Sunday, August 28, 2016

September Song



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.






22 comments:

buzzbabyjesus said...

I've downloaded a lot of music this year I still haven't played.

Alan said...

Hang in there, Sal. Yes, 2016 has sucked. (Actually, there has been something monumentally sucky every year since 2007 for me, but never mind...) What gets me through is ...wait for it... tada!... community. My book group, the regulars at Tracey's, my nonprofit consultant colleagues, ... connecting to people is the only thing that really makes sense, and it carries me along and keep me sane in the soul-draining, wrenchingly sad, steaming pile that is Amurika in 2016. You have created a community through your blog, and believe it or not, we all look to you for inspiration and a good laugh. Don't forget about that. Oh, and by the way, Broadway Danny Rose.

Heather Taylor said...

Sal, thank you for this. It's what I need this morning. Radio Days is just about perfect and this scene is one of the best. 2016, however, is as good as what you put in your speakers and what you share. Thanks for sharing!
Paul

Eric said...

U bare ur soul with blood and tears like few others

Dr Wu said...

You're sharing of music and thoughts brings joy to many. I'm grateful for that. May you find peace again. Namaste.
With that in mind, I offer 'Ladies and Gentlemen... Nigel Hall'. It's certainly put a smile on my face today.
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsTB8bK2VRZzVN-QVWX6xTjuN24BgntAs

OldRockr1 said...


It has been a pretty awful year all around. What has really hurt, beyond the huge losses of the past year, is how many of my close friends and relatives think some really horrible things. Shocking actually...

bing stills said...

Glad to see you posting, have missed your way with words and music out here in webworld. Music has helped me through many trying times, sure it will again for you as well. Your memory of 9/11 reminds me how nicely people treated each other for those few weeks immediately after. Now it's everyone for themselves and it sucks. Hoping for better times, more empathy and understanding... maybe next year?

Lesley said...

Brutal year. Suffering I can take. It's the nihilism that's truly corrosive.

You're right, Sal, it will not always be so. But I remember when what you're describing happened to me, and it was painful and unthinkable.

I am also feeling that searing thing when Bowie or Prince come on the radio, which I never felt before. There's a shock and taste of ashes. But I think that will pass. I'm so aware how lucky we were to have them among us, working for these past decades, these extraordinary people.

dogbreath said...

We've all been there, I think, when life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of our love of music. You're right about the malady curing itself. Hang on in there and the music will kick in again. It's that yin and yang thing, you know? Music is like lifeblood to me and I've often joked, referencing & misquoting Annie Hall's character, that I wouldn't stand up to interrogation as all they'd have to do was threaten to take away my music & I'd tell them everything. La-di-da. La-di-da.

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree, for some reason 2016 has been the worst year in my 60 year existence. Bowie checked out in January, I guess that should have been a clue to how shitty the year was gonna be. My dog died in March then my cat two weeks later, while I was out back smoking a cigarette and mourning my cat's loss a dove fell dead from the sky at my feet. I still get enjoyment though going to my local flea market and finding that long lost LP I've been looking for forever for a buck, just missed out picking up two Lothar and The Hand People records, but my timing has always been off. Anyway if it's any consolation, I hear you on what a crappy year it's been.

Anonymous said...

Beware, evildoers, wherever you are!

Anonymous said...

"If music be the food of love......" you know the rest; I've been wanting to reply to an earlier Skip Bifferty post but Kabel Deutschland has thwarted my best efforts until now. How apt that this new post ties in nicely with my feelings about music being there on demand whenever I need it day in day out. Whilst researching Skip Bifferty I came across 'There She Goes' by 'J and B' and I'm gobsmacked by a hitherto unknown song. A day hardly goes by when music is not played in some form or other. Some get left on the shelf for years and then suddenly one newly discovered song gets played to death......
If you get a chance to listen to 'There She Goes' please tell me that Serge Gainsbourg must have been listening too. By the way. Berlin has honoured Bowie with a porcelain plaque outside his former apartment.

Dave L, Berlin, Germany.

jmsafree said...

Sal,

That clip made my day. It reminded me of visiting the Italian relatives in City Island 50 years ago. It put a smile on my face. joe

snakeboy said...

It's probably going to sound like a cliche or platitude, though believe that's not the intention, but as I get older (62),sometimes peace and quiet is the best music.
But, yes, people not taking responsibility and thinking entitlement is a given make me sad and tired.
Thanks for what you do with your blog.
Tony

M_Sharp said...

2016’s been good for me, mainly because things couldn’t get much worse than they were in 2015. Things are finally looking up, I’m on the road to semi-normalcy. Otherwise, it’s been a pretty mediocre two years or so for entertainment. Some really good stuff here and there, but not much that jumps out and grabs me. It seems like “good enough” has become the norm far too often in the creative arts and popular culture. Even my favorite BBQ joint served up some mediocre ribs last week, I hope that won’t be a trend. I’ll keep looking for the greatness, but it gets frustrating sometimes.

Hostility and stupidity are far too common, at least online and in the news. That situation might also improve since I decided I’ve read and heard all I need to about the election and my two most angry, propagandizing “friends” on Facebook decided to stop commenting on politics. I’ve been making a point of it to be more polite with everyone I deal with.

Joelhb53 said...

Hey Sal, the cherry on top of this year is the release of Mike Love's book. Think about it.

steve simels said...

On the plus side, a second season of MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE starts in December. 😀

neal t said...

here's hoping you made it to Bruce last night. if not videos everywhere. watched on periscope last night. One for the ages

Peter Ames Carlin said...

But I've got this beautiful sea bass. Who wants to join me?

Chris Collins said...

Well said. This year has been a killer. And I've been holding on to the music more firmly than ever. I'm still mourning Bowie, but I'm absolutely reeling from Prince. Still. Every day.

Bruce (as he often does) comes when I need him most. Man, did I need "Purple Rain" back in April and man did I need these last 3 shows. "Who here has been knocked down?" he asked during "My City of Ruins" on night 2. "You're gonna build yourself back up"

Thanks for bringing me back to the music. Again and again.

Michael Giltz said...

What a run Woody had there from Annie Hall to the corrosive Husbands & Wives. Radio Days, Broadway Danny Rose, Zelig (the least appreciated), Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors and the warmth of Hannah And Her Sisters! Plus the early shtick is fun and some of the later stuff doesn't completely suck. Thanks for the Radio Days clip. Honestly, sometimes I need to pause for a little silence and I know I chase the next new artist more than savoring the greats like I should. But I've never felt especially divorced from music particularly and pray I never do. (Maybe it helps I don't expect it to banish evil and I also crave books and movies and theater and TV? Today came up Getz/Gilberto, surely one of the great balms of life. I hope an unexpected blast of music raises your spirits soon.

whattawino said...

I hear you loud and clear, Sal. I found myself earlier this year pulling out my favorite
record that always lifts me up (and then some...) and have been listening to it and letting the songs play on in my head regularly. It always works for me and I'm happy to share it with the village of Burning Wood. The band is The Sons Of Champlin and the album is Loosen Up Naturally. It's pure 1969 West Coast (Bay Area) with all the goodies. Check it out! And I LOVED the Beatles '65 moment you shared too, not to mention the clip from Radio Days. Thanks as always.