I’m warming to my theme, now… I’ve been trying to think what separate those songs I mentioned before from common or garden heartbreak and misery songs, as to me they seem quite distinct. I think there are two factors. Firstly, the scenario is about a specific third person, and often gives specific details of events: they are really love triangle songs, sung from the perspective of the person who has come off worst. And thirdly, they have a directness and specificness: they do not adorn themselves with metaphor, allusion or innuendo; rather, they say what happened, and tell it straight.
Sam Holloway suggested a couple of excellent heartbreak songs to me on Facebook: Beck’s Lonesome Tears and It Started With A Kiss by Hot Chocolate. But now I have unfairly changed the rules, they don’t count. Also out of the running are more obvious contenders like I Know It’s Over by The Smiths, which doesn’t involve a particular love triangle – I think the bride and all that are pretty figurative, and certainly not the focus of the song, which is undoubtedly Morrissey’s own general misery. Also out is I Want You by Elvis Costello, which isn’t really any sort of narrative – we don’t know what happened, only the messy end result – and, while it has an undeniable emotional impact, is mainly hateful rather than heartbroken.
So, a challenge for you: what other songs fit into this slightly arbitrary category? I can think of only one that I missed yesterday, so far anyway: You Don’t Know by Ellie Greenwich. It’s a strikingly-arranged song, and while it has the simplicity and directness of a lot of her songs, it packs an emotional punch that a lot of her more fluffy offerings can’t match.