Came upon this song yesterday (which I hadn’t heard) and watched the 80’s movie (which I hadn’t seen). After listening to different versions of the song, here’s what I think about this one, the original one, which I’ve posted with lyrics.
It’s about a woman with an animated spirit. Guys pass casually into her life, looking for a good time, stress free. But when they realize they can’t contain her, can’t have her, and don’t take the time to understand her, they move on. They’re left with “rags” of memories. They talk about how pretty she is pink (present tense, though for them she’s past), her past gestures of affection, and how they didn’t return them. There’s a reoccurring image of these boys actually wearing the clothes she’s left behind in an act of sentimental regret or nostalgia. Appropriately, they think about her in terms of what she wore. As in, how she appeared to them, a fun and easy moment in a pretty dress. They’re the ones that gave up or lost interest in her and now they’re just lost. Some versions of the song end with this realization.
But the original version of the song has a final verse in barely audible spoken word, but it’s there complimenting the instrumental out.
In the final verse, she’s worn out, “confidence is in the sea” but she’s aware of the joke, the irony that they will regret their loss too late for it to matter. She’s aware that they wear their memories and sorrows like a uniform. When they’re with her, they’ll see the individuality of her, and perhaps they too will be free of themselves and an individual too. “until tomorrow / everything you are you’ll see in pure shiny buttons” After they wake and drive away for good, And in daylight, they see lives in terms of social forms. But then someone else comes along, and her spirits rise again. “Caroline laughs / and it’s raining all day” She knows “she lives in the place / in the side of our lives” where she’s not treated fairly and understood. But the next morning, that side lined memory is all they have of her.That’s the joke. The passersby don’t think she’s anything special and then, afterwards, they know she is the only thing special. And Caroline still dances, pretty as always.