Jeb drops another dime in the jukebox – and this month selects a 1972 number from the legendary Al Green.
Have You Been Making Out OK
Can we talk about my favourite Al Green moment in my favourite Al Green song that’s on my favourite Al Green album? The song is ‘Have You Been Making Out OK’, the album is Call Me, and the moment comes half way through the second verse, when he sings: You’re looking well.
It’s a moment of such tenderness, such genuine confusion, such beauty and despair, that I can’t listen to it without stopping whatever it is I’m doing and marvelling.
Al Green didn’t write songs so much as he wrote conversations. An Al Green song isn’t about poetry or slogans or clever word play; it’s about the way people speak to each other. It’s about the things they say and the things they leave unsaid.
There’s no more conversational writer than Al Green. ‘Let’s Stay Together’. ‘Judy’. ‘I’m Still In Love With You’. ‘Belle’. ‘You Ought To Be With Me’. These are songs about the specific business of trying to talk. The imprecision of speech, the approximate nature of language. And how that imprecision is helped by melody.
It’s like light. We all know what light is, but it’s nearly impossible to say what light is.
Al Green understands that. He can’t explain love or pain or faith or beauty. He can’t tell us what they are, but he can talk about how they make him feel. He can talk to us in a simple way about unsimple things. He can try. Which is a long way of saying that this morning, when I arrived in my studio, feeling slightly sad about one thing and another, slightly worried, slightly off kilter, I put on Al Green and immediately felt slightly less sad, slightly less worried, slightly more together; Al Green, in his patient way, talked me through it.
We all know what music is, but it’s nearly impossible to say what music is.
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