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Repost: “For the Want of a Nail”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 6, 2013

Todd Rundgren’s “For the Want of a Nail” is one of those songs I never, ever skip when it comes on.  It is just fantastic, joyful noise.  It makes me smile.  It makes me get up and sing.  It makes me believe.

Believe in what, you ask?  The power of love, for one thing.  The power of music, for another.  Runt pulls most of his lyrics from the old proverb, “For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost.  For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost.” and so on.  Interpretations vary, but the main point seems to be pay attention because there are consequences to everything.  And in this song, everything is indeed at stake.  In Runt’s hands, the nail becomes love and companionship; it is the one thing everyone needs.  It’s the one thing that makes the world work, and it is certainly why the singer’s big plans have failed: “But the devil’s in the details, I left out one thing.  No one to love me.”  It’s also contagious, like a particularly nasty version of the flu, “Multiply it a billion times, spread it all ’round the world, put the curse of loneliness on every boy and every girl, until everybody’s kicking, everybody’s scratching, everything seems to fail.  And it was all for the want of a nail.”  If you don’t have someone (or something) to love, what’s the point of getting out of bed?  Preach it, brother.

This gospel-tinged song is a complicated affair.  There’s a huge cast of musicians and singers, including the incredible Bobby Womack (who has a new album coming out in June).  It’s got the kind of production and orchestration that typifies Rundgren’s music. This is not a quiet, gentle song.  It’s purpose is to convert the unwashed heathens to the great church of Love.  He’s preaching to the choir with me.



3 Responses to “Repost: “For the Want of a Nail””

  1. . . . in actuality, BOBBY WOMACK was Todd’s second choice. first choice? >>> PETER GABRIEL (think about it)

  2. . . . yep. I agree. Bobby Womack is one of those unsung heroes of R&B. just bubbling under the soul radar. but, I have got to assume that Todd put Mr. Gabriel on the list as a result of his close to soul toonz on his fourth release — “So”

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