The Infinite Jukebox: Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s not much modern, as in Twenty-First Century music on The Infinite Jukebox but Elbow’s classic “One Day Like This” is unignorable.
Nowadays, as far as I can see, the word Anthem tends only to be appended to dance music: Club Anthems, none of which I can distinguish from the others, nor from those presumably lesser tracks that don’t qualify for the title. If you can make the explanation sufficiently interesting (and intelligible), I invite you to elucidate for me.
But Anthem in the case of “One Day Like This” should be heard in an entirely different connection, for the category this song – the one that will lodge Elbow in musical history – belongs to that bestraddled by The Beatles and “Hey Jude”, which was an influence on Guy Garvey in composing and arranging this track.
Like Let Loose, I have no idea when or in what circumstances I first heard this. The single had had some minor chart success in 2009, reaching no. 19 at some point in the pattern some of Elbow’s earlier releases had established, though it would more than beat that mark a few years, re-entering the chart at no. 4 when the band were invited to perform it for the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
My earliest memory of it comes from very late that year, that brief period I was homeless and living in a short-term high-rise flat in Brinnington, Stockport. My time was my own and there was too much of it, so when I was going to do the meagre food shopping I could afford, I would walk down into Stockport to Tesco’s, killing a half hour that way and a half hour back. I associate the song with listening to it on one of my older mp3 players, marching across the bridge over the M60 in Stockport, one of only two roads into or out of Brinnington (most of the rest of Stockport wishes there were two fewer than that).
Just like everyone else, I’m seduced by that endless, “Hey Jude”-esque coda. The sing itself is slow, almost to the point of being ponderous, the band itself operating on half power at best whilst the burden of the minimal melody is taken up between high strings and Garvey’s mournful, deep brown towns, in which you can hear the Lancashire accent as surely as you hear Liverpool in anything sung by The Beatles.
It’s a song in the aftermath. A night has been spent, and Garvey is now awakening, slowly, in bits and stages. The aftermath of what? Sex, clearly, a night of passion, romance and deeply satisfying horizontal gymnastics. But this is clearly not all the night has been. It’s not just been a quickie, nor a one night stand, nor yet still the friendly and regular encounter of partners whose lives are spent together.
No, this is more. This is love, and sex, that is transcendent, not recreation nor gratification but Love-making. Love-making with Her, in which both of you are taken to a place that exists on no maps but which can only be reached together, hand in hand, so to speak. For she is the one who transforms by being, even amongst the most mundane of matters.
And maybe it’s because it comes only occasionally, with long intervals between, or maybe it’s because, no matter how often it is, it’s that merging of two people into one. But the song moves slowly, feeling its way back into being one person alone, yet with all the shared looks and memories and anticipations, the teases and the games that come out of so much an intimacy. Garvey is blissful, sated, and so is the music, full and warm.
Leading to that moment when Garvey leads the rest of the band into that anthem: Throw those curtains wide (let the day and the light in, for the night is done). One day like this a year will see me right.
One day like this a year. Is it really so long between meetings of this pair of lovers? Do they live, work, in different countries. Is she, or he, married, able only to sneak away from spouses or partners every now and then?
We don’t know, and frankly, with glory such as this, should we care? Hell, no. One day like this a year is enough, is good enough, is more than enough so that more would bean infinite blessing.
Or is it really the novelty? Would more frequent liaisons take the bloom from off the rose? Would contradict Shakespeare by making age wither her and custom stale her infinite variety? I listen to Garvey’s voice and I think not that.
So what? What is here in this moment is beyond all asking. Guy Garvey knows and Elbow celebrate. Throw those curtains wide. One day like this a year will see me right. Repeat until the Universe ceases to exist.
And it’ll still look like a beautiful day.

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