Friday, April 23, 2010

The Postal Service, "Grow Old With Me"

Song: "Grow Old With Me"
Artist: The Postal Service
Album: Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign To Save Darfur
Written by: John Lennon
Year: 2007
Key: Em
Classification: SF2
Lyrical content: let's love each other for as long (or as little) as we have left; vow, interrupted
Where used: verse

Since I started maintaining a year-by-year list of the songs I've been able to identify as using the SFCP in some capacity, a few folks have noticed what seems to be an increase in its popularity in the last few years. I certainly hope so, as that was somewhat at the core of the article that started this mess at the end of 2008. If you're looking for a song emblematic of the sense that the SFCP has been on the rise, you could do a whole lot worse than the Postal Service's "Grow Old With Me."

The reason for that is simple: the song's a cover, and there was no SFCP in John Lennon's version. There didn't need to be. It was already almost unbearably heartbreaking in its original incarnation, which came out in 1984. It wasn't even that Lennon's murder three years earlier altered our perception of the song; outside of his inner circle, there wasn't one single person who wasn't painfully aware from the very first time they ever heard it that the sweet invitation and implicit promise that he was offering to his beloved could never be realized. When it was recorded, the song was a celebration; by the time it reached the public, it was a sad fantasy.

All of that happened without the SFCP. But that was during the early 1980s. By the time the Postal Service took their turn at it in 2007, it was in the thick of a veritable SFCP boom. Whether Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello had that in mind or not, the fact remains that their recording altered the verses to revolve around a SFCP absent in the original, and they did it at a time when the progression was beginning to pick up substantial steam. (If inserting a ubiquitous chord progression into a song written without it isn't reflective of prevailing musical trends, then we are working off of different definitions of "trend.") The resultant version was moody and ominous where Lennon's was warm and open. It's not clear that Lennon himself would have agreed with the darkness that the Postal Service gave to his song, but then, it had already been irrevocably, fundamentally altered before it ever saw the light of day.

Full song: The Postal Service, "Grow Old With Me"
Listen to the SFCP clip for this song

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