Sunday, August 28, 2016
For many, music is an escape. For some, it's no more or less important than weather. It exists, and they work around it. Many use it to help make dancing look less frightening. For me, and for as long as I am old, music has been oxygen. I need it to survive. It has never been background.
I can recall an afternoon a long time ago, sitting on the floor in front of my "close & play" record player, dropping the top down on "Beatles '65." That same day, my mother had some friends over and they each offered me a dollar to play along to "No Reply" on my small, three piece drum kit. I said no. "He's so cute." I was two years old, and over a half century later, I am seeing that day with great clarity. I just wanted to listen to "Beatles '65." You guys sit with your Highballs and packs of Kent cigarettes and just leave me with my records.
There hasn't been a day since that afternoon where music has not been played in my world. Even on September 11th, 2001, at least for the first few hours of the day, when people were still unsure about what was happening around them, Bob Dylan's "Love & Theft," released on that same day, was spinning in my shop, while the phone rang incessantly with calls alternating between, "Did you hear about the second plane?" and "Did the new Bob Dylan come in?"
I have another memory from a few years earlier, of being asked by a customer what I thought of the new Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach collaboration. I admit gushing a bit, and as I explained how one song's lyrics really got to me, I started to choke up. He raised his hand and said, "Okay. Relax." I wanted to shove the CD into his smug mug. I cannot and won't ever apologize for being moved by words and music.
Many will cite "Annie Hall" as their favorite Woody Allen film. Mine is "Radio Days." The era is different, but the sentiment, and on many occasions, the locations, are exactly the same. The idea is simple. Music is a part of Woody's life, and countless songs trigger specific memories. I'll come back to this.
We are heading into the last quarter of what has certainly been, for me, the worst year I've experienced. It's not about health. Or about money. I have the former...I think. I don't have the latter...I know. But 2016 feels like a colossal thorn in everyone's side. People very close to me are either suffering with their own personal demons, or turning their demons on each other, and in a few cases, me. 2016 seems to be the year of no accountability. A year of "Fuck you, I don't care." A year, where right and wrong are no longer considerations. A year, where anything goes, even if it's going in the absolute worst places imaginable. A year, where hostility rules, truth is a rarity, selfishness is viral, and compromise is non-existent.
2016 has been mean.
But 2016, for me personally, is the first year in memory where I have gone days without listening to music. Imagine that. 2016 has handed me a king's spread of various disappointments that has made music a catalyst for misery. And like the aforementioned "Radio Days," songs that once triggered the best memories, have recently, triggered the worst. David Bowie, the once joyous sounds of New Orleans, Prince, Bruce's "The River," the guitar solo in "Comfortably Numb," Daltrey's scream in "Won't Get Fooled Again," even music that I played on, all leave me with a sinking feeling. I find myself listening to things like "Bitches Brew" or Cecil Taylor, music without words, with no real connection to anything personal. Music has become what I said it would never be. Background.
I have no doubt this malady will cure itself. Man can only go so long without playing air guitar to "Pinball Wizard."I am just so amazed by it all, I needed to put it down for history's sake.