May 20 — “Be My Angel” by Mazzy Star

Mazzy Star

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Be My Angel” by Mazzy Star (1991, from the album She Hangs Brightly).

Mazzy Star is a psychedelic rock/dream pop band from Santa Monica California. That’s right. IS. Present tense. The band is centered around Hope Sandoval (vocals, tambourine) and David Roback (guitars, keyboards). While the band had other members which included former My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig (additional guitars) and former Hole bassist Jill Emery, the terms “Mazzy Star” and “Sandoval and Roback” are completely interchangeable. Their debut record She Hangs Brightly was anchored by a spectacular cover of the Slapp Happy folk/avant pop song “Blue Flower”. The Mazzy Star version is miles better than the original, and when bands after Mazzy Star have covered the song, they’ve actually covered the Mazzy Star interpretation. In that respect, they did with “Blue Flower” what Jeff Buckley did with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.

Some of the songs on “She Hangs Brightly” were really psychedelic. Almost Doors-esque, even. Specifically the title track. A couple of songs are blues-oriented, including a cover of the Memphis Minnie song “I’m Sailin'”. Others are more rocking, like the aforementioned “Blue Flower” and “Ghost Highway”. Others are more like dream pop or slowcore. That album did well, but it was the next record — So Tonight That I Might See (1993)– that really put them on the map.

They hated the spotlight, both in a literal and figurative sense. It was strange, then, that the über-sexy song “Fade Into You” became a mainstream hit. It was such a hit that it pushed the album to platinum status. Although I love So Tonight That I Might See, I’ve always had a bit of difficulty wrapping my head around it. I’ve always thought that a few of the songs are just rehashes of She Hangs Brightly songs. For example, “Fade Into You” (So Tonight) is a lot like “Be My Angel” (She Hangs Brightly). “Five String Serenade” (So Tonight) is a lot like “Give You My Lovin'”(She Hangs Brightly). Okay. To be fair, that’s all I’ve got.

Speaking of “Be My Angel”, it’s today’s song. Here it is:
“Be My Angel” by Mazzy Star

Like “Fade Into You”, which I think is an awful lot like this, “Be My Angel” is incredibly sexy. There’s always some clown who comes along and says that this is about Jesus, but this is clearly about love and sex. And it’s got the opposite sentiment of that Fleet Foxes song that I posted the other day. Whereas the Fleet Foxes says, basically, “You can mislead me if you want. I don’t care, as long as I get what I want”, this says:

Don’t leave me lonely
Don’t leave me unhappy
Just bring me up into your fate
If you don’t need me then don’t deceive me
Letting my freedom turn into stone

Just be my angel
If you love me
Be my angel
In the night
Be my angel
Coz you need me
Be my angel and treat me right

Don’t say you love me if you don’t need me
Don’t send me roses on your behalf
Just take me down and walk through your river
Down in the middle and make it last

It’s probably about an impossible relationship. I read that a lot of Mazzy Star lyrics were autobiographical. I don’t know who the “you” is, but it’s probably the case that the “me” in the song really is Hope. She’s not satisfied with the emotional aspect of the relationship. She’s trying to give all, and trying to get the guy to accept that and give his honest, true “all”. Something, though, isn’t right. Still, though, she’s not going to give up. She really wants it to happen, and she can be patient.

Of course there’s the last lines, suggesting that the guy, who wasn’t as into her as she was into him, moved on to someone else. Or at least terminated their “relationship”:

Don’t say it’s useless
And don’t say forget it
You are my spirit and now you are gone

Musically, I love the pedal steel guitar that runs throughout the song. I also love the two quick pauses in the song. One at 0:57 and one at 2:13.

I always say that I like unusual time signatures, but I can’t always identify the precise signature. I had to do some research on this to discover that it’s in 12/8 time.

I’m no genius. I know next to nothing when it comes to the technical aspect of the music. Even if I can’t play a single note or count out the time properly, I know that I like it a lot. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…

The third record —Among My Swan (1996)– saw Mazzy Star fall from fame quickly. She Hangs Brightly went gold. So Tonight… went platinum. Swan barely sold 200,000 copies. None of them to me.

Last autumn, after 15 years of doing other things (Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions), they got together to release a single. At that time, they announced a few US dates in the spring of 2012 and a handful of Europe shows in the summer of 2012. A full-length album is supposed to be forthcoming as well. Unfortunately, no further details were availed. No title. No release date. Nothing. We are left in breathless anticipation. Maybe not breathless, but excited anyway. I like the single, and I’ll certainly get the new album, but I wasn’t blown away.

On a different day, I’ll ramble on about Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions. On a different day, I’ll ramble on about how Mazzy Star got started. The short version of that is that David Roback was in a band called Opal with Kendra Smith. She basically vanished into thin air (it’s a story for a different day, I promise), and Hope Sandoval took over. They continued as Opal for a little while, but decided to start anew with Mazzy Star. I promise, I’ll tell that story on a different day. It’s pretty strange.

If you own a copy of She Hangs Brightly, but you haven’t listened to it in a long while, you need to remedy that. Listen to the whole album like you’ve never heard it before. Dig it out of your attic, or from the “last played: never” section of your digital library.

You can order a copy of She Hangs Brightly in the format of your choosing. Even on cassette. Visit the amazon store here to do so.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

One response to “May 20 — “Be My Angel” by Mazzy Star

  • Lamia

    Good review. I agree that Fade Into You is a re-hash of Be My Angel. FIY is a lovely song and a deserved hit, but in my view BMA is rather better.

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