Is This the Most Beautiful Song Ever?
Well no, probably not. But it’s pretty close. It’s dreamy, but not saccharine and romantic, but nevertheless real. More than anything else of course, with this kind of music, it strikes several chords with me all at once.
Firstly, it has strong childhood associations. My Dad vaguely knew the McGarrigles at University in Montreal, I think, and he played this album a lot when we were kids. Then, when the humidity in Singapore destroyed his entire vinyl stash, he managed to salvage this song onto a superlative compilation tape, alongside Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Neil Young, The Band, The Stones, early Elton John and Jackson Browne. Unbelievable compilations, they were, and ones that I have devoted considerable energy to recreating in the years since, with one exception: this song.
I’m not going to describe the lyrics and compare them to my life all that rigorously, but they do remind me very strongly of my relationship with my pint-sized pixie, the lovely Mrs Toad. It’s a realistic love song about two people who have been through the mill a bit, which we both had by the time we met, approaching our 30s. We walked and walked in those early months, across London, Edinburgh, anywhere really, chattering and chattering and holding hands.
We talked about all things – deep things, difficult things, trivial things, all sorts. A mutual loathing of Sarah Jessica Parker was an early point of agreement. We found that despite Mrs Toad being more of a Libertarian Capitalist and myself more of a recalcitrant Socialist we actually seemed to agree on virtually all specific policies, despite hardly agreeing at all on most political principles. Both of us, it turned out, have a habit of playing really, really loud punk music when we are drunk late at night. We walked and walked and told stories of what we’d been doing in the ten years since we last knew each other. What had worked out, what hadn’t; stories of hurt and embarrassment; funny ones, angry ones, wistful ones. We just loved being together. Her living in Edinburgh and me in London made our weekends together amazingly precious and quite intense, and we made every last second count.
I just remember this absolute trust and complete love of one another’s company being so overwhelming, and I think that if we can keep that in sight then I can say with confidence that ‘walking beside her, I’ll never get the walking blues.’
Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Walking Song
It’s from the album Dancer With Bruised Knees, which I barely know anything about since I was thrown in the bin back in 1989, having warped and gone mouldy in a tropical climate, but it’s available for less than a fiver from Amazon and my Dad reckons it’s well worth a punt.More: kate and anna mcgarrigle