Those who know me will immediately tell you, I am obsessed with this song, have always been, and will always be. World without end. Here are a few interesting facts though, which make my connection to the song, well, weird.
1. My mom raised me on Frank Sinatra, but somehow his daughter was never part of the deal.
2. As a teen I was really into the Mamas and the Papas, Frankie Valli and the Four Tops, The Beach Boys, The Monkees, all the pop songs of the time. To the point where I wouldn’t even connect Jimi Hendrix and the Stones to the ’60s. Nothing to see here as far as I was concerned. On the other hand I did develop an obsession with Frank Zappa and his oldest two children, Dweezil and Moon (Unit). I think to this day I must be the only person who remembers their show Normal Life.
3. Found out about Lana Del Rey when I saw posters of her concert in 2013 in Helsinki. Remembered hearing her name a few times, so googled her songs. Hearing Born to Die was all it took. Less than twelve hours later I was reserving tickets to her concert, where a friend and I bawled our hearts and souls out. Her doing a cover of Summer Wine was only logical.
4. Happened to be living in Berlin when some German decided to honor the biggest groupie the country had to offer a while back, Uschi Obermayer. I remembered reading about her when I was twelve, so this put me on alert. Some genius decided that the best way to run promo would be by covering Summer Wine. An even smarter genius decided to give it to the actress portraying said groupie (the likeness between them is pretty uncanny, even though one is Bavarian and the other one Polish) and pair her with Ville Valo. Which was exactly how I came across the song one month after getting over liver poisoning (and not from alcohol I might add).
5. I was familiar with Ville Valo / HIM through the chance encounter of Join Me, which I happened to catch when hanging out at the apartment of a frenemy’s mother in Budapest in early or mid-2000. Hungary was big on showing German cable TV, and we had it on in the background. A Hungarian friend had to explain who and what HIM was. I had no clue. Having been interested in the country since we were read extracts from Kalevala in my early years of Steiner School and liking Sibelius, I was happy that the country was getting some (more) exposure. It did help me score brownie points with future Finnish friends in the UK, when – right before all the Finnish bands took off – I was able to name a few (Leningrad Cowboys was another one, also a band I discovered in Hungary, through the same friend who schooled me on HIM).
6. Here’s where it gets weird. While Ville Valo speaks excellent English, it leans more to the British than American. My first reaction to the song when I heard him sing it was, “I love that Southern Drawl he does.” Took me 4-5 more months – until I heard the original – to realize that Ville Valo has no Southern drawl. Lee Hazlewood on the other hand does. I can safely say that I had never heard the original until that point in time, long after I’d heard the cover.
7. The lyrics were the first thing I noticed about the song. I still think it’s a work of genius in its simplicity. I also immediately visualize any and everything I hear, often without even being aware of it. On top of that I have synesthesia. And yet, up until the spring of 2017 (a few weeks ago to be exact), I didn’t consider it weird that I saw the setting in a forest, never in a bar or a saloon, which would have been the logical setting for a lonesome cowboy looking for some love. Or wine.
8. I am still – to this day – obsessively trying to tie an appropriate wine to strawberries and cherries. My money’s on Pinot Gris, but I’m very open to suggestions, also to interpretations of the song.
There are tons of things I’m still missing and / or not seeing, of that I’m sure. I know part of the reason I react(ed) so strongly to the song, reincarnation. I have my identity of who I was back then and how I died. The only thing missing is who killed me. I don’t want to get trapped in the reincarnation thing again, where I live so much in the past I forget about the present, so let’s just leave it at that for now. Except to ask one question of you, dear friends and readers, when you hear the song, no matter the version, which setting do you see, and what do you see? Thanks in advance for playing along. I’m really curious about your answers.