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*6.18-OUR LOVE WAS (The Who)

The Who
Pete Townshend

LISTEN

[Intro: Our love was...]

Our love was famine, frustration
We only acted out an imitation
Of what a new love should have been.
Then suddenly ...

Our love was flying
Our love was soaring
Our love was shining
Like a summer morning.

[Break]

Flying, soaring
Shining morning
Never leaving
Lying, dying.

[Break]

     Love love love long (12x)

[Repeat 2nd verse]

[Break]

[Repeat 1st verse]

[Repeat 2nd verse]

[Coda]


The Who Sell OutIt has is part of a well-known story of The Who that Pete Townshend was disappointed in the U.S. sales of both his “concept album” Sell Out, and what he considered one of the most important psychedelic records of the period, I Can See For Miles. The concept for the album was to interweave songs with radio commercial skits The Who created, as if the songs were being heard on Pirate Radio, outside the rampant BBC censorship of the time. Indeed, I Can See For Miles had been banned from the radio in many U.S. markets because it was thought to suggest drug use. The skits are clever and entertaining but in many cases are appended to the songs and need to be edited out of single cuts for repeated listening. The cover of The Who Sell Out is a Mothers of Invention-like spoof on commercialism. This album was the most psychedelic that the Who ever recorded, but several of the cuts, even some of the best ones (like Tattoo and Sunrise) don’t sound as if they participate in the psychedelic aesthetic. Rael, the song that concludes the album, is a sketch toward The Who's rock opera Tommy, using some of the same music.

The best of the psychedelic songs on the Sell Out album is certainly I Can See For Miles. But another psychedelic masterwork on the album is Our Love Was, a love ballad with a melody that swings between a ringing guitar structure by way of a Rococo vocal arrangement. At one point, though the chord structure continues its pattern, the melody is slowed down to compare and contrast two words per line. The breakout stanza love love love long dates the piece, unfortunately, to the Summer of Love, a mood that was already passing in the United States. Both Townshend’s lead guitar and Keith Moon’s drums lend arabesque flourishes while accompanying the mantra repeated twelve times.

I find the song records a moment of falling in love beautifully, even if in Rococo fashion. We don’t know the particulars, only that “suddenly” the singer was moved. The song offers the optimism of a life-changing vision through love. As if “suddenly” it all made sense! But the meaning, the sense, is hidden in the imagination of the listener. It felt right, the singer tells us, suddenly flying, soaring. It could be an LSD hallucination, this sudden rush of illumination, in which dreary life becomes magical again. Informed by a religious belief in the effectiveness of mantras, love love love long is a prayer, putting the positive energy out there in hopes it will help the world spirit.

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