‘Always On My Mind’ — ‘a promise of pop music’

Tom Ewing’s been thinking and writing about “Always on My Mind” for years; for a year-end entry he goes section by section through one of Freaky Trigger’s top 100 songs, and certainly when I play “Always On My Mind” it sounds like the greatest recorded song in history. Here Tom concerns itself with the version on Introspective called “Always On My Mind/In My House,” which I initially rejected because Tennant and Lowe’s perversion: they exiled the huge synth hook to five-sevenths of the track:

It’s 1988. The thing about pop music, when you’re 15, is that its doors open all the bloody time. Years later, month-long obsessions or beliefs seem like eras. Was there a time when I disapproved of pop music, on the say-so of Morrissey or Roger Waters or some spanner on the front of the NME? There was, but it didn’t last. I’d like to say the moment I heard “Always On My Mind/In My House” killed it, but things are rarely so neat. Still, it was a moment – I rewound it again and again, playing the whole album or just that track or just that minute or two. After it, I could not honestly stake a position where I disliked pop music. Within it, I could trace the outlines of other doors, into house and disco, and a world where the glorious return of the riff wasn’t a great pop trick, but a first principle of making and building music.

Tom’s pieace is also an ode to “the most liminal time of the year” — the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, a period when those of us on vacation struggle to fill uncharacteristically barren schedules with lunches, library trips, movies, writing, reading:

The space in between is an equivocal season, something left hanging like an unresolved decision, or an unfinished list.

So we – a very specific we, the list-makers – fill it up, coming together every December 29th to go to pubs, catch up, talk nonsense, and occasionally in former years make lists of things to write about. Why lists? Because we were sad old nerds, obviously. But also, we liked – or at least, I liked, and I’m the one stuck writing this – the conceit that this unfixed time of year, and the magic of the pub, was a good time to make arbitrary decisions, like naming the greatest records, and accept the challenge of one day writing as if those decisions were right.

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