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113 – If I Fell – Durga McBroom

 
Original version recorded February 1964
Ukulele version recorded May 2010

Durga McBroom: Vocals
Nathan MacCormack : Cello
Gary Schreiner: Chromatic Harmonica
David Barratt: Ukulele and everything else

Produced by David Barratt at The Abattoir Of Good Taste Mobile in Los Angeles

Written by John Lennon
Credited to Lennon/McCartney

Essay by Dr Joseph Olejak

ABOUT THE SONG

At the same time the Beatles were playing to packed stadiums of screaming fans, I was 3 months old screaming from my crib. It wasn’t until the hot summer days of the mid 70’s listening to the radio that I discovered the Beatles nearly a decade later. My screaming now was from the inside and silent to the outside world but this song echoed what I was feeling in a profound way.

“If I Fell” is as personal as it gets.  When you crash and burn in love it leaves a mark.  

This is clearly John Lennon at his most vulnerable. Since the death of his mother in 1958 he was caught between having an enormous reservoir of emotion that he wanted to share with a partner, and a crippling fear of repeating the hurt he had felt at the hands of his parents. He struggled for his entire life to reconcile these two sides and it was only in the last couple of years before his untimely death that he was able find real emotional peace.

This was one of Paul’s favorite Lennon songs. He as quoted as saying:

“People tend to forget that John wrote some pretty nice ballads. People tend to think of him as an acerbic wit and aggressive and abrasive, but he did have a very warm side to him really which he didn’t like to show too much in case he got rejected. We wrote If I Fell together but with the emphasis on John because he sang it. It was a nice harmony number, very much a ballad”

I find this an interesting observation as I believe “If I Fell” was in part written as a partner piece to “And I Love Her”. John, always trying to one-up Paul,  wrote a slow love song to better his partner. Both songs are feminine in their perspective and ironically a testament to the power of their testosterone fueled competitive drive.

The song does not strictly follow the lyrical ballad structure of 4 stanzas with the second and fourth lines of the quatrain rhymed.  In fact, Lennon does a curious little intro that lyrically and musically is quite different from the rest of the song. It includes an chromatic introductory section sung by Lennon, followed by sequential verse sections, each having a slightly expanded form, but with no obvious chorus or bridge section.

“If I fell in love with you Would you promise to be true And help me understand ’cause I’ve been in love before And I found that love was more Than just holding hands”

My first recollection of this song was the summer of 1975.  The Beatles had broken up in 1970 and were pursuing their solo careers by the time I’d discovered them.  But this was the perfect song for young kid discovering the opposite sex. The song has all the elements of love’s expectation and risk right there in the second stanza.

“If I give my heart to you I must be sure From the very start That you would love me more than her”

And yes, I made my move with Holly and did it all wrong at 12.  The embarrassment of rejection and failure in love are never more acutely felt than in the heart of a pre-teen.

Older now, looking back, nothing has changed. And that is what keeps this song so prescient today.  It speaks to the danger of opening up to love.  A danger that age, wealth, position and time never erase.   

Thirty years later I may be older, more confident, and a bit more nuanced in my approach to love, but honestly very little has changed. Circumstances are different and while I’m not making out in the hayloft as the Beatles waft through the barn carried by my crappy little radio with the bad speakers — the stakes are just as high.

If I trust in you oh please Don’t run and hide If I love you too oh please Don’t hurt my pride like her ’cause I couldn’t stand the pain And I would be sad if our new love was in vain

If you love you risk; that’s the naked truth.  

In order to love and be loved we open ourselves to being hoisted on our own petard if love blows up in our face.  “Don’t run and hide” Lennon begs and we never learn if the quarry of his affection returns his plea.  

We write letters, send gifts, and plan our visits carefully remaining hopeful that the one we wish to love is paying attention.  All the while suffering under the push / pull of love as it tugs at the very sinews of our life.  

Being on the receiving end of unrequited love, one realizes how piercing silence can be to the heart.  Love is elusive.  We are not in the habit of being vulnerable to it.  For the most part, we’d rather remain aloof than come face to face with the intense friction love can generate. It is a disruptive force that remakes us in the end.

Lennon says “love is more than just holding hands.”  It’s the challenge of fitting two separate lives into one relationship.  

If you’ve been in love, you’ve come up short.  If you’re lucky “new love” has turned into “two” and with time become a unity of love “not in vain.”  

I’ve descended the hayloft stairs, but am still waiting for the perfect condiment to spice up my life. “If I fell in love with you?”

The Ukulele Version features Durga McBroom. Durga’s version is a study in power and restraint. I get the feeling that this protagonist is challenging her partner to rise to be her better self. There is none of the fear of loss that permiates Lennon’s version. This is a request to step forward into love. To trust that someone will be there should you fall.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Durga McBroom was born in Los Angeles, CA. She hit the big time musically working with Pink Floyd as a background vocalist. She joined the Momentary Lapse Of Reason Tour in 1987 and provided vocals for the albums "Delicate Sound Of Thunder", "The Division Bell", and "P•U•L•S•E", as well as David Gilmour’s 2001 solo tour.

Durga has worked with artists as distinguished and varied as George Clinton/P-Funk, Michael Bolton, Carole King, Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Bryan Ferry, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Albert Collins, Joey Lawrence and many, many others.

She sang backing vocals on the song "Don’t Wait That Long" featured on the James album Seven released in 1992. She also did a duet of a song she co-wrote ("Mother Dawn"), performing with Billy Idol on his "Cyberpunk". She can also be heard on another co-authored track, "Karma Tsunami", on Fishbone’s 2000 release, "Fishbone and the Familyhood Nextperience Present: The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx".

In 1989 she formed the band Blue Pearl with former Killing Joke bassist Youth, singing, playing keyboards and writing most of their material; she had several hit songs in the early 1990s on the pop charts, including "Naked in the Rain" (UK #4 in July 1990), "Little Brother" (UK #30 in October 1990), "Alive" (with guest appearances by David Gilmour and Richard Wright), as well as a cover version of Kate Bush’s "Running Up That Hill". All taken from the album "Naked". In 1992, Blue Pearl released "(Can You) Feel The Passion", which reached #1 on both UK and US Billboard dance charts.

Recently she had a 20th anniversary re-release of "Naked In The Rain".

In addition to her singing, she has performed as an actress in the movies "Flashdance" with Jennifer Beals, "In The Eye Of The Snake" with Malcolm McDowell and Lois Chiles, and "The Rosebud Beach Hotel" with Peter Scolari, Fran Drescher and Christopher Lee.

You can also spot her in the live concert films "Delicate Sound Of Thunder", "Pink Floyd Live In Venice", and "P.U.L.S.E".

"Hurricane Heart", Durga’s first single released under her own name, is currently available on iTunes. Co-written by Eric Silver (Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain), it is a song of love, loss and longing.

 

 

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