Among my favorite songs of the past ten years is “Behind the Looking Glass” by Mott the Hoople, one of the few songs that can bring me to tears before the first chorus is over.
I can’t think of a better song addressing the foibles of aging, the simultaneous emotions of vanity which clash with the bitter cognition of reality… one is getting old.
The sparse, piano ballad structure of the verses — against the powerful chorus with its fantastic use of strings and choir vocals — bring a heightened poignancy to the song’s lyrics.
Led by Ian Hunter, Mott the Hoople were a Herefordshire-based band who became pivotal in the ‘glam rock’ genre which saw its heyday in the ’70s.
I’m feelin’ ugly, I’m feelin’ low.
Good mornin’ mirror, you ain’t no rose.
And did I mean it, or did I lie
Or did I dream it?…
O’ Christ, I’m tired.
Why then did you have to grin?
Now the blood rolls down my chin.
Oh, you know you painted so much blue,
And I’m much younger than that too.
Oh, mirror, what did I do to you?
You’re my voyeur; see every line;
Chase them to destinations, on through time.
And you’re my diary, yeah, the bitter truth.
Unexpurgated, a misspent youth…
Do you have to paint teeth green,
When they’re snowy, white and clean?
Do you have to make eyes red,
When they’re clear and fresh, instead?
Oh, mirror, I wish you’d lose your head.
Sometimes, I’m on a gig, and I’m feeling kinda good.
I run and look at you, just like a pop star would.
But you just glare at me with those dark, accusing eyes.
That say: “My make-up’s good… I’d like to… I’d like so much to…”
Oh, I’ll never look at you again,
‘Cause I’m really not that vain.
Seven years bad luck ain’t that long,
Before I smash you, hear my song.
Oh, mirror, I’m sorry, you were wrong.