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Location: Midwest, United States

Monday, July 09, 2007

After The Deluge

In a comment to a (fairly) recent entry, Laurie asked if I’d be willing to list ten songs that are important to me and explain why. That’s a TALL order for a man whose soul comes wrapped in a thousand songs. I didn’t think I’d find the time to contemplate, much less identify, the ten most important songs in my life. I had too many things to pack and move, too much work to do, too many miles to travel.

Still do.

Last Thursday afternoon, I loaded the truck for the umpteenth time with sundry earthly possessions for transport to my new/old home. The sky had grown ominously dark. The wind howled and thunder rumbled. I had already entered the freeway when the deluge came. Oh, how it poured! Traffic slowed to a snail’s crawl. There was nothing to be seen but fog and rain, rain and fog. I could barely make out the flashing red taillights directly before my eyes. The world dissolved to clouds and water.

It was then that I began to hear the music…

It was 1964, when I bought my first long-play album, Glad All Over by the Dave Clark Five (Funny, isn’t it, how so many of us remember the first album we ever went and bought with our own money? It’s a rite of passage, I guess). Yes, the British had invaded and found a most avid listener in me. But there was so much more going on than just the Beatles, the DC5, the Stones, Who and Cream (and countless others…).

Here on our own shores, in a place called San Francisco, other musicians played my heart strings. I was in high school. If someone were to ask me, then, to define myself through music I could hand them two albums: Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane, and the self-titled Buffalo Springfield platter.

Wait! Make that three albums.

I need to add Having A Rave Up by the Yardbirds. These albums defined the contents of my young soul. The Airplane had fused folk music with psychedelia. My two favorite songs, though - “Today” and “Comin’ Back To Me” aren’t psychedelic at all.

They’re simply beautiful.

Buffalo Springfield added political awareness to the mix (although my favorite song will always remain "Mr. Soul") and the Yardbirds set me afire through the rock pyrotechnics of the likes of Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. From these three seeds, my musical taste buds exploded, my passions became incarnate.

The music I heard between 1964 and 1970 was absolutely incredible. My world spun on an axis of sound. There were so many artists, so many pivotal songs! My pantheon of rock gods and influences is filled to overflowing. Trust me on this, I can’t possibly list them all.

But as I sat on the flooded freeway, these particular songs and artists drifted into mind:

Jimi Hendrix burst on the scene in 1966. To this very day, I relish listening to Hendrix. He didn’t just play a Fender guitar; no, it was a conduit for his soul and what an absolutely amazing and creative soul it was! He was truly one of a kind.

I wish he had survived the turmoil of his career and the times. I still grieve.

Imagine the music he would be making today!

I had my own quirky favorites. Back then, I used to listen to a small indie radio station whose call letters have long since vanished into the ether. It was 1967, and the DJ would end his late-night program with "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by the Iron Butterfly. Yep, he did that at the end of every broadcast. I would listen with rapt (often stoned) attention. Night after night after night. I loved Ron Bushy’s drum solo. It was musical. It helped a lot that it was also simple to emulate. To this day, whenever I sit down at a drum kit, I’ll beat out at least a few measures of that solo.

That same summer, the Moody Blues released Days of Future Passed. This album came back to me, as if in a dream. You see, that summer, my high school sweetheart had jetted off to California to live with her sister. She was kind enough to lend me her portable phonograph (oh, go ahead and scratch your heads and laugh, you crazy youngsters…).
I experienced an amazing, mystical, and altogether extraordinary night listening to this album over and over again, with the small speakers pressed against my ears. Let’s just say that Timothy Leary would have been inordinately proud of me that night. It was a true “out of body” experience. I was transported to a world I could never again revisit. As I said, it was an amazing night.

I can’t help but list Led Zeppelin’s debut album. I swear that, in 1969, every party I attended had that record blasting all night long. I kid you not. Page, Plant and Bonham made us want to tear our clothes off and ravish each other. Whenever I hear the Zep, I am transported to those feverish hormonal and drug-fueled times. “Dazed and Confused” is an apt anthem for those heady, turbulent times.

It wasn’t all drugs, sex and rock and roll, though. Believe it or not, Cat Stevens arrived on the scene at almost the same time. I can still remember hearing Cat (Yusuf Islam) for the very first time. The song was “Trouble” from the Mona Bone Jakon album. I fell in love with that voice instantly.

Tea for the Tillerman followed shortly thereafter. It may just be my favorite album of all time.

A few years later, I was visiting one of my close friends, he of the incredible taste in music. It was 1974. He said: “Jon, you’ve got to hear this!” He inserted a tape into an incredibly expensive player that was connected to an even more richly-valued pre-amp/amp that was connected to speakers worth more than my condo. I heard a woman’s voice. She sang like no other, and she sang of love in a way that grabbed my heart and never let go.
I was listening to Joan Armatrading’s "Dry Land", and I’ve loved her passionately ever since.

In 1980, Dire Straits released their third album, Making Movies. I was already a big Mark Knofler fan, but this album positively thrilled. Here's my story: One fateful day, I brought the record home and gave it a spin. I immediately fell in love with the heroine of the "Skateaway" cut. I mean I really fell for her…HARD!

I seen a girl on a one-way corridor
Stealin' down a wrong-way street
For all the world like an urban toreador
She had wheels on - on her feet
Well the cars do the usual dances
Same old cruise and the curbside crawl
But the rollergirl - she's takin' chances
Just love to see her take them on

No fears, alone at night - she's sailing through the crowd
In her ears the phones are tight and the music's playin' loud

Hallelujah - here she comes - Queen Roller Ball
Enchante - what can I say? Carry on
You know she used to have to wait around
She used to be the lonely one
But now that she been skatin' around town
She's the only one

No fears, alone at night - she's sailing through the crowd
In her ears the phones are tight and the music's playin' loud

She gets rock n roll, from the rock n roll station
In a rock n roll dream
She's making movies on location
She don't know what it means
And the music make her wanna be the story
And the story was whatever was the song - what it was
Rollergirl - don't worry
DJ play the movies - all night long

She tortures taxi drivers just for fun
She like to read their lips
Says: "Toro, toro, taxi - see 'ya tomorrow my son - "
She just let a big truck graze her hip
She got her own world in the city - yeah!
Ain't that true - Lord I know -
She got her own world in the city
The city's bein' so... rude to her

Slippin' and a-slidin'
Yeah, life's a roller ball
Slippin' and a-slidin'
Skateaway - that's all
Shala shalay, hey hey, skateaway
She's singin' shala shalay, hey hey

Yep. My kinda gal. I was in a swoon when I noticed the turntable was introducing quite a bit of wow and flutter. It was, after all, an old “college-days” relic. I rushed to the audio store to buy a new turntable. I rushed home to listen to the record again. Ah, beautiful rendition…but…my receiver was too weak to REALLY bring out the sound. Long story short, over the course of the next three days, I replaced my receiver with a powerful monster, bought a new cassette deck (need to listen to this album in the car, dontcha know), and lugged two huge Bose speakers into my home. Rollergirl cost me plenty but I’m still crazy about her (although I will say that over the course of the years, "Romeo and Juliet" became my favorite cut).

Peter Gabriel had already formed Genesis by 1967 but, to this listener, he didn’t come to full flower until the 1986 release of So. Although ALL of his work resonates with me, So blew me away. It was my all-time favorite Gabriel CD until he released Secret World Live in 1994. If you haven’t seen the performance video, do so. You will be a better person for it. Tell me you don’t feel sanctified, somehow, as Paula Cole’s voice soars to the rafters and Manu Katché drums his rhythms through your soul.

As I grew older, I drifted towards “roots rock.” I guess that’s what I am, a roots-rocker at heart. I never tire of listening to the likes of the BoDeans, Rusted Root, Subdudes, Sister Hazel, Better Than Ezra and many others.

I truly don’t know how many songs/records/artists I just mentioned. I wasn’t counting. This is the music that reverberated in my head as I sat in the car in the thrall of a deluge. These were my blessed reveries, coming at a time when blessed reveries are most welcome.

So, there you have it, the music that popped into my head that day. Songs that shaped me, defined me, thrilled me and accompanied me throughout my entire adult life.

The clouds disgorged their rain and rolled on. I turned my attention to the road and sped towards my new home. I knew where I needed to go. How so, you ask?

Because I’d been sitting at a red light for far, far too long…

* * *

Whew! I do believe this is the longest entry I've yet posted.
Um, Laurie, don't make me work so hard, OK?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't listen to a lot of music but you and Tabba have convinced me it's a worthwhile endeavor. I'm a visual person so the video's help me to remember the music a lot better. I loved that last song, red light, very nice.
I always enjoy reading your stuff Jonas. Thank you.

Tue Jul 10, 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

That Jonny Lang tune served as somewhat of a "signature" song for my last two years. I've probably listened to it hundreds and hundreds of times.

I'm waiting for the next song...

I hope to find enough time, while in the midst of chaos, to write a bit more.

Thanks for dropping by, Deb. I always enjoy reading your comments.

Wed Jul 11, 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger anna said...

That was Johnny Lang?? Wow, he's really grown up.

Sadly, I'm not familiar with the earlier stuff you mentioned, but I'll make note of it and check it out.

Thank you for the little musical history of Jonas' life lesson. That was very enjoyable.

Hope you enjoy settling into your new home.

Wed Jul 11, 06:14:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Hello, Anna! I'm SO very glad you're up and about.

So, you're familiar with Jonny Lang? For those of you who don't follow the maturation of blues singers (they grow up SO fast, don't they?), Jonny Lang started playing professionally at age 12 or 13, as Kid Jonny Lang and the Big Bang. I think he's around 19 or 20, now. The boy's got talent!

It saddens me to listen to recordings from the 60's. It's not that the music wasn't good (it was great!), it's just that the recording quality was so poor. I often wonder how marvelous the music would be had it been recorded today. Sigh.

Thanks for stopping by, Anna.

Wed Jul 11, 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Sunny Delight said...

Sigh...I cannot watch the videos on here...due to my demon dial-up...someday hopefully.

Amazingly enough to me, I remember a few of these...with my poor memory I find that another wonderful testament to the art and artists, of how music can open us up, how it can amplify and/or help define our current emotions, and most wonderfully of all when we really listen, like most works of art that resound within us, music can help engender changes within.

Wed Jul 11, 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

You are certainly right, Sunny. Music is powerful magic.

Wed Jul 11, 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger Laurie Anne said...

Jonas, I could not help but tag you -- all for selfish reasons. I knew you would give me a beautiful read and you did! I thank you so much for sharing so much...
I learned a lot about you and about some artists I didn't know. I feel bad for making you work so hard, but it was so worth it.

Mon Jul 16, 01:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Roads said...

Great post, Jonas.

You reminded me that the timeless appeal of rock music (or at least so I'm told) may lie in that sweet sensation induced in the eardrum from the oscillatory peaks of a perfectly-formed sound. It's hard to explain, but when it's correctly executed, it feels like a switch tripping inside my head.

That's why I love 'Skateaway' - the introduction has a faint, precisely-timed drumbeat which never ceases to entrance me. And, yes, that girl's got attitude - graze her hip !

Joan Armatrading came to me as part of that package, too. It was a very special friend, Jane, who introduced me to Making Movies some time during the winter of 1980-81. Her soon-to-be boyfriend of the time, Robin (my non-existent chances with Jane had vanished the day they met) may well have wowed her with the size of his massive speakers - Missions possibly, or maybe even Wharfedale.

Whoever made them, those speakers were at least four feet high and crazily slanted in design, apparently filling half of his tiny student room in St John's College.

I can still remember Robin pulling a simply-designed white and black LP sleeve from his rack, and saying, 'You've got to hear this.'

There was silence for a moment, and then those speakers more or less exploded as he played the opening bars of 'Me, Myself, I'. Even at half volume, the whole world shook and my eardrums felt a hugely powerful version of that perfect oscillation once more.

Yes, some great records there. And thanks for some marvellous memories to go with them.

Mon Jul 16, 05:21:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Ah, Laurie, I'm glad you prodded me to reflect on my musical roots. It was a pleasant diversion, and tripped me into listening to a few more tunes. I owe you.

Roads, my brother! Skateaway really is a wonderfully engineered song, no? I, too, thrill at the opening snare fade-in. Knofler's grace notes at "graze her hip" are a perfect punctuation.

My favorite Armatrading song has been Dry Land, from that very first listen. I also have an enormous affection for her song "Love and Affection." It's a song that reminds me of the joys...

Mon Jul 16, 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Airplane, Springfield, Hendrix, Butterfly: saw them all at free concerts in The Park. :)

DC5, Yardbirds, Moody Blues, Zep: saw them all live in SF.... how can listening make you sad when the memory is still alive?


(They) believed that they were meant to live after the deluge
Now let the music keep our spirits high
And let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal it's secrets by and by
By and by--
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky

Fri Apr 17, 07:21:00 PM  

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