When I was a teenager, I had a friend who was almost as music-obsessed as I was. Perhaps even more so.
Our favourite game was “spot the intro” when a song came on the radio. First to correctly identify the song was the winner. We’d keep score for days on end and usually ended up pretty even.
“Spot the intro” isn’t so much fun these days. You either go straight into the first verse or there’s a few seconds of inane beats that sounds pretty much like all the other sets of sampled beats that everyone else uses.
But I was reminded of my friend, who I haven’t seen for many years, and our “spot the intro” competition when “I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten” came on the radio the other day.
This is an intro I’ve always been able to get from the first chord.
I’m not enough of a musician to tell you what chord it is. I played piano as a teenager, although I haven’t touched one for more decades than I care to remember. But the series of chords pounded out on the piano as “I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten” gets under way are very distinctive.
The intro is something of a juxtaposition to Dusty Springfield’s soft, breathy vocals. You imagine the song that’s likely to follow that thunderous intro will be something very different, but once the intro is out the way the mood changes.
The opening chords are defiant. The song itself is reflective.
“I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten” was written by Clive Westlake, who was a music teacher at a school in the north-east of England before his talents as a composer were spotted. He wrote a handful of very successful songs for Dusty Springfield, plus several more for Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley, Chrystal Gayle and a range of other artists.
Of all his compositions, “I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten” is, in my opinion, his stand-out track.
It’s not just the intro…although it is one of my favourite intros of all time. I like the juxtaposition between the intro and the rest of the song, and indeed between the verses and choruses. This is a song that doesn’t stand still or settle into a groove for too long…there’s always a change of mood just around the corner.
The lyrics are pretty special too.
They tell the story of someone who can’t believe their luck. They’ve found someone incredibly special, but worry they’re just dreaming because they’ve found everything they ever wanted.
They close their eyes and count to ten, hoping that, when they open them again they’ll either discover what they feel is real or they’ll wake up from their dream and go about life the way they did before that moment.
They know they might wake up from their dream and find they’ve returned to a much grimmer reality. But they’ve got to do it. They’ve got to find out if they really have met the love of their life, or if they’re imagining it.
Clive Westlake’s lyrics for “I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten” also make the important point that we can’t always put our finger on what it is that makes those intense feelings well up inside us.
The lyrics start with a list of the things that might be true individually, but on their own don’t account for the intensity of the feelings deep inside us when we think about this special person…
It isn’t the way that you look
And it isn’t the way that you talk
It isn’t the things that you say and do
That make me want you so
Dusty Springfield also eliminates the wine and the music that’s flooding her mind, before she works out why this special person moves her in a way she hasn’t been moved before…
It’s the way you make me feel
The moment I am close to you
It’s a feeling so surreal
Somehow I can’t believe it’s true
The pounding I feel in my heart
The hoping that we’ll never part
I can’t believe this is really happening to me
We live in a digital world, where people have become billionaires by reducing life to a series of ones and zeros.
I’d be the first to admit this can be technically impressive. But it misses the point.
Everything that matters in life is a feeling. It’s not the house you live in, the car you drive or your Facebook account.
And whilst car sellers, house builders and digital billionaires do their very best to manipulate our feelings to squeeze the very last dime out of our bank accounts, those aren’t real feelings.
Real feelings are when you can hold someone close and know that if the world ended at that very moment, you couldn’t be in a happier place at the point you went to meet your Maker.
Real feelings are when you feel the lips of another human being soften as you kiss them and, in that instant, the rest of the world fades away and all you need is right there beside you in that moment.
And in our digital world, real feelings are when you see the name of someone special pop up on your phone as an incoming call, and your senses all fire at once when you think of how that person makes you feel.
Real feelings are tricky things. Hard to define. Impossible to pin down. Difficult to replicate.
But that’s what makes them feelings in the first place.
If you think you can itemise, define and control your feelings, I’m here to tell you that you can’t. Or, if you think you can, whatever it is you’re itemising, defining and controlling isn’t really a feeling at all.
Sadly, sometimes the people who need to understand that the most, recognise it the least.
If you want to know the difference, try listening to Clive Westlake’s masterful lyrics, with Dusty Springfields’ peerless delivery and one of the best intros of all time. Here’s “I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten”…
The video is below, but if you prefer, you can listen to the song on Spotify here… https://open.spotify.com/track/0zUEefW7NYNiWlVgxsBXAN