It’s that time again.
Decades help us mark the time, draw arbitrary lines around styles and changes in our world. Sometimes my memories of “The 80s” are actually from 1992. Sometimes that great 30s pop art I love is from the 20s.
We claim 10 years as something tangible, but can we really understand it? At age 20 it’s half of our lives! At age 30 it’s just the upwardly mobile portion. So when do we understand? 40? 50? Do ten years ever make sense as a discreet, disposable unit the way one, or two, or five do?
I don’t know, and I’ll have to decide in August when this endeavor hits its own decade mark.
By then I’ll have celebrated dozens of other tiny deca-birthdays, as my early songs are all reaching that milestone. I’ve let most of them slip by unnoticed, or unmarked, or just by playing the song once or twice.
“Crashing” marked the beginning of my “modern” era of songwriting, so I marked that one with a recording.
Today marks something else. “Under My Skin.” God, I cannot even believe I am typing this, but I wrote it ten years ago. And, I never stop playing “Under My Skin.” For the first time, this is a song I’ve been living with – regularly, non-stop – for a decade.
So, there’s my measure. This tune took me from 18 having my first kiss to 28 and about to celebrate my first wedding anniversary. 18 and unsure of what life held in store to 28 surer than ever of what I want from it. 18 and barely able to carry a tune to 28 and confidently holding the stage on my own in two gigs in a single weekend.
But, I can tell you all about that this summer. The blog covers that. What does the song cover?
Here’s what I had to say about it in an interview from ten years ago:
I just completed sociology class and my professor was old … not very old, but he was old and he was very distinguished. He had wrinkles, not age wrinkles, but wrinkles like tree rings. The first day of class I was just staring at him while he was telling us about his life and I was thinking: “all of that is just there.” His life was in his flesh, under his skin, all of his experiences have been witnessed by that skin. That’s where that first line came from. Of course, the rest of the song has nothing to do with sociology class, though I wrote a good deal of it in that class. The little black dress stinks of sin because it represents sin; in movies and in cartoons and books and whatever the woman wearing the little black dress has willingly become the temptress. She has willingly put herself in the position to be lusted after and to have power over the men who are staring at her. Is that sinful? Not inherently, but if she has those motives it is. That’s where the second line comes from, and I think I have a really weak chin, so that’s the whole first verse. The rest of the song just follows from there.”
Legends in the flesh right here, under my skin.
How we contain our entire history subdermally, down to our bones. Do we? In “Regenerate” I like to pretend that my cells change away from those old feelings, but the history remains, like tree rings.
You in that little black dress; it stinks of sin.
The little black dress as a symbol. Semiotic for sexuality, for a hint of transgressiveness.
And where am I standing now with this weakest chin? Right next to where we begin.
At the time I thought I was weak in profile. Strong directly. Strong on the attack. But weak from any other angle. In my mind it defined me and my many limitations – one of those negative traits only we can see. So, in a moment of great boldness, how ironic to have that chin representing me. How ironic that the finally attractive me is still the me that bears that same face. (I guess I expected it to change?)
I said good-bye to you once or twice when I didn’t really really mean it, and I said “I like you very much,” but i meant something else. I once lived a solitary existence resisting advances. I’d say that it wasn’t the best thing. It wasn’t the best thing.
We’re leaving words hanging in our heads – hanging like unstylish clothes. And i’ve said all that I have to say with these lips and other things. You can just walk away, ’cause I’ll remember a moment or two we shared. I think you will remember them too. I know you’ll remember them too.
Legends of this flesh right here under my skin, where they’ve laid for years. You in that little black dress that stinks of sin or all my other fears. And where am I standing now with this weakest chin? Right next to where we begin…
…and I don’t think that we should exchange this information, these feelings rearrange my whole life with just a kiss, and I don’t think that I miss you anymore? No, no, I don’t miss you anymore, I’m not allowed to, I couldn’t, I shouldn’t, I wouldn’t ever really want to stay away from anything you had to say.
And I’ve got you. I’ve got you under my skin.