Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Beautiful songs: Stoned (Out of My Mind)

It seems that there was a time in the early 1970s when "stoned" was an adjective that meant something like "happy" or "blissful". But then maybe it meant "confused" or "trippy". I think I can say honestly that I don't know.

"Stoned Love" is one of my favourite Supremes songs. It's mature and understated pop soul with a subtle hook and a curious theme. Overall, a lovely song, though more of a groover than a dancer. But that's not the song this is about.

This is about a song called "Stoned (Out of My Mind)", and I would understand if you've dismissed it as simply a weird psychedelic soul song in praise of marijuana. But it's not—as far as I can tell. It's one of the smoothest soul love songs I've ever heard, by one of the smoothest soul groups of the era.


I first heard the Chi-Lites (those are two long "i" sounds) courtesy of the Crooklyn soundtrack, which features the familiar song, "Oh Girl". You might also recognize the brilliant funk tune "Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)", which Jay-Z sampled for Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love"—thus demonstrating their strength across the soul spectrum. And if I remember correctly, a talented artist named Hammer covered the popular ballad "Have You Seen Her?" back in my early teens.



So, I'm not sure what "Stoned" is supposed to mean, but I know there's more to "Stoned (Out of My Mind)" than a gimmicky title. This is a Heartbreak Song. That's clear from the very beginning. There's barely a hint of a story here, but if there's a real woman behind this song, I don't pity the author. If all Odes to Cheatin' Women were this smooth, they would be worth the heartache.

Still, the ultra-smooth production and the mid-tempo rhythm belie the troubled head behind the words; and combined they create a bittersweet moment that makes it easy to sympathize. And it's got terrific soul lyrics like these:

Baby, when I found out you were lyin'—
Playin' around and connivin'—
Undesired tears I was cryin';
'Cause sugar coated lies I was buyin'.
This is one of those songs that grabbed me despite it not being a real dancefloor filler. I mean, it's danceable, but it's not middle-of-the-night, prime time funky. It hasn't got a driving beat, a compelling bassline, a break. Instead, it has terrific horns, solid and subtle rhythm, and stunning, simple, and clear melody and harmonies. In a strange way, it reminds me of David Bowie's "Sound and Vision"—in style, sound, and structure.

Part of what I mean when I say it just grabbed me is that I don't really have a story to go along with it. I didn't grow up with it. I've only known the song for maybe ten years. And while I've included it in playlists and mixes over the years, and turned friends onto it, "Stoned (Out of My Mind)" has never really attached itself to any particular event in my life; although I often think of it and hum or whistle the tune. Off the top of my head, I can't even recall more than two or three lines from the song.
I was just a backseat driver in a car of love—
Goin' wherever you take me.
Okay, I've got it. Here's the story: I can't be sure of when it happened, but I can say that "Stoned" was one of the early songs I downloaded via Napster or whatever else I was using at the time. I'm almost certain that I was living on Huron St. The internet offered me exposed to a whole world of music, most of it in the soul and R&B veins. This also coincides with my early DJing career and probably my most creative music-writing period—the rise and fall of The Sound of Circles! But "Stoned" rarely made it into the club, and it didn't seem to inform my songwriting. It was a private thing—almost a dream—that I wanted to let everyone know about, but I just couldn't figure out how.

"Stoned (Out of My Mind)" remains a staple of my DJing, and when I sat down and listened to the song to finish this review, I had several insights into it that I'd never considered before, so I guess it doesn't matter if it ever fills a dancefloor. And maybe all the title and chorus mean is that the author is so distraught at learning his woman was cheatin' that he's getting stoned out of his mind. Whatever, just listen and feel the bittersweet.

I've hidden some humour in the above. If you find it, please let me know.
___

Baby, when I found out you were lyin'—
Playin' around and connivin'—
Undesired tears I was cryin';
'Cause sugar coated lies I was buyin'.

I was just a backseat driver in a car of love—
Goin' wherever you take me.
Don't know why I put up with the pain;
'Cause nobody else could make me.

You got me goin' (Stoned out of my mind)
You got me goin' (Stoned) Hey, hey (Out of my mind)
You got me goin' (Stoned out of my mind)
You got me goin' (Stoned) Hey, hey (Out of my mind)

When you led me to the water I drank it.
Man, I drank more than I could hold.
When you took my mind and body,
You know you wanna take my soul.

Where can I run?
Where can I hide?
Who can I talk to?
Tell me what, what can I do?

When you got me goin' (Stoned out of my mind)
You got me goin' (Stoned) Hey, hey (Out of my mind)
You got me goin' (Stoned out of my mind)
You got me goin' (Stoned) Hey, hey (Out of my mind)

Hee...you got me goin' (Stoned out of my mind)
You got me goin' (Stoned) Hey, hey (Out of my mind)
Been around with every guy in town (Stoned out of my mind)
Funny but I just can't put you down (Stoned out of my mind)

You got me goin' (Stoned out of my mind)
You got me goin' (Stoned out of my mind)

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