Forgotten Horrors: #3 Save A Prayer

This article first appeared in August 1998.

1998 dragged quite badly for us fans. Medazzaland had crashed and burned at the fag end of 1997 with a release date in the UK coming and going until it became obvious it was not going to happen.

There was a glimmer of hope with an ‘80s revival’ being touted in the media (it seemed to happen every 18 months) and with it the rumour of a tour. In the meantime, CL’s writers filled time looking to the past. John Cutcher was a key contributor to every issue from the start til the very end. He always offered a challenging perspective on songs we take for granted. This is one of his pieces which passed without much comment in 1998. It will be interesting to see the reaction today. So welcome back, John. Cherry Lipstick Vol 3 is now fully up and running with your name on the website.

Can anyone explain to me why Save A Prayer has become the Duran world’s memorial tribute for someone who has died? Simon dedicated it to Michael Hutchence during the tour last year, and it got trotted out again for Diana at her brother’s tasteful charity concert. A great many fans seem to get emotional whenever Save A Prayer is played, even if nobody’s dead. Why?

The lyrics describe a rather fast young woman – “All alone ain’t much fun so you’re looking for the thrill / And you know just what it takes and where to go.” – all right! In addition to having a bedroom window overlooking the corner of Main Street (and Sri Lanka Blvd), proving that’s she’s a sophisticated city girl, she really knows what it takes and where to go. This gal is also a heartless flirt, first giving Simon the come-hither act, then leaving him down on the street bursting with, uh, expectations (“I try to hold the rising flood that fills my skin” - geddit?).

The real point of the song is Simon trying to get her to change her mind and come across. Does that sound crude? Hey, it’s no worse than some of the lyrics: “Some people call it a one-night stand but we can call it paradise.” ??? SLB, master of the smooth approach.

Now, I admit there are also some very noble sentiments in the lyrics. “You don’t have to dream it all, just live a day” is good and “Feel the breeze deep on the inside look you down into your well / If you can you’ll see the world in all his fire” is classic Le Bon: it may not completely make sense, but know what’s he’s getting at and it is sheer poetry.

What has it got to do with mourning? There is at least one genuine mourning song in the Duran list, Do You Believe In Shame? as well as Winter Marches On. If you want a perfect song to dedicate to Diana, you couldn’t do better than Lonely In Your Nightmare, which might have been written for her (consider, “You’ve built your refuge / Turns you captive all the same.”)

My guess is that what people are responding to is the sense of wistfulness and yearning in the song, never mind what it’s about. That, and the word ‘prayer’ in the lyrics is enough to make it appropriate for memorial services, apparently.

Oh yes, and the fact that it’s really a beautiful song. (Well, you didn’t think I had a heart of stone, did you?)

OK, so here's a real Forgotten Horror...

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