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They're Never Worth The Crying
That Fatal Mailing List #58: "I Still Have That Other Girl" (1998)
Back in 1998, when Painted From Memory came out, it arrived at my apartment in Chicago on a Saturday morning, back when you had to actually buy physical things to listen to music.
I tore open the Amazon package and threw it into the CD player immediately. My girlfriend at the time giggled a little when the opening track began, but she burst out into open guffaws as soon as the backup singers kicked in.
I’ll confess, at first, I joined her. It was such a jarring and unexpected release; I was not yet a big Bacharach fan, and so I’m not sure what I thought I’d hear, but for some reason, it wasn’t that. It felt like it was from another time.
After a good close listen, I wasn’t laughing anymore. It’s not from any time, but timeless; a gorgeous, melancholy album. Released in September of 1998, it became the perfect accompaniment to the onset of fall and winter in Chicago, as the days grew quickly shorter and the temps dropped a few degrees by the day. I can remember slate-grey overcast afternoons navigating Lake Shore Drive, a light rain misting the windshield and Elvis singing these songs on my car stereo.
“I Still Have That Other Girl” opens on Burt Bacharach’s piano, and it’s worth noting briefly that EC has basically hit the lottery at every turn when it comes to keyboard players. If you can’t have the king of the keyboard jungle, Steve Nieve, freaking Burt Bacharach is not a bad substitute. (And Nieve does appear on some of the album’s tracks, including this one, in more of a supporting keyboardist role.)
One of the striking things about the songs on Painted From Memory is the way in which they each have their own dramatic build. It’s something EC has managed in his own work at times, and that Bacharach has deployed sporadically as well. Together, they write songs that aren’t about creating a vibe or a swing; they’re telling stories with the music first, and then using words to complicate those stories.
If you heard an instrumental version of “I Still Have That Other Girl,” you’d still feel the emotional sweep. You may not know it was about a lover who hovers on the edge of betraying someone, but you’d feel yearning and loss nonetheless.
It’s easy to toss around a description like “sophisticated pop,” but this song exemplifies the term. Every note has its purpose; ever word is perfectly placed; we know what we know and we feel how we feel in harmony with the music and the words. It’s simple in its emotion; it’s intricate in its construction.