When Charlene released “I’ve Never Been To Me” in 1982, self-appointed musical sophisticates were inclined to sneer.
I never understood why. I’ve always liked the song. And I wasn’t the only one — “I’ve Never Been To Me” reached Number 3 in the Billboard Hot 100 and Number One here in the UK.
Somehow I don’t think millions of people bought the record just to poke fun at it. I think those people bought the record because they liked the song.
Remember, in those days, you didn’t just book a “sale” when your streaming service popped up a suggestion for the next track into your playlist. People had to tramp down to the shops and buy a piece of black vinyl with real cash money if they wanted to listen to your record.
That’s not the sort of thing you do by accident, or because you were at a loose end for half an hour. “I’ve Never Been To Me” was a huge commercial success because people liked the record and bought millions of copies of it, whatever the sneering cognoscenti might have thought.
I suspect that’s because “I’ve Never Been To Me” hit a nerve.
Charlene sings it from the perspective of a middle-aged woman, but people of all genders, age groups, and backgrounds can identify with the sentiment. Even if the specifics are a little different, they can still channel the same emotions Charlene brings to the song.
One thing I know for sure is that I’ve never been to me either.
I’m more fortunate than lots of people, but I work in a job I hate, although I’m very good at it and I’m paid pretty well to do it, and life a largely solitary life.
I can’t remember a time when I ever did what I wanted to do, or with someone I wanted to do it with. Duty, responsibility, and obligations have defined my life…and largely stopped me living the life I always imagined I’d live.
The detail in my case it very different to the story Charlene sings about, of course, but “I’ve Never Been To Me” is a song I find very easy to connect with. It speaks to the emotions that I, and millions of others, carry around with us every day…
Hey, lady. You, lady
Cursing at your life
You’re a discontented mother
And a regimented wife
I’ve no doubt you dream…