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Do You Ever Think of Me?

04:55
Bill Sunkel
Andy Maniglia / Bill & Rob Sunkel

Story

DECODING “DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?”

Is it just contrarian me, or have songs actually become less “visual” since the rise of the music video?  Maybe it’s because now that there is actual video accompaniment, less of a premium is placed on the ability of the song itself to evoke visual images in the listener’s imagination.  (In the early ‘80s, I participated in a kind of Altered States sensory-deprivation float-tank experience, and I can say with authority that the absence of visual stimulation causes the mind to supply its own, very creative substitutes.)  Or maybe it’s just ADD in the “mile-wide, inch-deep” era of 140 characters or less that causes most modern lyrics to resemble primitive stick drawings scrawled on the wall of some cave.  In that sense, “Do You Ever Think of Me?” – the second of two songs in this collection to which Andy Maniglia contributed the music – is a bit of a throwback.

For me, this song takes place in a very specific time and place:  The singer is sitting in a big chair next to a fireplace, facing a wall of windows.  (Personally, I picture the black & white Steigman photo of the “blown away man” sitting in the Le Corbusier chair, used in a popular series of stereo ads in the ’70s – minus the ridiculous wind blast from the speakers.)  The season is Winter, and the hour is late, well past midnight.  The room is silent, cold and dark, the sole source of light and heat a dying fire.  There are others in the house, but they’re asleep.  As the song begins, the singer sinks more deeply into his chair, likely clutching a near-empty tumbler of brandy, or scotch, or some such spirit.  And, in my mind, that’s precisely where I was when I wrote these words.  In fact, that image was so specific and real for me that, like several other songs in this collection, it felt less like crafting a lyric than simply describing my surroundings, as seen through my mind’s eye.

At first blush, the singer appears somewhat self-involved and narcissistic as he ponders whether a long-lost lover ever thinks about him, or their time together – “When you look back on how it used to be/Do you ever think of me?/Or watch the snow paint all the fallen trees/Do you ever think of me?” – but it quickly becomes evident that it is he who is haunted by these memories.  We know intuitively that he is merely projecting his own feelings, as each time he poses a question, he reveals something about himself.  Lines like “When the fire starts to die” – literally, the fire in the fireplace, but also the “fire” of a current relationship – “Without really knowing why/Do you ever wonder, where am I tonight?” and “God forbid you close your eyes, do you go back to that place?/Do you ever taste my kiss or see my face?” are more confession than inquiry, and betray a depth of emotion.  His true agenda seems not merely to know whether she has found a way to “heal [her own] heartbreak,” but if so, how can he do likewise?

In the second verse, the singer continues to leaf through his musty book of memories, creating the impression that, although all of this must have happened a long, long time ago, he will never get over her:  “When the radio plays a song we used to know/Do you ever think of me?/Or when you chance upon some movie on a late late show/Do you ever think of me?”  Set within and building on that nostalgic theme is a momentary inference of blame and accusation:  “In your mind, do you replay how we left it on that day?/Do you ever wish you hadn’t walked away?”  But it’s quickly dissolved in the overt (but still reluctant) admission that he’s really talking about his own regret:  “Do you ever think of me when you’re blinded by the light?/When familiar faces in a crowd deceive your weary eyes?/It happens to me all the time.”

Just as in “Santiago,” Andy’s bridge momentarily breaks the verses’ hypnotic vibe, becoming less atmospheric and more open and deliberate.  Here, it’s as if the singer were trying to shake off his reverie and to summon the strength and presence of mind to return to reality, perhaps while raising whatever’s left in that glass he’s holding and toasting his imaginary companion:  “So, here’s to us and the roads we’ve forsaken/We’ll never know what might have been/But that won’t soothe this soul’s empty aching/Or bring this yearning to an end.”  There’s a hint of bittersweetness (even sarcasm) in the toast to that which has never been, but again it’s fleeting.  When I first wrote these lines, I feared they might be too melodramatic.  But I decided they suited the mood of the melody, and they felt true and honest, and that carried the day.

Ultimately – and in case it wasn’t already painfully obvious that he has been talking about himself the entire time – the singer bares all in the final lines:  “Do you ever think of me the way I think of you?/Do you smile when you recall all of the foolish things we’d do?/How do we heal the heartbreak?”

As a lyricist, I tend to admire (and try to emulate) the intellectualism and indifference of a Donald Fagen, or even the sour acidity of an Elvis Costello, and (believe it or not) I generally try to avoid anything that’s too saccharine or overtly sentimental.  Although these lyrics betray (what is for me) an uncharacteristic pathos, they paint with dark colors, they create a compelling visual ambience, and (as I mentioned earlier) they feel “true.” 

Close your eyes and enjoy the show.

Lyrics

DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?
 
When you look back on how it used to be
Do you ever think of me?
Or watch the snow paint all the fallen trees
Do you ever think of me?
When the fire starts to die, without really knowing why
Do you ever wonder, where am I tonight?
 
The house is dark, and everyone’s asleep
Do you ever think of me?
And you’re alone, with ghosts and memories
Do you ever think of me?
God forbid you close your eyes, do you go back to that place?
Do you ever taste my kiss or see my face?
 
Do you ever think of me in the middle of the night?
When you awaken from a dream, can you feel me by your side?
Or have you healed the heartbreak?
 
When the radio plays a song we used to know
Do you ever think of me?
Or when you chance upon some movie on the late late show
Do you ever think of me?
In your mind, do you replay how we left it on that day?
Do you ever wish you hadn’t walked away?
 
Do you ever think of me when you’re blinded by the light?
When familiar faces in a crowd deceive your weary eyes?
It happens to me all the time
 
Do you ever think of me when you’re riding on a train?
Do your thoughts race down the window glass like blades of frozen rain?
And does it heal your heartbreak?
 
So, here’s to us and the roads we’ve forsaken
We’ll never know what might have been
But that won’t soothe this soul’s empty aching
Or bring this yearning to an end
 
Do you ever think of me the way I think of you?
Do you smile when you recall all of the foolish things we’d do?
How do we heal the heartbreak?