Thursday, September 15, 2011

Don't Talk

Don't Talk (from the 10,000 Maniacs album In My Tribe)

Don't talk, I will listen
don't talk, you keep your distance
I'd rather hear some truth tonight
than entertain your lies
take your poison silently
let me be, let me close my eyes

Don't talk, I'll believe it
don't talk, listen to me instead
I know that if you think of it
both long enough and hard
it's the drink you drown your troubles
in is the trouble you're in now

Talk, talk, talk about it
you talk as if you care
but when your talk is over
tilt that bottle in the air
tossing back more than your share

Don't talk, I can guess it
don't talk, well now you're restless and
you need somewhere to put the blame
for how you feel inside
you'll look for a close and easy mark and
you'll see me as fair game

Talk, talk, talk about it
talk as if you care
but when your talk is over
tilt that bottle in the air
tossing back more than your share
you talk talk talk about it
you talk as if you care.
I'm marking every word and
I can tell this time for sure
your talk is the finest I have heard

Don't talk, let me go on dreaming
how your eyes they glow so fiercely
I can tell you're inspired
by the name you just chose for me
now what was it? o, never mind

We will talk, talk, talk about this
when your head is clear
I'll discuss this in the morning
but until then
you may talk but I won't hear



There are certain things you just accept when you are young. For a lot of us that means we spend our first several years of life assuming our family is pretty much normal. We don't know any different. But as we start getting older and spending more and more time with other people's families, we may start reassessing our previous viewpoint.

I knew there was something that made my family different from my friends' families, but I never tried particularly hard to identify it. I just figured it was because my parents were older than theirs, or had less money, or something mundane and simple like that. But then one day I overheard a conversation in my house that featured one particular word, a word that shot through me like a bolt of lightning.

"Alcoholic."

I don't remember too much of the context surrounding that word and I'm not sure it mattered then or now. That was the only word I needed to hear. All of a sudden everything that had ever been a mystery in my life was made shockingly clear. I felt a little foolish that I had never figured it out before. Perhaps I also should've felt devastated, ashamed, or angry. But at that moment, I didn't feel any of those emotions. In fact, there was only one emotion I remember feeling - relief. Finally, things made sense. So when, many years later, a friend and fellow 10,000 Maniacs fan asked me how I could stand to listen to the song Don't Talk, I found myself surprised at the question. "Doesn't it hit too close to home? Isn't it too painful?" they asked.

No.

Don't Talk, along with so many other Maniacs songs, particularly on In My Tribe, focuses its grip onto something hidden and drags it out into the light. So no, it is has never been too difficult for me to listen to the song. Don't Talk brings out the same emotion in me that I experienced at that pivotal moment in my youth - relief.

I love every word in this song, but there are a few lines that I find especially meaningful.

well now you're restless and
you need somewhere to put the blame
for how you feel inside
you'll look for a close and easy mark and
you'll see me as fair game


I suppose there are various emotions that people associate with a person under the influence, but there is one that stands out above all others - anger. And as everyone knows, anger demands a victim. For the alcoholic the "close and easy mark" becomes the people unfortunate enough to be with them when they're drunk, and that usually includes the people closest to them.

how your eyes they glow so fiercely
I can tell you're inspired
by the name you just chose for me
now what was it? o, never mind


Natalie's lyrics capture so perfectly what it feels like to be on the receiving end of that inspired rage. And yet when Natalie was once asked in an interview about the topic of writing love songs, here was her reply:

"I look on Don't Talk as a love song, because if there wasn't caring between those people there'd be no need for the song."*

I have to admit, Don't Talk is not the first song that would come to my mind when asked to name a love song. But this quote from Natalie has made me listen to, and appreciate, the song in a different way.

Here is one more quote from Natalie:

"Several people who heard Don't Talk wrote me letters saying that they came from alcoholic households and that it made them feel less alone to hear a song about it."**

I can relate. Music cannot fix all of the world's problems. It cannot change the fundamental flaws of human nature. But it can and does make people feel less alone. If this is the highest purpose music ever achieves, I think it's a noble one.

Thank you for reading this week. I've gotten some e-mail in recent weeks containing some theories and insights into Natalie's music that I would like to share in future posts. I always love to hear your ideas and thoughts so if you'd like to comment on this week's post, you can do so below or you can e-mail me at nmcompendium@yahoo.com.

Most of you die-hard Natalie fans probably already know this, but in case you haven't heard, Natalie contributed a song called "Learning the Game" to a Buddy Holly tribute album that came out last week. I've included an Itunes link to the song below. Cheers!

Click here to see the music video for Don't Talk

Download the MTV Unplugged version of Don't Talk at Itunes - Don't Talk (Live) - MTV Unplugged: 10,000 Maniacs

Download Natalie's new song Learning the Game at Itunes - Learning the Game - Listen to Me: Buddy Holly

*Melody Maker - May 1989
**BAM - August 1989

3 comments:

  1. This describes a very patient person listening to an alcoholic.

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  2. This song always reminds me of my friend and the relationship she was in. She was very patient and made an effort with him but he never realised how lucky he was to have her as his partner.

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  3. I know exactly how you felt when you put 2 and 2 together,and realized that being an alcoholic explained a lot of your thoughts and actions. What a relief. That's exactly how I felt, I knew that something was wrong, but didn't know what. When a doctor took my history, he told that I was an alcoholic, a wave of relief came over me, I finally knew why I felt the way I did.

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