Against the background of the timeless beauty of the bishop’s palace in Wells, two young women sat on the grass, chatting and laughing together; they possessed a beauty to match their surroundings, a natural grace and confidence that could not be acquired. Whose heart might be broken by these Sixth formers from the local school? Perhaps there were already young men for whom either or both of the young women meant memories of lost happiness.
Being three times the age of the young women, the potential to recall appropriate song lyrics was extensive. For most of their male contemporaries, there would never have been any prospect of such beauty breaking their hearts, but for those fortunate enough to have had their hearts broken, maybe Hot Chocolate’s song “It started with a kiss” captures a sense of the angst of those times:
And then when you were sixteen
And I had just turned seventeen
I couldn’t hold on to your love
I couldn’t hold on to my dreams
Perhaps Errol Brown’s lyrics do not have the desolation of Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen”, but they are intense enough. In the song, the loss of a love that has been present from childhood years has remained significant in adult life.
Perhaps there have been academic studies. Perhaps there are learned theses on why relationships in those teenage years acquire such an intensity. It is not as though anyone expects most of them to last more than a few months, if even that. It is not as though either party is in a position to make any binding commitment. It is not as though countless millions of people haven’t been through similar experiences, and haven’t failed to survived them. Perhaps it is about establishing self-identity; perhaps heartbreak is some rite of passage to an adult wisdom.
Whatever their function, the deep emotions of those teenage years feed the music industry with a regular supply of customers susceptible to being reminded of past pains and hurts.
Listening to Adele’s “Someone Like You” on Spotify, there is a sense that it stands in the same tradition of lamenting lost love as had ‘It started with a kiss’ three decades previously. It is as though we almost need to recall pasts that cannot be changed, that memories of pain are part of what we are. Perhaps the young women will have their own songs of heartbreak that they will play in forty years’ time.
Sometimes, it is much less troublesome to listen to classical music.