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Location: Midwest, United States

Thursday, January 19, 2006

There Are Days...

There are days…and then there are days…

I’ve been living in a dark and silent world for the past month. The music vanished once again. There have been no grace notes in my life. I spent the holidays alone…by choice, actually. I’m glad that night comes early these days. I welcome the dark. I find solace in the dark.

I’ve been walking in the woods at night and I rather enjoy that. There’s a unique peace that envelops the frozen, naked trees in winter. You can find your feelings in the quiet. Sadly, no animals spoke to me on Christmas Eve (just in case you were wondering). I only heard my own thoughts. I’m sure the animals’ whispers would have been far more uplifting.

There are days when I am overcome by a longing for a love that was. The longing burns so deep in my gut that it physically hurts. I find myself staring into a void. The stare is of that leopard-esque "1,000-yard" variety.

Some days, it feels like victory enough to simply keep breathing.

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Yesterday, for no apparent reason, I cued the BoDeans’ song “Only Love.” I feel a strong, strong affinity for the BoDeans. Three boys from Waukesha, Wisconsin – sons of the prairie - harmonizing so sweetly, and singing so simply, about life and love and heartbreak. I love Sam Llanas’ voice, and I love the way his voice blends so well with Kurt Neumann’s. Even better, I find that my own tenor voice fits in well with theirs. The BoDeans are the only band I can sing along with comfortably and seamlessly. I’m rather pleased with the resulting harmonies…a rare happenstance.

Only Love” was released in 1987 on the Outside Looking In CD. That was the year that Rolling Stone magazine voted the BoDeans as “The Best New American Band.” Quite fitting, I believe. The BoDeans sing of the complex landscape of the heartlander’s heart. As a bonus, Jerry Harrison produced that CD. I adore Jerry Harrison as an artist/producer. His recordings sound as clairvoyant as a bell. His sound is always simple, yet rich…extending to depths rarely heard on most recordings.

I fell in love with “Only Love” from the first time I heard it almost 20 years ago. The song clicks on every level. The spare instrumentation, the vocals, the harmonies, the lyrics and the drum/bass groove charmed me from the very first listen. I must have listened to that song several hundred times at least. It’s one of the few songs that I can listen to repeatedly and still enjoy as if I am hearing it for the very first time.

I have a personal reverence for this song, as well. I had listened to it repeatedly at a time when it held a particular relevance for me. I’ve lived this song.

For the first time in over a year, I sat down at my (electronic) drums. I normally only play (rather quietly) through headphones but, this day, that simply wouldn’t do. I plugged my kit into the amp, hooked up my microphone, picked up my heavy rock sticks and kicked the song into gear. I adjusted the volume to “just-below-distortion-but-louder-than-a-jet.” I needed to make loud music.

I think all drummers feel a certain impish glee when we can make a dramatic entrance partway into a song. “Only Love” begins with Kurt strumming his Fender. Kurt, and then Sam, join together in earnest, yearning voice. Jerry added a bit of reverb/delay to the vocals and drums. I adjust my amp to add reverb to my voice and drums, as well.

Danny Gayol (the drummer) enters at the end of the first verse with a powerful snare accent and then lays down an incredibly powerful kick bass groove at the start of the chorus. The BoDeans sing: ”It’s only love” to the pounding pulse of the kick bass. I join in.

It takes a replay or two for me to find the groove. A clever Rock 16th pattern on the kick bass…wrist-breaking snare accents…a bit of deft handiwork on the closed hats…and a well-placed cymbal accent or two…It all came rushing back to me.

I joined Kurt/Sam on vocals:

“If I could I'd take you baby in my arms
Take away all love's pain
And all love's scars
Maybe we could run away
'til we get so far away
That I couldn't see us coming back again
Well it’s only what you make of it
It’s only what you need

It's Only Love” (8 Times)

I wanted my sticks to shatter and break. I wanted the bass pedal hammers to rip through the skins. I pounded my drums with every ounce of strength that I could muster. I blistered my fingers. All the while, I poured my heart out in song. I put the tune on “repeat” and played and sang until my voice cracked and fingers bled. I destroyed three sticks, but (sadly) the drum heads survived intact. Damn! I wanted my ferocity to rip through every drum, dent the cymbals and crack the hats. I stopped when my body began to ache, and blood oozed from my ears.

Sometimes making music beats a primal scream by a mile. But, then again…it’s only love.

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