Fleetwood Mac – Over My Head
tylus Magazine's Seconds column examines those magic moments that arise when listening to a piece of music that strikes that special chord inside. That pounding drum intro; a clanging guitar built-up to an anthemic chorus; that strange glitchy noise you've never quite been able to figure out; that first kiss or heartbreak; a well-turned rhyme that reminds you of something in your own past so much, it seems like it was written for you—all of those little things that make people love music. Every music lover has a collection of these Seconds in his or her head; these are some of ours.
After playing nothing but this song for a straight week—coincidentally, the week I crumpled my last box of Marlboros—I knew I was fated to give this song the Seconds treatment. But I couldn't find the entry point. It's a decent track, yeah (please take a listen), but there's nothing otherworldly good about it. I had heretofore no real history with the song, apart from those seven consecutive trips to and from work, the liquor store, and Whataburger *. I can't really tackle this thing historically: I've only just scraped the skin of the western world's least influential great band, so of the few classical Mac trademarks I could identify, none appear in "Over My Head." No PCH gypsyisms, no cark'd and stuffed pop craftsmanship. And that mythical soured romance, the Mac's (lamentably) greatest legacy? Here it's between the McVies, at best the group's fifth-most interesting combination**. When you cheat on your husband with your band's lighting technician, you're really cheating all of us.
The most remarkable thing about this song is McVie's perfect diction. For an alum of the British blues boom, there's a refreshing lack of Delta-inspired vocal condescension. The track's relentlessly catchy fingerpicking owes much more to folk than the blues, anyway—even those charmingly wistful turnarounds are more Bert Jansch than Elmore James. Yet the hypnotizing instrumental churn belies the clockwork it requires; as Wolk noted in Slate, Fleetwood Mac was foremost a rhythm-based combo. John McVie snags the track's most elegant hooks with his basswork, while Mick Fleetwood maintains an understated, lurching roll. The total effect is symmetrical: the song maddeningly fades in over a half-minute and closes with a Christine-free minute of bobbing folk-pop. No solos, two middle eighths. It's a bit like peering into someone's trodden, sun-rot daydream, and we still haven't got to the words yet.
But the diction still trumps the lyrics for me, whether or not I marvel at the boldness of ending a couplet with a telling bit of offhand ardor like "You can take me anytime you like / I'll be around if you think you might"***. I take that detached narrator, her exquisitely measured phrases, the endless chugging loop, my incessant pushing "repeat," and I finally get what I'm hearing. Not some anguished portrait of devotion with a real, listening object of a conversation; rather, it's a hoary ol' internal monologue, worn down to austere perfection. What matters isn't that her cruel lover has encased her in this emotional limbo; what matters is the replay and rehearsal of the dilemma. It's why the imperious shiver in "your mood is like a circus wheel" has the selfsame beauty as the opening "You can take me to the paradise": the pleasure and frustration are of a piece, a worry stone thumbed to pebble. McVie ostensibly depicts a conflict, but impishly declines to solve it, an approach which would serve her band into their third decade.
* I can't lie to you people. I received my first proper introduction to "Over My Head" via my roommate's copy of "Nip/Tuck: The Complete First Season." OK? OK. [back]
** Fourth through first being: Stevie and Kim Anderson; Christine and Dennis Wilson; Lindsey and Stevie; Mick and cocaine. [back]
*** Note: I do. [back]