Six Damn Fine Degrees #86: Grace Jones, I’ve Seen That Face Before

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

I was in Florence some years ago, it was a one-week holiday, and it should have gone on longer, because I grew to like the city a whole lot. For instance, in the Nelson bookstore, you could take any book you wanted from their shelves and into their coffee shop and read it or leaf through it. The downside was that some of their books no longer looked pristine. The downside includes that the shop does not seem to exist any longer – at least I was unable to find it, and I seem to remember that it was at one side of a huge square.

I went outside into the great piazza; it was no longer summer, but early fall, and the sun was low, people were coming and going, on their way home or waiting to meet someone. I was standing there thinking about what to have for dinner, there in that square or elsewhere, when a band at the other end of the piazza caught my ear. They were good, maybe four musicians, Sinti or Roma from the looks of them, but that could have been me and my ignorant stereotyping. There was a woman standing near them, CDs in hand, trying to sell them to the passers-by.

I listened because they were very good musicians. I don’t remember the song they played at first, but there were not many people who stood with me – most of them just went their way. And then the band finished one song and began another, and it took me only two seconds that this was their version of Grace Jones’ I’ve Seen that Face Before. I didn’t know then, but I know now, that it’s a cover version of Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango; it’s easy to recognize the original if you’ve ever heard it, but if you have listened to Grace Jones, you know that she will make every song her own.

Why am I telling you this? Because I thought back to that scene in Frantic where Harrison Ford is trying to find his wife who had gone missing in Paris, and he dances with that beautiful, strange young lady while Grace Jones’ needle drop gives us goosebumps with that tune. And me, in that piazza, with the sun low and the day at its casual end, I was standing there, mesmerized, because the song was perfect for the atmosphere of that place and time. I didn’t have any wife that was lost – I wasn’t married, my then girlfriend was safely at home -, but coming from a place that features mostly bad buskers, I was rooted to the spot until they were done.

And then the beautiful woman with the CDs approached me, or maybe I approached her, I forget, but I wanted to take that music home with me. We started talking; I remember telling her that I really liked that song and that they made my day. She smiled and thanked me, and before long, I gave her the money for both CDs. The band had started another song, I can’t remember which; I probably listened to some more of their tunes before I left.

Back at home, I wanted to recapture that moment, only to find that the Grace Jones song wasn’t on either CD. I got cross at first, but then I realized that no listening would bring back that moment to its fullest. I had been there, and replaying it in my mind was the only, and probably the best way of remembering that particular moment. It will never grow old, and no amount of time can diminish it.

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