Coffee is one of life's simple pleasures. Love? Well, it's a pleasure, to be sure, but it does have a tendency to get complicated. Today's roundup of coffee tunes looks at what happens when love and coffee collide (especially when the coffee's right and the love's gone wrong).
Squeeze: "Black Coffee in Bed" (From "Sweets From a Stranger")
Produced by Elvis Costello and featuring backing vocals from Costello and the late Paul Young, "Black Coffee" was a bright spot on an album that was musically and lyrically darker than anything the band had done up to that point. Well, "bright spot" might be overstating matters a bit, since the song deals with the aftermath of a breakup:
There's a stain on my notebook where your coffee cup was And there's ash in the pages now I've got myself lost I was writing to tell you that my feelings tonight Are a stain on my notebook that rings your goodbyeOh, now she's gone and I'm back on the beat A stain on my notebook says nothing to me Oh, now she's gone and I'm out with a friend With lips full of passion and coffee in bedCarly Simon: "You're So Vain" (From "No Secrets")
This Mona Lisa of a tune is far and away Simon's best-known song. Ironically for the leadoff single from an album called "No Secrets," the song's subject remains a mystery four decades later, sparking speculation and arguments. Warren Beatty thought this song was about him, and thanked Simon for it years later. Mick Jagger, Cat Stevens, David Geffen (himself the subject of Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris"), David Bowie, Nick Nolte and David Cassidy have all been floated as possibilities. Simon herself has only added to the speculation. While she was quick to say the song was not about James Taylor, she's given hints over the years (including that the subject was a composite, unless it wasn't), jokingly said that the song was about Mark Felt (a.k.a. Deep Throat), and reportedly revealed the person's name to Taylor Swift and Dick Ebersol.
While we may never know the true identity of the man, or men, who inspired the lyrics, maybe that's for the best. After all, everyone loves a little mystery. In the meantime, the clouds in Carly Simon's coffee, and the man with the apricot scarf, linger at the fringes of adult contemporary radio, raising more questions than they answer.
Lyle Lovett: "Nobody Knows Me" (From "Lyle Lovett and His Large Band")
In one of the quieter, sparser moments from Lovett's third album, he spins a typically wistful tale that's a love song on the surface, but turns out to be -- as the singer himself has put it -- "A cheatin' song about Mexican food." The song is a staple of his live act to this day, and has tended to feature in movies and television shows of a certain type where you can be sure the person responsible for licensing the music wasn't paying very close attention to the words. The opening verse sounds like we've dropped in on the narrator reminiscing over a time-worn relationship:
And I like cream in my coffee And I like to sleep late on Sunday And nobody knows me like my baby And I like eggs over easy With flour tortillas And nobody knows me like my baby
But the tone of the lyrics turns a bit after the narrator meets "a dream made to order from south of the border":
And she cried man how could you do it And I swore that there weren't nothing to it But nobody knows me like my baby
'Til we come to the last verse, sung with a twinge of regret as the narrator ends where he began:
And I like cream in my coffee And I hate to be alone on Sundays And nobody knows me like my baby...
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