After Paris it’s the most romantic city I know and having enjoyed Montreal in every season, I guess I’ll have to go with a delightfully mild (late) spring weekend in envisioning today’s selection. That’s the scene, as for the time… here’s hoping that you too have experienced one of those occasionally beguiling phases that have little to do with age and everything to do with endorphins and “joie de vivre.”
Few have been more adept at capturing joie de vivre (along with its sibling, “sweet sorrow”) than the McGarrigle Sisters, Kate and Anna. Raised in a mixed English/French Canadian (and highly musical) family in the Laurentian village of Saint-Saveur-des Monts, they began performing publicly in the mid-‘60s, while Kate studied engineering at McGill and Anna was an art major at Ecole de Beux-Arts de Montréal.
They also began to write their own songs, some of them covered by artists as varied as Judy Collins, Nana Mouskouri, Billy Bragg, The Corrs, Maria Muldaur, Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris. It was one song in particular, “Heart Like a Wheel” that was covered by Linda Ronstadt on her 1974 album of the same name that at long last landed the McGarrigles their first recording contract.
The result was their 1975 self-titled debut album, “Kate and Anna McGarrigle” which led off with today’s selection and amongst its 12 tracks included their own version of “Heart Like a Wheel” as well as (Kate’s then-husband) Loudon Wainwright III’s “The Swimming Song.” The album was chosen by “Melody Maker” as the best record of the year.
Through the next 30 plus years (until Kate’s death from clear-cell sarcoma at the age of 63) the McGarrigles would release another nine albums, some in English, some in French, with the later recordings occasionally including Kate’s singer/songwriter children, Rufus and Martha Wainwright.
And sometimes the McGarrigles would tour. I was lucky enough to see them in London in the ‘80s and in Toronto in the ‘90s and on both occasions they made the concert hall feel like the front parlor of an old house in Saint-Saveur-des Monts on a Saturday night.
Kiss And Say Goodbye
Call me when you’re coming to town
Just as soon as your plane puts down
Call me on the telephone
But only if you’re traveling alone
Counting down the hours
Through the sunshine and the showers
Today’s the day
You’re finally going to come my way
Let’s make a date to see a movie
Some foreign film from gay Paree
I know you like to think you’ve got taste
So I’ll let you choose the time and place
Have some dinner for two
In some eastside rendezvous
Then we’ll walk
Arm in arm around the block and talk
Tonight you’re mine
Let’s not waste time
I do believe the die is cast
Let’s try and make the nighttime last
And I don’t know where it’s coming from
But I want to kiss you till my mouth gets numb
I want to make love to you
Till the day comes breaking through
And when the sun is high in the sky
We’ll kiss and say goodbye