I confess that Silver is one of my least favorite sf59 albums. It hovers just above Talking Voice vs Singing Voice at the bottom of my list. I love this song though. This song and “Blue Collar Love” are the only ones on this album that get to live on another day by making onto a playlist or mixtape. I love how mellow it is and how the guitars are so interwoven. It is the peace in the storm of the rest of the album.
The song begins in a place of stalemate. The lovers are holding hands on the roadside. Obviously there are places to go because there is a road right there but they stay where they are because staying in place at least does not make the situation sadder.
This song too carries the theme of dominance and submission that permeate the songs on this album. Let’s unpack this and see what is underneath the words. To clarify, when I speak of the dominance/submission dynamic, I am not talking about BDSM. I pointing the more general psychological motivations for the roles that we may choose to play in a relationship. The dominance/submission dynamic tends to occur in relationships with people who are not whole. It is when you seek out another half person to fill the voids within you.
The songs we’ve looked at thus far describe the girl as being dominate and the boy as submitting to her demands. We’ve seen some explanation as to why the boy submits but this song is the first to give us a peek at the motivations for the girl to dominate. In Erich Fromm’s description of symbiotic unions, he describes the motivation of the sadist as an attempt to gain “secret knowledge” of the other. In short, she wants to know.
“There is one way, a desperate one, to know the secret: it is that of complete power over another person; the power which makes him do what we want, think what we want; which transforms him into a thing, our thing, our possession. The ultimate degree of this attempt to know lies in the extremes of sadism, the desire and ability to make a human being suffer; to torture him, to force him to betray his secret in his suffering.” The Art of Loving, pg 27
She toys with him and tortures him as a cat tortures a mouse before it is killed. It is a game. She does this so that he will reveal all that is hidden within him, not because he chooses to do so willingly but because he sees no other option except to acquiesce in order to keep her attention which he desperately needs to distract him from the void within himself.
Because she has tortured him, he has revealed himself and she can control him. She knows and understands him better than he knows himself. She only knows.
But there is another side to this. The submissive has motivations too that are just as depraved. If she is the only one who knows the world, then she is the only one who can make decisions. She is the one who charts the course they both are on. He submits his will to her guidance and her demands. When it all falls apart and goes tits up (as it inevitably will) she will be the one left with the responsibility of the failure. It will all be her fault because she was the only one with the ability to choose and she chose wrongly. Of course, it is not actually true that she was the only one who could exert her will, but it is the reality for the masochist.
Fromm says, “The masochistic person does not have to make decisions, does not have to take any risks; he is never alone – but he is not independent; he has no integrity; he is not yet fully born.” Both the boy and the girl use each other as objects to escape their own isolation and anxiety. There is no sympathetic figure here.