Down and Out in Denver

Downtown. Denver?

Posted in denver, gays, music by Blake on November 24, 2009

Click on the lovely Petula Clark and then read on.  No, scratch that: click and watch the lovely Petula, and then read.  The video is too priceless to miss.

First of all, I love this song.  I love Clark’s version – the original, obviously – but I pretty much like any version.  (The song was written by British songwriter Tony Hatch in 1964.) The always brilliant Dolly Parton covered it; Emma Bunton (Baby Spice) gives it a decent turn; and the Canadian Holly Cole Trio does a pared-down rendition that is pretty great, too.  It’s catchy and the music is great; I love the backup singers and the horns.  And then just look at Petula; look how happy she is, how joyful.

Second, is this song not secretly – or perhaps not so secretly? – a song for the gays?  Downtowns have historically been places where people of a homosexualist inclination could find one another for companionship and cocktails and yes, of course, for sex.  Urban spaces, historians have shown, have often been the first for the development of gay subcultures.  But more than that, read the lyrics from one of the final verses:

And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you

Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to

Guide them along.

How gay is that?  Who more than a confused gay needs someone kind to “help and understand you,” someone conveniently “just like you,” who could be “guide[d] … along”?  Indeed.   Further, the song is just so profoundly hopeful (“you’re going to be all right now”), the kind of song that a young gay could take much comfort in.  I’m doing so right now.

Third, the song captures much of what I love about urban spaces.  Real urban spaces.  While it perhaps exaggerates things a wee bit – not everything is great downtown – it also captures the spirit of a big, loud, noisy place – “the music of the traffic in the city” – and how joyful that can be to those who love them as I do.  The first verse begins like this:

When you’re alone

And life is making you lonely,

You can always go downtown

When you’ve got worries,

All the noise and the hurry

Seems to help, I know, downtown

When I lived in the big city from whence I moved I would sometimes just take long, aimless walks around town, up and down avenues, through parks, across bridges and back again.  All the noise and the crowdedness and the complete anonymity made such a difference.  For a while my own little problems just didn’t matter compared to all of those millions of people and their equally complicated lives.

This is part of what I feel is missing in Denver.  There is no downtown like Petula Clark sings about, nowhere that is loud and crowded and busy, nowhere I can walk and lose myself (in part because no one actually walks anywhere in Denver anyway).   There is no real downtown, where “everything’s waiting for you.”

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5 Responses

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  1. ej said, on November 24, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    They just don’t make music videos like they used to. I especially like when her head is refracted like a prism! Classic.

    And so true about Denver. I always find it disturbingly quiet. Its the anti-urban city.

    • Blake said, on November 24, 2009 at 3:24 pm

      And when she pulls up her collar as if it might be just a little cold downtown!

  2. Historiann said, on November 29, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Excellent analysis. I always thought the song referred to a demi-monde that was more interesting than this upbeat tune would suggest. (It’s a good song, but so, so relentlessly cheerful! Hop on a bus, kids, and go DOWN-town!)

    • Blake said, on November 30, 2009 at 11:20 am

      True enough, it is a little on the cheerful side, but what I kind of like is that it’s cheerful about possibilities, rather than about her own current circumstances.

  3. Down and Out « Down and Out in Denver said, on March 10, 2011 at 9:11 am

    […] beginning: about outdoor sports, and gays, and gays’ clothing, and bars, and drivers, and the lack of a real downtown.  I could go on.  In the past year, however, we seem to have moved more into the realm of […]


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