Sunday, September 23, 2012

Headstrong

Headstrong (from the 10,000 Maniacs album Blind Man's Zoo)

To your common sense firm arguments
I won't listen to your voice of reason
trying to change my mind
I mind my feelings and not your words
didn't you notice I'm so headstrong
even when I know I'm wrong?

Take this to your heart and into your head now
before you waste your time
call a truce and call a draw

What's the use of mapping your views out in orderly form
when it does nothing but confuse and anger me more?
I mind my feelings and not your words
didn't you notice I'm so headstrong
you're talking to a deaf stone wall


Take this to your heart and into your head now:
the old wives' tale is true, I'll repeat it
all is fair in love and war
that's how the famous saying goes


Open up your eyes, see me for what I am
cast in iron, I won't break and I won't bend
take this to your heart and into your head now
the old wives' tale is true, I'll repeat it
all is fair in love and war
that's how the famous saying goes. 


If I told you we were out to sea in a bottomless boat
you'd try anything to save us
you'd try anything to keep us afloat
and if we were living in a house afire
I don't believe that you could rush out and escape it
and not rescue me  


Take this to your heart and into your head now
the old wives' tale is true, I'll repeat it
all is fair in love and war
that's how the famous saying goes 


Listen, I think they were talking to you


It's funny the way certain songs come at just the right time in your life. If you heard it a few years earlier or a few years later, your opinion of it could be completely different. I guess this is the reason why every older generation collectively rolls its eyes at the music of the current generation, but is completely able to embrace music they heard when they were young that may, in fact, be absolutely terrible. In my head, I can acknowledge that a lot of the synth-obsessed music of the 80s is not exactly high quality stuff. But my heart, and nostalgia, win out every time and I find myself always turning up the radio when those songs come on. But when I hear new pop music, I can hardly bear it for 10 seconds. I believe this is the way it is for many people. After all, there was an entire generation of people who thought the Beatles were an abomination and not just because of their "wild" haircuts - they hated the music. Sometimes it's just hard to move in the same direction that popular music goes along.

Even though Headstrong came out when I was still in grade school, I first heard it when I was 20 years old. At that time in my life, I felt like I could have written Headstrong. Early 20s are such an interesting time. You're just starting to figure out who you are and what you feel, want, etc., and are terribly anxious to express yourself and be understood by others. But because so much of what you've "figured out" is still so idealistic, people, especially those older than you, are so eager to bring you back to reality and point out all the ways that you're wrong. Nobody likes being told that they're wrong, but it's especially galling at that age.

And it's also unbelievable. When you feel something so powerfully, it's not only unfathomable that it's not true, it's offensive. Whenever someone tried confronting me with "common sense, firm arguments" I remember digging my heels in more than ever. The more people told me I was wrong, the more convinced I was of my rightness. I still get a thrill whenever I hear the lines: Open up your eyes, see me for what I am, cast in iron, I won't break and I won't bend. I used to think about those words all the time when I was young and I really made them my own.

There's one part of the lyrics of Headstrong that I've always internally debated over. When Natalie sings:

If I told you we were out to sea in a bottomless boat
you'd try anything to save us
you'd try anything to keep us afloat
and if we were living in a house afire
I don't believe that you could rush out and escape it
and not rescue me


I've wondered whether Natalie is trying to say, "Listen, as much as you can't understand me and disapprove of me, I know you care about me and would save my life if I were in danger. So just love me for what I am and leave me be." Conversely, I can also see this interpretation: "Stop trying to 'save' me! I'll go down in my sinking boat if I have to, but it's my choice so leave me alone!" The leave-me-alone part is the only part I feel pretty confident about. Thoughts?

When I listen to Headstrong now, in my early 30s, I feel differently about it than I did when I first heard it. I still love it, but I don't identify with the words quite so strongly as I used to. As time has passed, I've come to appreciate the benefit of being told that I'm wrong. Because, of course, I frequently am. And there is a lot of value in a person who can wisely, carefully, tell you that you're on a bad path or just plain being an idiot. We all need to be saved from ourselves sometimes. Now I'd much prefer to be known as someone who is more yielding than headstrong. But don't get me wrong. I still admire the resilient determination of the girl who sings, I won't break and I won't bend. I still want to be that girl. But with a little more caution and (a lot) more humility than I used to have.

I can't tell you honestly that I think Headstrong is one of the great 10,000 Maniacs songs, but it's still one I dearly love and one of my (few) favorites on Blind Man's Zoo. I wonder what Natalie would think of the words now? I wonder if she still completely relates to the way she felt when she wrote it or if she can't identify with it as much now. It's something I wonder about all the time when I listen to these older songs Natalie wrote. On my next post, I'm going to talk about one of those older songs she wrote...and about the song she wrote later on the same subject. Intrigued? No? Well, whatever. Come back anyways. See you then!

Here's a live performance of Headstrong. I'm sorry about Weird Al. Seriously. I'm really sorry.
Download Headstrong from Itunes -  Headstrong - Blind Man's Zoo