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2.37-PRETTY BALLERINA (Left Banke)

Left Banke

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I had a date with a pretty ballerina
Her hair so brilliant that it hurt my eyes.
I asked her for this dance and then she obliged me.
Was I surprised? Yeah.
Was I surprised?
No, not at all.

I called her yesterday, it should have been tomorrow.
I could not keep the joy that was inside.
I begged for her to tell me if she really loved me.
Somewhere a mountain is moving--
Afraid it's moving
Without me.

[Break]

[Repeat first verse]

And when I wake on a dreary Sunday morning
I open up my eyes to find there's rain
And something strange within said,
"Go ahead and find her.
Just close your eyes! Yeah.
Just close your eyes and she'll be there."

She'll be there...


I note here, that Pretty Ballerina is the third recent occasion in which desire is satisfied by the imagination, starting with Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys, and followed by Cream's Dreaming. In all three songs, the music itself expresses a somewhat baroque beauty unattainable in reality, recalling an elegant age available to the artist as a world apart. Each of the three songs may be odes to masturbation, pretty as they are. I find it remarkable that a few months after Sunshine Superman, when Donovan sang of such certainty in achieving his desire, however fanciful it might be, the psychedelic culture has already started to be satisfied with the dream over the reality.

The lyric is clever; the ambivalence in the face of the question "Was I surprised?" offers up an attention grabbing mix of insecurity & cock-suredness that bears repeating. The opening line of verse 2, I called her yesterday, it should have been tomorrow is also memorable and reproduces the same ambivalence. At the end of that verse, the mountain alluded to cannot be his own falling in love, but hers, and the mountain is moving, the singer fears, away from him. I'd like to call attention to the fact that, though the song has an elaborate orchestral break, there is no chorus, no B section to this song, which basically brings the same melody round four times.

The Left Banke released Walk Away Renee before Pretty Ballerina, and their first effort was indeed the bigger hit of the two. Though Walk Away Renee used a harpsichord, to my ear the instrumentation was to ornament a rhythm & blues song or pop song, similar in sound to the Stone Poneys' Different Drum. While Pretty Ballerina uses a piano, the chamber music of a string quartet is more appropriate here to the lyric and the melody, and produces a better manifestation of baroque rock, a brief vogue that I include among psychedelic music. The oboe melody in the break is lovely, and I would place the song among the best manifestations of baroque rock of the psychedelic period.

Unfortunately, the Left Banke in its original form only produced two hit singles and one not-so-successful album, charting at #67 in February 1967. There has been speculation what might have happened if Left Banke had remained a vital force in 1967, for by that time the prettiness of baroque rock movement, however championed earlier by the Brian Wilson, Brian Jones, and Paul McCartney was sputtering out.

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