But never mind all that pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo. According to the Collins English Dictionary, absence is:
1. The state of being away. 2. The time during which a person or thing is away.
3. The fact of being without something; lack.
And who am I to argue?
Most of the writers of songs nominated this week – or at least of those I have picked for our list – have plumped for Definition 3, specifically the curse of abandonment. Bruce Springsteen focuses on what has been left behind by his narrator’s partner (“Coffee cups on the counter, jackets on the chair…”), painting a vivid scene of the desolation created by the absence. John Sebastian goes one step further, making the deserted room itself the protagonist of his song. But what to do about such an absence? Billie Holiday rather passively (if gorgeously!) asks: “Lover man, oh where can you be?” The Great Lake Swimmers, however, refuse to take the absence lying down; they head out looking for their missing love. As for The Zombies, they somewhat huffily request us not even to bother trying to find their eponymous missing heroine – she’s just not there, alright?! Best to just forget her. In his evocative torch song, Midnight In Trieste, Philip Jeays has tried to forget his lover, “with sailors’ wives and whisky” no less, but when it rains he is haunted still by her absence. The rain is a recurring motif of absence for our bereft songwriters. Call it metaphor, call it pathetic fallacy, but for the Grateful Dead, waking up to find themselves alone, it looks like rain. Bryan Ferry, meanwhile, thinks he’ll walk out in the rain to get over his loss. With all this gloom – of mood and weather – thank heavens for Abba. Frida pines for an absent lover but knows that, come tonight’s concert, he’ll be out there in the crowd and she’ll feel his presence. And as for Franz Ferdinand, the cheeky wee scamps are missing their girl enough to want her to come on home, but, they tell her, “Don’t forget to leave.” Maybe absence can sometimes be a blessing then.
1. You’re Missing – Bruce Springsteen
2. The Room Nobody Lives In – John Sebastian
3. Lover Man – Billie Holiday
4. Where In The World Are You Now? – The Great Lake Swimmers
5. She’s Not There – The Zombies
6. Midnight In Trieste – Philip Jeays
7. Looks Like Rain – Grateful Dead
8. End Of The Line – Roxy Music
9. Super Trouper – Abba
10. Come On Home – Franz Ferdinand
PS If my technological know-how is up to the job, below should be a Spotify list for all the choices bar Philip Jeays (who is, er, absent from Spotify).