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"Boats," The Song


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Wanted to add one more thing about "Boats" that gives it a positive spin (for me)....

If you can read anything into a singer's performance (and I think you can, especially when said singer also wrote the song), then I have always heard a difference in the tone of Eric's voice in the verses vs. the chorus. Verses: a "pained" sort of vocal. Chorus: a hint of determination --- actually, a lot more than a hint.

Also, the melody and the production come off as depressing during the verses, but they get a "lift" during the chorus. Know what I mean?

So, that's how I hear it, right or wrong.

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I think he's right. "TO THE END" denotes FALSE HOPE, people.

Please, quit imposing your sunny Dr. Phil pop-psychology on this song. It's pessimistic, OK? That's how Eric meant it to be; that's what it IS. It's not about getting back up on the horse. It's about how you're going to keep riding the same horse to death...or, when you fall off and try to climb back up on the horse, the horse is gonna kick you in the teeth...

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Trindy said:

Please, quit imposing your sunny Dr. Phil pop-psychology on this song. It's pessimistic, OK?


Wow! Trindy, despite your irritated tone, I think I'll continue to hear what I hear in "Boats." I hope that doesn't bother you too much...

And what did Dr. Phil ever do to get dragged into your anti-optimism rant?

PS: That was my first-ever use of a Graemlin, just for the record.

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Com' on LC, it's OBVIOUS Eric intended "Boats" to be a complete and utter downer. Get with it people and let's cut the HAPPY, HAPPY Dr. Polyanna-speak rubbish. TO THE END, means just that: kaput, finito, sayanara, "pack your bags and don't forget your toothbrush on the way out" time. This song is like a horse that poops on you and then kicks you in b---- for good measure.

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Sorry, Ras-Wine and Trindy. I just can't do it. I just can't ignore that glimmer.... Remember, I'm calling it a hint of optimism, a tiny little iota of hope. I'm not saying it's a happy song by any stretch. I'm just saying that I've always heard a tiny li'l sliver-thin ray of hope. Maybe it's a result of the determination that Gina points out. Maybe it's the "run a little bit faster" line. I dunno. But I can't change an impression I've had for 30 years. Not yet, anyway.

I'll listen again and try to be more open to your side. But I'll probably always feel that there's an "open-for-interpretation" aura here.

This isn't like saying there's a glimmer of hope in, say, "All By Myself," you know.... (Actually, wait a minute. "Remains the cure..." Hmmmm.)

(Just kidding.)

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The writer of a lyric can never be sure what the listening public will make of it...And that's one of the great things about songwriting...The people who hear the song have the power to decide what it means to them...And the interpretations can run far afield of the writer's original inspiration...And i think that's a wonderful thing about songwriting...The people who hear the song can sometimes make it greater and deeper than the songwriter ever dreamed...

btw...I always believed there was a bit of hope in the chorus of "boats"...In fact...That's the reason it moves me so much...For me..."Boats against the current" is one of those "hard to sing along with" songs...Because i usually get a little choked up when i hit the chorus.

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Boats is obviously intended as a sad song, but instead of a completely stormy day, it's one with a tiny silver lining in the horizon.

I would assume Eric was sad to be parting with Ienner, and the prospects of recording without him were a little daunting, but hey that silver lining did come through (tomorrow) as his post break-up work was certainly not without success.

I find irony in the fact that the very song that tells the sad story of the gloomy break-up, and moving on with someone else, future uncertainity, etc. was recorded post break-up, and is arguably one of the finest compositions EC ever created.

I guess tomorrow, he ran a little bit faster...

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Put me on the "hint of optimism" side of the argument. More than being pessimistic or optimistic, I think Eric is being REALISTIC - trying to help the other person accept the reality of a dead relationship. The lyrics acknowledge initial optimism, then disappointment and inability to resolve issues, then hope for the future for each person separately. I think Boats is a great reality-based, mature song that avoids blame.


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If Eric is talking about running a little bit faster and finding what we're after WITH SOMEONE ELSE, then I can see the future optimism.

If Eric is just mocking past attempts at getting it right with that person with that chorus lyric, Then the song is all downer, baby. :(

I don't think Eric wants to tell us what he was thinking there, because it would ruin all this mystery and detective work...

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Steve, *I'll*say he ran a little bit faster! In the midst of writing his ironic lyrics to Boats, even Eric couldn't know that tomorrow he would indeed be running a little bit faster. The song chronicles his experiences and feelings at that time. He couldn't know what his tomorrow would bring, as none of us can.

But there were some fans out in the cosmos whose positive thinking, wishing, hoping and dreaming would have him running a little bit faster.

Isn't it great that songs can record evemts amd feelings for posterity and yet not necessarily predict the future from the composer's point of view?

Boats is so emotional that it evokes strong feelings that represent every point on the emotional spectrum. A masterpiece indeed!

:) --Darlene

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Hey, that's cool, R-Wine. I totally got it. You're one of my favorite reads here.

Besides, there's too much of "Boats" that hits too close to home, so I suppose I'm hearing it the way I do for a reason.... And I agree that with music, "different strokes for different folks."

On another note, I always hoped some astute vocalist would cover "Boats" and get a hit out of it. I know a few artists have covered it, but... I have only two of 'em on CD. One is Olivia Newton-John, whose version is okay but nowhere near the original. Can't remember the other; I'll find it somewhere in my collection.

And I believe Frankie Valli covered "Boats" a long time ago, but I don't recall ever hearing it.

Who else has covered "Boats"? Someday I'm gonna put together a CD of just "Boats" covers. There must be a few more...

(I had this great CD once called "Pachelbel's Greatest Hit" --- it had around 14 version's of Pachelbel's Canon by different orchestras/instrumentalists.)

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My take: It writes about a challenging/ negative state of affairs where there is no more than a ray of hope. For me it is sad but NOT a downer as I'm moved in a positive way by the lyrics.

And melodically, it's probably unmatched in my music listening life.

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Let me explain myself better here.

I'm not saying that BOATS is the all-time ultimate statement on what life, love and romance are all about, so let's all go out and slash our wrists now because we are doomed.

I'm not saying that it's not possible, in life, for things to turn out well for a person even after a doomed romance. I'm not saying people should not hope or that hope is always foolish.

What I AM saying is that I believe that the spirit and mood in which Fitzgerald wrote GATSBY, and the spirit and mood in which Eric wrote BOATS, is that: Yeah, this relationship is doomed, and we human beings are fools for going on being optimistic that anything will ever change a situation like this. (Of course, if I'm wrong about Eric, he's free to say so, because he KNOWS what state he wrote it in.)

I know things turned out well for Eric and Jimmy in the long run. But I don't believe Eric believed they would, or held out hope they would, back when he wrote the song.

In short, while I believe that rays of hope and occasional lemonade is what gets us through life on this mortal coil, I don't believe there is any ray of hope or lemonade in this particular song. That's all I'm saying.

I realize your mileage may vary, but after what I've read and listened to, that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

And if you really want a window into what Fitzgerald had to say about this, there's one story of his that you really should read. It's called "The Long Way Out." But I warn you, make sure there are no sharp objects or ties handy when you do.

What I believe he's saying (and I believe Fitz was profoundly clinically depressed when he wrote this kind of stuff, so keep that in mind too) is that we're all like Mrs. King.

Like I said, don't read it with any sharp objects or ties around. Better to make a nice BIG pitcher of lemonade...and add some vodka while you're at it. You're going to need it.

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Trindy, Your last post was really cool! I love your calling Scott "Fitz"! It definitely "fits"!

That nickname was one assigned to a character played by Robbie Coltrane in an English drama that I adored. You may have seen it. "Fitz" in that instance was a criminal psychologist who had more than a few problems of his own. I thought Coltrane (who named himself after John Coltrane because he loved his music) was sensational in it!

I digress, but your mention of "Mrs. King," of course, Scott's first love, Ginevra, reminded me that life indeed plays strange tricks. Ginevra's second husband, John T. Pirie, would go on to become chairman of one of the biggest department stores in Illinois--(this store Phil (Sterling) and I both frequented, though not together, in Peoria scores of times and loved!) In a twist of fate, the name of the department chain was Carson Pirie Scott. The name "Scott" was with her throughout her life. How's *that* for irony? Perhaps when we deny our fate, it never leaves us... ;)

:) --Darlene

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Its probably important to realize that Fitzgerald was speaking to a wider set of conditions than individual relationships in Gatsby. He was saying something about the human condition in general, and people's tendencies as a whole. It isnt simply about Gatsby's individual plight. We'd have to hear from Eric to see if this is the case in "Boats." In Fitzgeralds life, even after the incredible train wreck with Zelda, you see him trying to have a romantic relationship with Shelia Graham(and others) the last few years of his life. So he still had those hopeful inclinations himself, in the middle of alot of sadness. One of the important things about Gatsby I think is its relationship to his earlier works. Many of them were somewhat juvenile actually in their romanticism and the level of importance he would put on sentamentalism and silly events. I think "Gatsby" was a real sophisticated examination of his own life and tendencies. IMHO, he was able to do this because Carraway and Gatsby were each facets of his own character. Both the person immersed in the romanticism and the guy standing back and saying,"theres something not right about this."

I couldnt say if depression enters into this, you really have to know the people on a personal level I think to make those kind of assessments.

One things for sure, "theres romance in the sunset" is a great line. It opens itself up to many different interpretations.

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Patti LaBelle!

That's the singer I was trying to think of in one of my posts here (page 3) regarding covers of "Boats Against the Current." No one came to my rescue, but her name finally came to me....

Somewhere, I have LaBelle's 1981 CD The Spirit's In It, and I've listened to her "big" reading of "Boats" many times in the past. Eric's original is the standard, of course, but I loved the fact that she covered it --- and even put it on her Anthology in 2004.

BTW, this was a good thread, even without Eric's two cents on the glimmer-of-hope/no-glimmer-of-hope discussion. The writings of some of you have forced me to listen to the "romance in the sunset" line from the other point of view, and I get it. Every once in a while, I get open-minded.... :-)

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I was spinning some Eric tunes in my backyard this weekend. If you're searching for optimism just let Boats play a bit until you land on:

"Love is all that matters
Faithful and forever
Keepin' us together
Love is all we need

Prisoner of illusion
Sentence is suspended
Loneliness is ended
Love has set me free"

What an extraordinarily GREAT song! The whole album is a masterpiece. I wish Eric's catalog was available on CD! Clive sucks.


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