Certain Songs #948: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – “Pretty Gone”

Album: Easy Pieces
Year: 1985

I’m guessing that to some people, this is one of the minor songs from Easy Pieces. But it actually looms large to me, because “Pretty Gone” is the song that actually inspired the original “Certain Songs” concept. Which was to write about songs that always reminds me of a specific moment in my life.

Won’t you put on your dress and come down to Magazine Avenue?

And while that concept has obviously mutated into the giant, never-ending beast that you now see in front of you, it doesn’t mean that the original handful of songs I wanted to write about — including “Safe European Home” and “Ramble Tamble

Won’t you put on you put on your dress and come down?

But I never wrote about this one, a quietly beautiful waltz-time smack dab in the middle of the first side of Easy Pieces, which will now and forever remind me of one particular night at Tokyo Gardens in what was either the spring or summer of 1986. Probably.

Won’t you put on your dress and come down to Magazine Avenue?

Japanese restaurant by day, musician hangout by night, Tokyo Garden was already a legend by the time I had my first drink there in the early 1980s, and is still going strong despite — or maybe because — being pretty much the only place open in its somewhat dodgy neighborhood. I started going there on a regular basis in the mid-1980s, and stopped only when I moved away from Fresno.

Won’t you put on you put on your dress and come down?

Anyways, they used to sell Long Island Iced Teas for ridiculously cheap prices — $2, I think — and Tommy the bartender had them premade and ready to go, never mind waiting for him to mix them up, and I drank more than my share of those things, I tell you what.

Won’t you put on your dress and come down to Magazine Avenue?

Anyways, this one particular night happened to be a guys night out. We didn’t have too many of those, because of all of the amazing women in our social circle, so the tended to be formal and organized. And this was one of the times Ronny came out with us. As he was the first one to settle down and get married, it was a relatively rare thing, which might be why I have such a vivid memory of he and I sitting at the end of bar — not the end near the bathrooms, but the end near the booths — and singing the coda of “Pretty Gone” over and over again.

Won’t you put on you put on your dress and come down?

Prior to that coda, “Pretty Gone” is pleasant enough, but about halfway through, it pauses, and with Neil Clark slowly winding his guitar through a gorgeous circular guitar figure, Lloyd asks over and over again.

Won’t you put on your dress and come down to Magazine Avenue?
Won’t you put on you put on your dress and come down?
Won’t you put on your dress and come down to Magazine Avenue?
Won’t you put on you put on your dress and come down?

As he asks, they add more guitar, keyboards and eventually horns — appropriate horns, as it’s got a bit of New Orleans feel — and “Pretty Gone” makes you realize that the answer to the question could only have been “of course.”

Won’t you put on your dress and come down to Magazine Avenue?

According to my journal, while we were sitting there singing those two lines over and over, we were “sober and having almost as much fun as if we were with girls.” I’m suspicious of the former but actually believe the latter. Regardless, it’s a moment this song always reminds me of: singing a song with a friend I never got to hang out with as much as I would have wanted, and — because memories are tricky things — probably doesn’t remember the incident. But I do.

Won’t you put on you put on your dress and come down?

“Pretty Gone”

“Pretty Gone” performed live in 2016

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