it sounds like I should stay home and listen to The Dance again instead. (If you haven’t heard it, that’s the live reunion CD. Which also has "Bleed to Love Her" and some of the other new stuff. And Christine McVie.)

  • Michael AKA Highnside Apr 19, 2003 @ 16:17

    Holly… Thanks for sharing that. I’, not forty-something I’m fifty. But I’ve battled those same kind offeelings for several years now.

    Wonderful commentary that I can really associate with. God, those feelings just jump off the page! Have you ever though of writing for a living? 🙂

  • Sheila Apr 19, 2003 @ 11:30

    I think of sixteen, I think of disco, wrap around skirts, velvet platform shoes and everything I did to avoid them. Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin were my saviors.

    "You were much, much cooler when you were me."

    My inner sixteen year old self just wants to know where is the black Camaro and the house on the beach, where did all these kids come from, and why aren’t we aren’t living in sin with Robert Plant?

  • Peggy Kurilla Apr 19, 2003 @ 8:34

    Blame it on the recording industry. I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. Given the logistics involved and the iron-fisted grip the labels have over distribution of the music, there is absolutely NO incentive for an artist to include their best work on one album. Most times, you’ll get one song that’s pretty darn good, one song that’s okay, and the rest… well.

    This is why I’ve made it a rule only to buy soundtracks to films that I like (though even those are becoming corrupted by "music inspired by" as opposed to "music from") and "Best of" collections. I think my money is better spent that way, and by buying only the best songs an artist has produced (mostly; no "best of" collection is free of stinkers) I hope to make my small point to the recording industry that I want good music, dammit.

    Sigh. End of rant.

    (And just a note–I think it’s Aerosmith, if you’re talking about Steve Tyler’s group. If you’re not, please let me know what some of Arrowsmith’s music was so I can check it out.)

    Nope, it was Aerosmith. Correction made, and thanks. — Holly

  • Jim Woosley Apr 19, 2003 @ 7:44

    Beautifully expressed. I love your way with words…

    It’s worth noting that that inner sixteen-year-old also houses a continuing belief in your invulnerability, often at odds with what your 40-odd year old body (much less your doctors) is telling you. An unsullied optimism that the world is your oyster. A conviction that favored politicians are the knights on white stallions saving the world from the ravages of evil creatures everywhere, but particulary from disfavored politicians in black hats on black stallions. (Now, those stallions, white and black both, can’t jump that wall of cynicism that has built up in your mind; they come to a stop, and their riders slide off into a pile of sullied, dirty grays.)

    I’m sorry to say that your Rumors have reached me. As I already have that "best of" album you mentioned…

    Speaking of which, how many of the "best of" albums today contain songs you’ve never even heard of. I guess that the "standards" have been repeated so many times on so many "best of" and anthology albums… I have one "best of" Album for Abba that included a number of songs I don’t remember — and that, having played it through once, I don’t particularly care to hear again.

    Fortunately the Police "Best of" that includes featured tracks from "Roxanne" and "Synchronicity" that are mostly great songs, well done. "The King of Pain" remains unsurpassed, both in lyrics and the breathless changes in the pace of the music, in meeting their objective of conveying Jung.

    And of course, I am always…
    "…hypnotized by you if I should linger…."

    Good morning.

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