Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Beer and Kisses by Amy Rigby

Beer and Kisses

Written and Performed by Amy Rigby.

Click here to listen. You can find the lyrics here. You can buy it from iTunes here.  This song originally appeared on the album Diary of a Mod Housewife.

Amy Rigby traces the arch of romance in a tightly crafted 3:41 seconds from when “we loved like it was something new” to “It’s sad how we both forget/The thing we had for each other/Way back when we first met.” “Beer and Kisses” is a pop-song for grown-ups, wry and subtly structured lyrics knitted to a winsome melody.

The ex-punk singer living in the East Village turns out this country-tinged duet with John Wesley Harding as if they are the second coming of Tammy Wynette and George Jones.   The tale opens in the first glimmers of new love, the couple meeting in the supermarket and though boy-meets girl has reoccurred forever, Rigby knows that for those inside the love, it’s like a new world. Thus the lines:

We loved like it was something new
From day one we could not be parted
You had me and honey I had you 

In recording Diary of a Mod Housewife, Rigby says she wanted to “balance being a mother and a wife and still being a rocker at heart.” She hits the target in this song: no subordination here, two equals madly in love.

Rigby captures that blazing love when all that matters is being together and the hell with creature comforts. They get “a little place between us/Not much but we could call it home.” For my wife and I, it was a bungalow down the Rockaways, barely more than a mattress, a table and two chairs, running out of money on Tuesdays when the next paycheck didn’t come until Tuesday, but nearly three kids and several lifetimes later, we know that was among the happiest days of our lives.  Rigby nails that sense of giddy fulfillment: “we lived on beer and kisses/All hopped up on love and foam.”

She describes those early nights in a fervently sung refrain that starts out full of exuberance backed by slamming cymbals and pedal steel guitar:

Get home from work, turn on the light
Sit on the couch, spend the whole night there
Get home from work, turn on the light
Sit on the couch, spend the whole night there

What else do they need? Of course, that first wave of love fades. We cannot sustain it and need to figure out what happens next. In this song, they “grew a little couch potato…but something had come between us.” Here the screw turns, first love is not enough. The next verse concludes: “You’d drink your beer in the kitchen/I’d sit on the couch and pray.”

 As the refrain re-appears, Rigby puts her craft to work: the simple change that captures the shift in the song and the relationship:

Get home from work, get in a fight
Sit on the couch, spend the whole night there
Get home from work, get in a fight
Sit on the couch, spend the while night there

Now the crashing cymbals make the loss sting, the pedal steel makes us ache.

The song takes its final turn as the singer dreams of regaining what she has lost. She reaches out for her lover, dreaming, arguing, perhaps pleading a bit:

My dear I have much to tell you
It’s sad how we both forget
The thing we had for each other
Way back when we first me

Let’s put all the bad behind us
Tonight when you come home
Just bring me beer and kisses
We’ll get high on love and foam

We return to the refrain, sung with an equal mix of hope that they can rediscover the lost love and resignation for love lost:

Get home from work, make it alright
Sit on the couch, spend the whole night there
Get home from work, make it alright
Sit on the couch, spend the whole night there

The voices of Rigby and Harding sound so optimistic as they repeat that last refrain. We all want to believe we can recapture that first rush of love even if we know the world keeps spinning us away from that first spring. The song ends with the singers repeating the line “bring me beer and kisses” with the same combination of hope and loss.

In the end, we get a powerful, well-crafted pop song, one full of longing, hope and reality. It’s a song that captures the spirit of Amy Rigby, who started out on in the East Village pop scene and morphed into a singer songwriter. In the liner notes to the album, Diary of a Mod Housewife, Rigby lays out this declaration

“You may be asking yourself — what is a mod housewife? It is a woman being dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood… Stuck in the netherworld between bohemia and suburbia, between set lists and shopping lists. You’ve probably seen her at the supermarket with her kid in a grocery cart, headphones blasting Elastica while she debates the merits of low-fat granola bars vs. Snackwells. Maybe you’ve seen her pushing a toddler in a swing, with a fading ink stamp on her hand from some club the night before… She still wants to rock, and still knows how. She understands compromise. But she’s not ready to give in … yet.”

Let’s never give in no matter how much we know.

******

Amy Rigby is still making music. Check out her website. You can sample more of her music at lala.com by clicking here. Amy Rigby keeps a blog journal here. You can experience more of Rigby’s wry and deadly humor in this live version of “Keep It to Yourself.”  She tours and records now with Wreckless Eric and you can hear a live version of “Dancing with Joey Ramone.”

If you want to read more about Amy Rigby, you might check this good blog piece on “Beer and Kisses” at Star Maker Machine. Joyce Millman wrote a good review of Diary of a Mod Housewife for Salon.com. You can read that review here. No Depression serves up a slew of articles and review that you can find here.

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