I first saw Richard Butler in 1984
with his other band, the Psychedelic Furs. I had heard his music,
long before ' 84.
Initially it was the music that I was drawn to, but I then became engrossed by the lyrics. The lyrics changed throughout the years from a fairly abstract form to a more symbolic form - but always there remained recurring themes.
Butlerís best lyrics are a mixture of seediness, angst, glamour, darkness, sarcasm, sensitivity, cynicism, and awareness that combine at times to provide a very heady mix of thought provoking visions which are often disturbingly close to the bone. Butler uses his word play to paint pictures which constantly change from mood to mood - from one listen to next. If you have a listen to "Love My Way" (the tune you are hearing now!) you'll be sucked in by its melody.
LOVE MY WAY
There's an army on the dance floor
It's a fashion with a gun, my love
In a room without a door
A kiss is not enough
Love my way
It's a new road
I follow where my mind goes
They'll put us on a railroad
They'll dearly make us pay
For laughing in their faces
And making it our way
There's emptiness behind their eyes
And dust in all their hearts
They just want to steal us all
And take us all apart
Love my way
It's a new road
I follow where my mind goes
So swallow all your tears, my
And put on your new face
You can never win or lose
If you don't run the race
Richard Butler to me never seemed young. I have envied Butler's droning ennui passionately, but I never thought I shared it. Butler's harsh, mocking laughter requires a different throat. Even now, I don't feel that I've caught up to it. I'm almost as old as he is, but nowhere near old enough to have his vision or wisdom.
Perhaps never seeming young is the unavoidable price of aging gracefully.
Butler has, I think, a unique capacity to invest emotional nuance into words that in other singers' songs might be no-ops. There are two quintessential examples. At the ends of the lines of the chorus, where an ad-lib for this song form would probably have you insert a woman's name, repeated, to hold the chorus together, Butler instead sings the "and it" that joins one "Hurts when I..." to the next. I hear an incredible number of things in this tiny conjunction, from constant surprise that there's another pain, to an awareness that another pain is better than emptiness, to a hopeful conviction, each time another "and it" hangs for a moment suspended, that a new clause means a new sensation, and perhaps this one won't be pain. Orson Scott Card once explained his propensity for beginning sentences with "and" and "but" by observing that the Book of Mormon does it quite a bit, and reasoning that he must have absorbed this style during his upbringing and come to associate these connections of ideas with the expression of truths. That can't be where I got it from, though, so I believe there must be something more universal to it, that they aren't the fingerprint of a single search for truth, they are the signs (or perhaps even the tools) of the search for truth itself. Purposeful language proceeds by association and syllogism the way a climber moves from grip to grip, and the effort marks you as surely as the climber's passion is evidenced in the contours of their calf muscles.
The other word that nobody sings quite like Butler is "Yeah". In pop "yeah" is often used as a nonsense syllable, but there's a linguistics dissertation to be written, if it hasn't already been done, about the difference between "yeah" and "yes", and Butler's rendition of "yeah" would merit a chapter to itself. "Yes" accepts, "yeah" only acknowledges. "Yes" says that things are proceeding as expected, and "yeah" confirms that they are not (taking the function, sometimes, of the French "si", yes when the expected answer is no). "Yeah" admits irony and sarcasm. This might be generational, but "yeah", because of its informality, also seems to me to be harder to fake; "yes" is something you say, "yeah" is something you feel, and it's easier to say something you don't mean than it is to feel it. When the Beatles sing "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah", the "yeah"s are part of the social self-image they shared with (and described for) their audience. When Richard Butler sings "yeah, yeah, yeah", it is the abstract of a minor eternity of inner turmoil.
Having Richard Butler in your band
is like having an insurance policy. His sneering vocals, coarsened
by many chain-smoking years, assures
that every record he's on has redeeming quality.
Even on the best tracks that any band Richard Butler is associated with, your attention is ultimately drawn back to The Voice and the lyrics above the music, which stands out like a colossus among midgets. Richard Butler is my favorite of all time. His songs are echoey walls of sound that takes on lifes of their own. Richard Butler's hoarse sneer and mocking portrayal of messed-up characters provides the perfect vocal complement to that flying, swirling sound his bands are associated with. Arguably, he and the Clash are the most influential and adored acts to have emerged out of the UK since Pete Townshend and the Who.
The two most essential links to
Richard Butler on the web are burned
down days and
Please give them a look! Or you can for more information or return to my homepage .
goes out to Paul for allowing me to share a scan of Richard. Kudos to Paul.