“If You Could Read My Mind” There’s No Telling What You Would Find

24 Dec

The other day I caught the ending of “Wonderland”, a movie starring Val Kilmer. It chronicles the life of John Holmes, porn legend, and his possible role in a murder/robbery. The ending is the best part of the movie. Holmes and his girlfriend are parked in the desert discussing the future. He then takes off while the movie tells us what the future held for them and others portrayed in the film. All of that is great, but the best part is that Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” was playing over the scene. This was one of my favorite songs as a kid and like it to this day. I even saw Lightfoot in concert just to hear this one song live.

When I was young, my favorite songs were ones I could visualize. I could see the guy trying to frantically check out of the “Hotel California”. I could also see the car going down Interstate 40 in “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”. However, nothing hit my imagination like “If You Could Read My Mind”. I know that I took things too literally and missed the deeper meanings of the lyrics, but I still can’t listen to these songs without watching the childhood created movie in my head.

Obviously. Lightfoot’s song is about a love that has run its course.

I don’t know where we went wrong

But the feelins’ gone

And I just can’t get it back.

See. he spells it out plainly. But, my child’s imagination focused on other lines.

If I could read your mind love

What a tale your thoughts could tell.

Just like the paperback novel.

The kind that drugstores sell.

I could actually see a woman buying a paperback in a drugstore. Then, there was the part about the movie.

I’d walk away like a movie star

Who gets burned in a three-way script.

Enter number two.

A movie queen to play the scene

Of bringing all the good things out in me.

Again, I could see a movie set where actors are playing the roles that Lightfoot is describing. However. the best part was in the beginning of the song.

Just like an old-time movie

‘Bout a ghost in a wishin’ well.

In a castle dark or a fortress strong

With chains upon my feet,

You know that ghost is me.

And I will never be set free

As long as I’m a ghost you can’t see.

This part was easy to imagine because I had seen exactly what he was describing. I loved watching Abbott and Costello movies, and all of them were basically the same. Abbott played the straight man to Costello’s bumbling character. But, one movie was different. In 1946, they made “The Time of Their Lives”, about star-crossed lovers killed during the American Revolution. Their ghosts are trapped on an estate, specifically to a well, until they can prove their innocence. Each time I heard “If You Could Read My Mind” I thought about Abbott and Costello and the ghost movie that they made.

I have often wondered if this was something I conjured up, or did Gordon Lightfoot use the movie as his inspiration? How weird would it be if a 1940s Abbott and Costello movie led to a hit song about dying love in the 1970s? I have no idea if Lightfoot ever saw the movie, but I like to think that I figured out his secret and was able to read his mind, to paraphrase from the song. If not then I know that this song and others did what good songs are meant to do. They allowed me to enter my imagination and take what I wanted from them. From “If You Could Read My Mind” I took Abbott and Costello; combined them with a woman buying a paperback from a drugstore; and put them all on a movie set to my own made up studio where I was the star.

6 Responses to ““If You Could Read My Mind” There’s No Telling What You Would Find”

  1. Rick September 7, 2015 at 02:32 #

    Reblogged this on SBI: A Thinning Crowd and commented:

    I just listened to the remake of “If You Could Read My Mind” by Diana Krall and Sarah McLachlan. It brought to mind a post from the early days of this blog about the original version of this song, and I decided to offer it up one more time.

  2. Marilyn Armstrong September 7, 2015 at 02:45 #

    It’s a favorite song of mine, too. Very evocative.

    • Rick September 7, 2015 at 02:50 #

      It tells an interesting story.

  3. jcalberta September 7, 2015 at 06:35 #

    I saw Gord in a TV interview just recently.
    He went through a stint of bad health for a while (possibly brought on by substance abuse – which I believe wrecked his once pure voice). And there was also a rumor going around for a while that he was dead – so he had to publicly announce that this wasn’t so.
    But he’s still smiling and chugging along. Definitely made some good music.

    • Rick September 7, 2015 at 12:59 #

      I haven’t heard the death rumor. I saw him in concert several years ago. He didn’t look or sound well.

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