I don’t know if there is a subgenre of coming home songs that are about prison release. If there is. “Care of Cell 44” is the apex, a bright, cheerful, organ driven slice of sixties harmonies, surrounding a strange melody and the most bizarre lyrics from a band known for twisted lyrics.
Seriously, when I get to “She’s Not There”…
The melody is drenched in sunshine- quite possibly Orange Sunshine. With Ron Argent’s glorious keyboard propelling the song, and Colin Blunstone’s cheerful vocal delivery, you are deceived with the opening lines. ” Good morning I hope you’re feeling better baby, thinking of me while you are far away”. Ohhhhhh, Colin’s love is away from him at the moment, how sad. But the music means that we are going to have a happy ending! Songs this cheerful are never…. did he just say “then you can tell me about your prison stay”?
It is essentially a “welcome home” song, with the twist of the prison inmate. The song’s day-glo brightness is tempered with lyrics that are oddly optimistic about a rehabilitated inmate’s ability to segue back into society. There seems little concern about reality in this song- its optimism disguising fear of the unknown. Sure, it could be exactly like it was before this awkward arrests, trial, and incarceration. It won’t be, but I’ll pretend.
Yes, “feels so good you’re coming home soon” sounds chipper, but really, it’s a massive delusion to tell oneself that it’s all going to be perfect. It never was. And all surrounded by shiny vocal harmonies that would make the Beach Boys jealous.
This is the Zombies song I love the most, and it is the second most played song on my iTunes ( my iPod loves it as much as I do). Rarely does a song make as little sonic or lyrical sense upon listening to it. That’s why it’s so magnificent.
As a treat: a mediocre cover:
Elliott Smith takes the joy out of it:
The only thing Smith’s version is good for is to remind you that the Zombies were a special band. I say this as a Smith fan. But this version is dull.