Get It Right the Next Time

This is another entry that has been sitting around on the desktop since I wrote about Wistawa Szymborska’s “Nothing Twice.” For some reason that poem triggered a memory of Gerry Rafferty’s “Get It Right the Next Time.” In fact, in my first version of that blog entry I was going to compare her poem and Rafferty’s song, but I couldn’t figure out how to actually put it together and say what I wanted to say about her book and that poem so I decided to break them into separate entries but never got around to finishing this one, which will now be quite different.

I spent years trying to buy a record or CD with this song but could never find a copy, though I continued to hear it regularly on Portland’s KINK. I didn’t find it until Apple started iTunes. I ended up buying three of Rafferty’s albums but only play “Get it Right the Next Time,” “Right Down the Line, ” and “Baker Street,” my favorite Rafferty song. Most of the other songs are actually grayed out because I don’t even want to listen to them when I’m listening to a shuffle. I would have a hard time identifying any of Rafferty’s other songs, but I recognize these three by the first three notes. Perhaps you will, too:

1

Get It Right the Next Time

Out on the street I was talkin' to a man
He said "there's so much of this life of mine that I don't understand"
You shouldn't worry yes that ain't no crime
Cause if you get it wrong you'll get it right next time (next time).

You need direction, yeah you need a name
When you're standing in the crossroads every highway looks the same
After a while you can recognize the signs
So if you get it wrong you'll get it right next time (next time).

Life is a liar yeah life is a cheat
It'll lead you on and pull the ground from underneath your feet
No use complainin', don't you worry, don't you whine
Cause if you get it wrong you'll get it right next time (next time).

You gotta grow, you gotta learn by your mistakes
You gotta die a little everyday just to try to stay awake
When you believe there's no mountain you can climb
And if you get it wrong you'll get it right next time (next time).

Next time, next time
hmmmmm

The number of Ground Hog Day remakes I’ve seen says this is a modern cliche′, but it’s still one I’ve had a hard time accepting. Though I’ve never been much of a complainer or whiner, except inside my head, the perfectionist in me hates it when I screw up something when I should have known better. It took awhile before I learned to accept that life is full of mistakes and the best I could expect is that I’ll learn from them and avoid making the same mistake in the future.

The most frightening line has to be “you got to die a little everyday just to try to stay awake,” but Rafferty’s most famous song, “Baker Street,” as well as his life itself, seems to suggest the truth of that line.

Winding your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well, another crazy day
You'll drink the night away
And forget about everything
This city desert makes you feel so cold
It's got so many people, but it's got no soul
And it's taken you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought it held everything

You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you're trying, you're trying now
Another year and then you'd be happy
Just one more year and then you'd be happy
But you're crying, you're crying now

Way down the street there's a light in his place
He opens the door, he's got that look on his face
And he asks you where you've been
You tell him who you've seen
And you talk about anything
He's got this dream about buying some land
He's gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands
And then he'll settle down
In some quiet little town
And forget about everything

But you know he'll always keep moving
You know he's never gonna stop moving
'Cause he's rolling, he's the rolling stone
And when you wake up, it's a new morning
The sun is shining, it's a new morning
And you're going, you're going home

This is one of the most haunting rock songs I know, especially when you read about Rafferty’s own feelings about being a rock star and his struggles with alcoholism. There’s something about the ambiguity of the song that attracts me, the same kind of ambiguity I mentioned earlier in discussing Bobby Bland’s “I Pity the Fool.” The narrator seems both to see the foolishness of his situation and be unable to escape it. The narrator is in the same position as the man he meets who’s never going to give up the booze and one-night stands.

Of course, I think I would have bought this song, lyrics or no lyrics, just for the saxophone solos, a haunting sound played against darkling lyrics.

What do you think?