30 April 2006

observing that the park had changed so little, i had the following poem running through my head :

as the mist leaves no scar
on the dark green hill,
so my body leaves no scar
on you, nor ever will.

when wind and hawk encounter,
what remains to keep?
so you and i encounter,
then turn, then fall to sleep.

as many nights endure
without a moon or star,
so will we endure
when one is gone and far.

--leonard cohen, "as the mist leaves no scar" (1961).
trembling blue stars - "abba on the jukebox" (from the her handwriting lp, import available for purchase here.)

(here's another track once intended for a mix.)

in the moviegoer, walker percy's protagonist, binx bolling, engages in experiments he calls "repetitions," which he describes as "the re-enactment of past experience toward the end of isolating the time segment which has lapsed in order that it, the lapsed time, can be savored of itself and without the usual adulteration of events that clog time like peanuts in brittle."

on the way to another location, under the influence of my reading, i underwent my own percyan repetition, returning to a place i hadn't been in nearly a month. bolling visits a movie theater, where he feels as if the v. seats "had waited to see what [he] had done with" his time; i went to a park and wanted to see if there was anything remaining of the winsome times i had spent there, if the park benches had wondered where i had wandered off to.

there are no names inside hearts on a wall--none that we'd left anyway : such a thing always struck me as pointless and self-defeating, as if you needed to leave a mark, something behind, b/c you knew that you and your love would never make it. of course, that didn't stop someone from carving "MANNY," large and all caps into one of the benches; this was a new development. also new was the increase in foliage which made everything that much shadier and everyone that much more aware that spring was on the march.

the first major difference, the most obvious one was that i was unaccompanied. so when i sat down, i was disquieted by the silence that followed; there was no vibration indicating that anyone had settled in next to me. it struck me that this was a mistake; that i should have continued to my destinations undeterred, w/ no detours into the recent past.

i should have listened to stendhal, for whom the marginal notes he re-encounters when picking up a favorite book is enough to send him into unhappy reverie : "if i come upon a marginal note describing my feeling as i read old mortality in florence three years ago, i immediately plunge into my life story, into a comparison of my happiness then and now."

i should have listened to bobby wratten, whose "abba on the jukebox" w/ the trembling blue stars tells of the difficulties that come from just this sort of thing. listening to "abba on the jukebox" is itself a repetition b/c i recall the first time i heard it, eight years ago, and the large number of firsts that came w/ that : it was on the first mixtape i received from the great and good tom ewing; it was my first package to have a uk postmark; it was an induction into indie music; and what's more i was on the brink of falling in love. i loved the tune then for its inspired music : the heart-flutter drum track; the steel guitars like God-sized teardrops; the mixture of repetition and subtle variation that make its seven-plus minutes pass so quickly. in other words, it never occurred to me that he was singing a/b anything.

eight years later to today and time passes markedly slower, and the song's message is tattooed on the back of my eyelids, visible while i sleep. back then, it seemed to me that bobby & his girl had a swell day, accomplished a lot of things; now, it's only obvious that he's making mental repetitions, recalling "stations frozen in time" lost to him for good, polaroids in the imperfect tense of happier days. but, eight years later, i bring something to this, my knowledge of the music of bob wratten, recorded under many guises, but always w/ the same sensibility--my knowledge, too, of precisely what he's singing a/b.

it was a beautiful day and, since i was in a park, i tried to do some reading, but i felt distracted, haunted by the ghosts flickering in the corner of my eye, ghosts that inspire many feelings, but never fear.

i did it : i made a carving into a bench, eventually squaring away my moral problem w/ defacing property. i did the standard her initials <3 my initials and added a comma before etching the word "once" as legibly as i could. as i did it, i understood precisely why other people do it, that it is a spur of the moment thing, intoxicated by an emotion; and that while those letters may not convey anything to the gen pub, they mean everything to the people whose initials or names they spell out. it's precisely the kind of carving i'd like to see, something that provokes thought, like a good used-book inscription : it makes you wonder just who these people are, when they were, and what happened to them--why the word "once"?

perhaps, too, i carved it to delay the inevitable. it's a steep decline down to the small parking lot; it had become a tradition that i'd carry her down on my back. i did not look forward to the feeling of weightlessness. i would miss the pain in my back, a weight i'd happily continue to have borne, as it was translocated to an organ that doesn't bear such burdens easily (an organ, i'd read, that shouldn't be able to cause much pain). the first step, naturally, was the most difficult, w/ each step, though, i was glad of the decline, which once made the trip perilous : it quickened the pace and brought my car ever nearer. this would not, by bolling's reckoning, have been a "successful" repetition, but i'd endured. and as he says himself, "the enduring is something which must be accounted for. one cannot simply shrug it off"--neither the enduring nor the yoke of the past.
i should really be in bed. if it were at hand, i'd post marvin gaye & tammi terrell singing "you ain't livin' until you're lovin'." & if any of this seems too much, i plead pseudoephedrine (no wonder you have to get it from behind the counter now!). the sidebar is wrong : i am reading de l'amour by stendhal, written after his own great romantic failure, which is available for purchase here. i much enjoy the preface to the first edition, a citation from an m. simond :
it is of little use for an author to beg the public's indulgence. for the very act of publication gives the lie to this pretence at modesty. he had better submit himself squarely to the justice, patience, and impartiality of his readers.
i may adopt such words. other things i enjoy so far :
the reverie of love defies all attempts to record it.


it has been borne upon me this evening that perfect music has the same effect on the heart as the presence of the beloved. it gives, in fact, apparently more pleasure than anything else on earth. ... the habit of listening to music and the state of reverie connected with it prepare you for falling in love. (this is the reason i immediately gave up on this blog following, to put it lightly, my disappointment. music, all music had some sort of connection to her. it's possible that an innocent mix i had made for her had set the tone for falling in love.)


man is not free to avoid doing what gives him greater pleasure than any other action.

love is like a fever which comes and goes quite independently of the will.
(he later says, the will has no control over love.) it is chiefly in this that mannered love differs from passionate love. the charms of your beloved are not a matter of self-congratulation, except as a stroke of luck.

finally, there are no age limits for love. look at madame du deffand's infatuation with the churlish horace walpole, or the more recent and certainly pleasanter example in paris itself.
which reminds me that hemingway said, what is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after. (there is no right & wrong; there is merely me & you.)

he also said, [a man] should find things he cannot lose, in my favorite short of his, "in another country." (have you read it? would you like to?) i've strived to do just that; pace barthes, i didn't decide to fall in love. it was more like what stendhal writes :
you were unconsciously bored by living without loving, and convinced in spite of yourself by the example of others. you have overcome all life's fears, and are no longer content with the gloomy happiness which pride affords : you have conceived an ideal without knowing it. one day you come across someone not unlike this ideal; crystallization recognizes its theme by the disturbance it creates, and consecrates for ever to the master of your destiny what you have dreamt of for so long.
... & to think i thought i was over you. how could i do that when i can't even get over a cold?

28 April 2006

two poems for people who like that sort of thing, where "that sort of thing" is both "poems" & "valediction" :

FAREWELL! thou art too dear for my possessing,
and like enough thou know'st thy estimate:
the charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
my bonds in thee are all determinate.

for how do I hold thee but by thy granting?
and for that riches where is my deserving?
the cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
and so my patent back again is swerving.

thyself thou gav'st, thy own worth then not knowing,
or me, to whom thou gav'st it, else mistaking;
so thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
comes home again, on better judgment making.

thus have i had thee as a dream doth flatter—
in sleep, a king; but waking, no such matter.
--william shakespeare, sonnet lxxxvii (1609).

stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
silence the pianos and with muffled drum
bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
scribbling on the sky the message he is dead,
put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

he was my north, my south, my east and west,
my working week and my sunday rest,
my noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
i thought that love would last for ever: i was wrong.

the stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
for nothing now can ever come to any good.
--w.h. auden, "ix" (1936).
touissant mccall - "nothing takes the place of you" (from the beg, scream & shout! the big ol' box of '60s soul boxed set, ... which is out of print! i can't believe it! this may be the greatest boxed set of all time! beg, borrow, or steal to get it!)

there are some songs that shouldn't be covered. often, this is b/c of supremely personal lyrics like, say, "idiot wind" or "late for the sky." often, a song didn't deserve being performed the first time, let alone covered. rarely, though, is a song's v. sound--the ambience, the fidelity or quality, the uniqueness of vision, &c.--a valid reason not to cover it. examples : "pretty ballerina" by the left banke, "frankie" by mississippi john hurt, and "love is all i have to give" by the checkmates (the only one of the three never covered.)

unless it's for a tribute, it is implicit in a cover that, to some extent, you think can outdo the original (as simon cowell wisely said this week on american idol; the context was all wrong there, though, b/c the idols have little choice in the matter--except for chris, who always sings material by singers he knows he's better than, w/ the noted exception of queen night when he copped- or chickened-out by performing a song no one knew). as singers, i'd take al green, william bell, and even isaac hayes over toussaint mccall, all of whom covered "nothing takes the place of you"--but none comes close in terms of performance and, especially, sound.

what do i mean? well, the cop-out answer for me is to say, "listen for yourself." but. there's something immensely endearing a/b both toussaint's dolorous voice & the shambolic quality of the record. from the immediate start, listen to how it seems as if whomever was manning the control board fell asleep at the wheel and forgot to hit "record" until a second after the band started.

forget a/b a control board, though : this sounds like the original bedroom production. "bedsit" is more likely, as every time i hear this record, i see a picture of a basement apartment or a one-room shack, w/ the "bedroom" consisting of nothing but a murphy bed, and the room's one concession to personal touch the photo of toussaint's girl on the wall. (when you've got so little room to call your own, when you lose something as big as love, you tend to notice.) the record starts off so oddly, i imagine, b/c toussaint, seated at his organ, forgot a/b the leader on the cassette he placed in his old, beat-up recorder.

i picture him recording this in a bedroom, too, b/c this is intensely personal music--indeed, i almost feel like i'm committing some impropriety each time i listen to it. it was a #5 r&b hit in 1967 and yet it sounds like found sound : a bedroom demo; a record made for a sweetheart who left it behind when she moved; a message left behind on someone's answering machine. it seems more like a family heirloom than a chart hit; small wonder that i feel as if it shouldn't be covered.

the sound, lower than lo-fi but better than three bars on your cell phone, also contributes to this idea. the organ seems to coat the v. walls of that lonely room; or the small booth where he recorded it (like where elvis recorded "my happiness" for his beloved mama); or the stifling constraints of the answering machine where it was recorded for posterity.

i like this last idea best, perhaps for personal reasons. i see poor toussaint, which i'd also prefer to believe was a made-up name--i see this poor fellow seated behind a cheap keyboard, in his run-down room, starting a little before the beep of the answering machine, thus explaining that little defect, w/ his mouth real close to the speaker so he can be heard and hopefully felt (the track stays w/ you awhile, but it also feels as if part of it has almost literally left a trace on you). he knows he's got only a/b three minutes to make his plea, so in the last verse he tries to get it all the important bits in : "again, i love you, but i'm all alone, and, oh, my darling, i'm so blue because nothing takes the place of you."

but how did she respond? was this the first time he tried this bit? or was this just simply his best number? did she approve? did she have her number changed? did he find another girl? toussaint mccall, last i read, still performs around the south, so he didn't die of loneliness. but are you happy, toussaint?

27 April 2006

the left banke - "two by two" (from the history of the left banke lp, out of print.)
stories - "love is in motion" (from about us lp, also out of print.)

here is some rare, pretty music for the people who liked the montage track or just like the left banke in general.

i'm sorry. i'm really just working one note now, though i assure you every track i've posted is really worth hearing, personal attachments aside (another mixtape don't : don't ever include a track b/c of its title). i mean, i suppose i could mention how a woman had a seizure the other day as she left my store; how it left w/ me w/ legs of gelatin and wondering how i go about helping the next customer while my co-worked, trained in cpr, rushed out to help--oh, but only after calling 911 which, happily, i'd only done once before, when i was 7 years-old and woke to find that, at 10pm, neither of my parents were in the house and my grandparents, who lived next door, were also out.

but that's not my story to tell. yes, and another voice would probably say that the story i've been telling isn't mine to tell either. anyway. before the medication kicks in ...

"two by two," recorded by a reformed left banke though issued under the name of singer steve martin, was available as a 7" single or, ahem, on the soundtrack to what is described as an "early, high class porn" called hot parts, sort of a history of the blue movie in america (even as the ost is sort of a history of the left banke & their associates). even at this early stage (1972), the beatles were probably receiving multi-million dollar offers to reform; the left banke had to settle for this--let's hope they didn't have to beg. it's a beautiful song, much more spacious than their 60's work but w/ the same trademark backing vocals, and i have no idea what it'd be doing in a porno. the chorus has a refrain of "too bad, too bad," repeated over and over. make of that what you will.

oh, you know the reason i probably enjoy the work of michael brown so much is that he & i have the same dumb luck. in 1966, he leaves the left banke; the rest of the group finishes the sketch of "walk away, renee" he'd left behind; success comes calling. he forms a group called the stories; they have a little success on their first album, but he leaves before the second album is done; they go on to have a smash w/ a song called "brother louie" (penned by hot chocolate). "love is in motion" is gorgeous, gorgeous, like if early wings had recorded the bee gees' odessa album, which is ridiculously high praise coming from your humble correspondent. it's like opening a window on a spring morning and you're met by nothing but the best things and you're certain that your day will be charmed the rest of the way through.

i hope the new day greets you likewise.
tom waits - "jersey girl" (from the heartattack & vine lp, available for purchase here.)

here's another one that almost went on a mix. at the time, it seemed far too obvious and the sentiment expressed too strong. (an "oh, by the way" w/ r/ t/ mixtapes: never put a song on a mix if its promises or declarations aren't something you're prepared to back up.)

of course, it was short-sighted of me to think that the sentiments wouldn't eventually become all too fitting. maybe i was just feeling ambivalent or, more to the point, noncommittal : another mooted selection, "i hope that i don't fall in love with you" by mr. tom waits (again, the lyrics were off, as are the lyrics to most songs that involve bars & drinking). barthes argues that one chooses, to some extent, to fall in love, setting off a "release switch" to allow oneself to be "ravished," but i disagree w/ him : i was v. happy not being in love--but what did i know?

i suppose i know why i went w/ the tom waits version and not the boss's, and it goes beyond simple preference. first, it would have been double obvious (although i find the cheering when particular locations are mentioned charming); and besides i don't much care for his added verse : it's springsteenian to the point of parody and it's really just a weak warm-up for "atlantic city." also : though his wife grew up in morristown (exit 142, trainspotters!), tom waits is an outsider; one generally feels more flattered when compliments come from someone from outside. it's a kind of vindication, if needed, that you just don't love a girl b/c she's near, but, like a california girl, b/c she has some charm unique to her due in some part to her geographic location.

so what is it about a jersey girl, i.e, beyond the hair, the accent & the gum-snapping? at their best, they are unpretentious--but discerning!--always in the mood for diner food, whatever hour of the day, but keenly aware that, say, the killers are but petty crooks, guilty of nothing more than killing the mood; they get the little things and adore simple pleasures : malls, endless highways, creating mischief, fried hot dogs, &c.; they love their family and have a love / hate affair w/ their hometown; they are humble and always concerned about whatever it is that might be wrong w/ you, whoever "you" are, whether it's physical, emotional, or existential; they are pleasantly crass but surprisingly refined, kin to the lowbrow, appreciative of the highbrow, and have no truck w/ the middlebrow; they dream endlessly, which is only natural in a state stuck smack between two of the major urban centers in the country; at the same time, though, they are content w/ their reality, w/ who they are & what they have & will stand up for all of that to the death--and that's just by way of introduction, really.

another reason for the waits version is that he distills the heart of a jersey girl into the pulse of his song, taken at a slow thrum like an old drifters tune, in which nothing much seems to happen and no one really cares. as the strings shimmer, all of a sudden everything seems a distinct possibility, as it seems when you've got your girl beside you & the windows rolled down on a warm still new jersey evening. after all, tom waits confided that he never thought he'd write a song that had "sha-la-la" in it--and i never thought i'd do what i ended up doing, either.

but that's what a jersey girl can do.

26 April 2006

boy, last call for me should really be about 11:00. that's my internal censor's curfew and consequently when the sentiment comes pouring down like, well, spring rain. i was listening to 16 lovers lane and this struck me as the best kind of music to end a night w/. it's not late night music; it's merely music that says, w/ a great deal of warmth, "good night."

the go-betweens - "dive for your memory" (from the 16 lovers lane lp, available for purchase here.)

"bye bye pride" is probably my favorite go-betweens song. at least, when they played new york a few years back, it was the song i most wanted to hear. it's got wonderful lines; abundant oboe (the most underrated instrument in pop); and a group chorus that may not be their best, but is just so inviting, esp. in a live setting. thing is, i know every word--but i have no idea what it means. it could be a sad song; which would make it the happiest sad song existence. (in the late 90s / early 00s, it could have been the perfect soundtrack for a wb drama or a party of five spin-off.) here i though grant was the troubadour and robert was the byronic hero, the "difficult" one. what's it all about, g.w.?

robert, on the other hand, is uncharacteristically & wrenchingly direct on "dive for your memory"--also w/ oboe--and the result may be his best song. there's classic forster equivocation : if only the cliffs were closer, if only the water wasn't so bad : it comes across as mere stalling b/c by song's end, he's descended into the black water of his girl's memory, "black & forgetful," in hopes of making a clean start.

he sings : "deep down i'm lonely and i miss my friend." he dreams : "so when i hear you saying / that we stood no chance / i'll dive for your memory / we stood that chance."

what the hell do you say after that? (apart from, "i had two copies of this album and i wish i'd had a chance to give the other away.") you don't. in one sense, there's no response to someone who's so single-minded, who's so determined (and, likely, so foolhardy) to attempt to risk life & limb & things (& other things) for the impossible. silence & sighs shouldn't be totally unexpected and are, furthermore, both completely understandable & forgivable. after all, someone has to stand their ground and stand firm for reason when the other is diving off cliffs & chasing windmills (and we know now who is whom and not just b/c you can't swim).

and an oboe, keening like a solitary seabird as the song recedes, softens the blow--as does a warm hand and a sad smile.
i replied in comments a/b how like my life it is that i should be gaining so much attention & having people say such nice things when a) i'm so near giving this all up & b) well, as you might have noticed, it ain't going so well.

thank you for visiting & thank you to all the little birds--i know who you are!--out whispering to the internet. today might indeed be my record for page-views.

i've never had much truck w/ new criticism, but they may have been right in assuming the existence of one thing, for, even w/ all of these new readers, page-views, &c., all of which i appreciate!--well, i sure do miss my one ideal reader.
the smiths - "still ill" (from the hatful of hollow lp, available for purchase here.)
orange juice - "lovesick" (from the glasgow school lp, available for purchase here.)

does the mind rule the body or the body rule the mind? well, the short answer is i dunno, but the long answer begins this way:

so, that grey area called the mind reacts to romantic disappointment and does so in the usual way. one feels stressed & exhausted & really just like the fuzzy end of the lollipop. this sends signals to the brain and triggers the cortisol which increases blood pressure and blood sugar to pull you through while, oops!, suppressing the immune system. in other words, i've a sore throat & a broken heart.

but! both brain & mind belong to the body (don't they?) and really isn't it the "fault" of external factors that i felt this way to begin w/? and what role does the wildly oscillating weather play in all of this? morrissey was really wise not to examine these nuances, not attempt to draw out these distinctions, in the context of a pop song. (and even wiser to throw that harmonica on the peel session version! and that is why i chose this version; it really has nothing to do w/ the fact that all the beautiful girls are wearing t-shirts featuring replicas of the smiths' s/t debut this season.)

basically, i have an excuse to look pale & "washed-out," as one person put it. i belong to a community of sufferers; we've all been there. there are entire aisles in supermarkets dedicated to this v. ailment. there is abundant literature to consult and an existing program to follow to ensure for my survival. just hang in there, baby, and in a few days the symptoms will fade awaya and good health will once again be yours.

this pain in my throat is a good thing, then. "pain," as edward hoagland writes, "is a packet of chiseling tools." i go to bed earlier to ensure i get plenty of sleep; when i wake come morning, i'm back in my program. i'm hitting the orange juice (yes, one should have lots of orange juice!) & vitamin c & zicam & zinc lozenges, etc.

the pain in my heart--ah, but there is no pain in my heart. diane ackerman set me straight on this one : internal organs don't have many sense receptors & so a pain in one's heart is directed elsewhere, resulting in a "referred pain." (i've found that the pain tends to be referred to my stomach, a pain the size of a dime, searing & concentrated, that hollows out the insides--like a sinister liposuction that focuses on sensation instead of fat.)

but it's odd having these two competing sources of anguish concurrently, being both so ill and lovesick--and contrary to what you might have heard, one does not cancel out the other. (the mind doesn't rule rhe body or vice versa!) the main difference, then, has to do w/ a lack of purpose. i fight the cold b/c, since i must go on, i'd rather do so w/o pain. but the heartache? i don't really wish to be out of love and, as hoagland writes, "it's when we have no imperative purpose in front of our sufferings that we think about 'bearing up'; 'bearing up' is converted to serve as a purpose." but i don't do "bearing up" well--or as edwyn sings, "sorry to moan, but it's what i do best!"

there is no prescription to take, no regiment to observe, no guarantee that symptoms will subside in seven days (and if they don't, i can always see my doctor). what's more, i have no community, no system to fall into w/ this pain; the supermarket doesn't open its arms to me, and if it does, it's only to point me in the direction of ice cream & other palliatives. "society," barthes writes, "subjects me to a strange, public repression : no censure, no prohibition : i am merely suspended a humanis, far from human things, by a tacit decree of insignificance : i belong to no repertoire, participate in no asylum." i can't even seek out my fellow sufferer; i can't go back to the old house or kiss under the iron bridge. not b/c it wouldn't be the same, far from it, but b/c you'd just catch my cold.

25 April 2006

bryan ferry - "i thought" (from the frantic lp, available for purchase here.)

right, music stuff first. frantic is possibly bryan ferry's greatest album; it will almost certainly be the best lost album of this decade. it's also only the second song to feature the writing credit of "ferry / eno" since the latter left roxy music some thirty years ago. from the v. start, one hears eno, figuratively & literally, in the rinky-dink casio pattern that starts the song. many people who might have thought this tactic brilliant in 1973 probably left screaming "judas!" before getting to ferry's vocal. i can understand the feeling but i'm also a sucker for things like this, cf. the clanging of glasses and the din of inane chatter drowning out stephin merritt. it's a bit like stumbling into a bar and hearing a shitty karaoke track or blueshammer-esque blooze band, only then to hear someone singing out their fucking life for all to hear.

oh, but the casio disappears so quickly! if only they'd hung in there. it's swallowed whole by a whole bunch of eno effects and overwhelmed by bryan ferry. lyrically, it's as if every ferry song since 1972 was thrown into a blender and this is what emerged. thing is, ferry himself fell in too and the old boy sounds, well, not diced & pureed, but shaken & stirred more so than usual. spatter the whole b&w thing onto a large screen w/ red velvet curtains and serve before a moviehouse at full capacity.

now, to the personal. i've realized today why i've shied away from "personal" in the past, i.e. i'm having serious second thoughts. why? b/c, although "people" or even the stiff "persons" is accepted as standard pluralization, "personal," too, almost invariably involves another person as well. i thought that these postings might be doing that other person well as well; i had what i thought were solid intimations that this was the case. of course, i thought wrong.

i've always felt kinship to bryan ferry, even though i'm probably more of a brian eno. i bet he really knows how to treat a lady. what i also like a/b bryan ferry is that he was dumped by jerry hall in favor of mick jagger, so i'm sure he knows what heartache is like. & i'm sure he never shines more than when he says goodbye. i thought i could do that too, b/c, my, do i write a great valedictory email!

but i never know when to quit. oh, this might be true of the great screen stars, too. maybe rick ditches capt. renault and chases after ilsa in a lost reel of casablanca. maybe he wanted to, at least, but that bit got edited out. yes, editing! what a tool. i would like to apply judicious editing to my behavior over the last couple of weeks, which is far less heroic and much more beastly than any of you reading might have thought. i would particularly like to rewrite many of my exit lines--and there have been many, to my lasting shame. (i suppose by not writing about all of the many lows on here, i have achieved the dream of editing by omission.) there is a competing discourse, from which none of these acts are absent, one w/ many valid points to make. remember what barthes said a/b only the other being able to write one's love story.

if she's reading this--i wonder why she's reading this after what has passed. human curiosity? it must be, although i once mistook that for something more. what was i to think, w/o having heard anything directly? (answer : i thought what i wanted to think.)

retake : if you're reading this, i'm sorry. i wish there was another way. i wish we could talk this out. i wish & wish & wish so much, i so desire a land of make believe, that i should be up on the silver screen, making my busby berkeley dreams come true. but, really, i don't think i have the adam's apple for the work; and i don't think i have the heart to keep this up much longer. last take, then ...


FRED (chucking her chin) : here's looking at you, kid.

fred exits in his beat-up car, receding into the night, the lights of his car indistinguishable at this distance from any other.

24 April 2006

montage - "she's alone" (from the montage lp, available for purchase here.)

i once sang the first verse of the left banke's "pretty ballerina" to an answering machine. badly.

but, but! the song is written in a-flat major but to the song's benefit, and to the would-be troubadour's detriment, two of the notes are made natural : the "pret-" in "pretty ballerina and the last note in each verse. mindful of this and fearful of being "pitchy," i remained in key--but my voice gave on the first "surprise" in the verse (which really should have been easier, b/c the second one requires, as randy jackson would say, a little "false").

how fitting that it should give on "surprise," as it's such melodic surprises that make the work of michael brown so engaging. "pretty ballerina," as a result, is not a freefall down the piano, following conventional paths; rather, along w/ the general ethereality of the arrangement, it's a slow, occasionally disorienting fall that prompts the listener, lest he get too comfortable, to take heed of the sights. it's not unlike falling out of consciousness into dreams, not unlike falling into love.

"she's alone" by montage, the band that brown wrote & arranged for following his departure from the left banke, features a melody that is just as slippery, yet the movement is in entirely the opposite direction. it is, as a cursory listen to the first verse demonstrates, a demanding climb in the dark up an unsound, spiralling staircase, a climb that conditions one for what they'll encounter at the end.

at the end of a hall, there is a candlelit room where a woman mourns for her dead husband, gone seventeen years now. if "pretty ballerina" is about the easy loveward fall, "she's alone" offers a keyhole glimpse of what happens when there's no one left to break that fall. each night, it would seem, she commits a barthesian relapse, "'falling back' into an interior doctrine which no one shares with me." she is completely bereft : there is no one to turn to for comfort; there is no one to see about redress. she is the perfect proustian prisoner, cruelly denied the gift of madness which would have allowed her to live according to the dictates of memory.

what could possibly make such a portrait, which makes the denizens of "eleanor rigby" seem positively contented, worth listening to? michael brown's genius, namely, the beauty of the melody and a daring, striking arrangement--a string quartet for much of its duration, giving way to a horn section only near the end--that shies away from anything remotely rock & roll. furthermore, it serves to remind one, if he shamefully can't find examples elsewhere, that there are people far worse off.
nick drake - "time of no reply" (from the made to love magic lp, available for purchase here.)

hardy hears a listless breeze and think it's his wife's voice. nick drake thinks he hears someone sigh. both of them are wrong : it's their romantic imaginations. what they are actually met w/ is the reversal of "i keep it hid," sung from the point-of-view of the other, who now takes on the role of the subject. s/he needs someone to lean on, s/he's clearly dying--this is a real dark glasses situation. & yet that old love of theirs does nothing; anyone who had a heart would say something. of course, the subject is unaware that the other has their own inner turmoil : there is no omniscient narrator to provide both sides : it is as barthes has said, "only the other could write my love story." the subject finds his or herself subjected to mutisme, "no answer," silence.

one tries any number of means to provoke a response, his or her strategy--oh, let's not kid, his strategy is conducted on a number of fronts. numerous, not to mention outright embarrassing, emails, calls, texts, chat requests are made or sent. one is "desperately trying to seduce, to divert"; one imagines that through these efforts he is "lavishing treasures of ingenuity, but these treasure have produced only indifference." if only for an instant, one considers grabbing a ghetto blaster and, in cusackian fashion, playing worldbeat-influenced love songs outside the beloved's window.

one makes a phonecall and by some stroke of luck, the other answers. the contents of one's heart, and no small amount of radiation, emerge on the other end of the line and are met w/ silence; back on his end, the speaker hears the gentle hum of ambient noise and the barest hint of breathing. barthes and i both describe this as talking "in the void," yet on the telephone, especially on a cellular phone, it is more than that : it's like shouting into a well, hoping for an answer; if the connection is really bad, one also hears the echo of his own voice. unlike any other means of communication, one gets a sense of depth & space and an assurance of the presence of the other--which only makes it worse when there is no answer.

barthes' amorous subject would perhaps get v. worked up a/b this. however, speaking as an individual case, i know better. i know that when emotions run high, voices can go so low as to be near inaudible, as to sound like nothing but a listless breeze. there are many things i still don't know, but one thing i've never questioned is sincerity.

when emotions fall from dangerously-wertherian levels, one retreats and resigns himself. what is to be done, though, w/ all of the things that accumulate during the day? what is to be done w/ all that happens during the day that one would share w/ the other? such as : poems one enjoys ("the voice"); songs recently put on a mix for the other that are now being incongruously played on the mall's muzak system ("here's where the story ends"); email addresses twenty-one characters long (privacy, people, privacy); random facts (did you know that safecrackers sandpaper their fingertips b/c one feels nothing w/ their first layer of skin?); or occurrences (you know, i thought i saw you in the bank the other day).

well, one finds subtler, indirect means of communication. & through these subtler, indirect means, one has his way of knowing whether the other is listening : i look to the sky, like nick drake, and find my answer. (what he does not know, however, is how the other reacts to what she is hearing. but, if she returns again ... )

w/ all of this indecision, all of this silence, why does one persist? simply, b/c one day that might not just be a breeze i'm hearing; when i turn around, someone might actually be there.
woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
saying that now you are not as you were
when you had changed from the one who was all to me,
but as at first, when our day was fair.

can it be you that i hear? let me view you, then,
standing as when i drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as i knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

or is it only the breeze in its listlessness
travelling across the wet mead to me here,
you being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
heard no more again far or near?

    thus i; faltering forward,
    leaves around me falling,
wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
    and the woman calling.

--thomas hardy, "the voice" (1912).

23 April 2006

ray charles - "i keep it hid" (from the complete country & western recordings, 1959-1986, available for purchase here.)

last night, a rainy spring late saturday evening, i finished roland barthes' a lover's discourse--which i suppose is only appropriate as this website has eventually become a lover's discourse (or has actually become vain, self-indulgent & lazy; i'm sorry). i can't quite summarize how it happened--it was far more than the sum of the final words of the book, the music on my headphones, the weather : more in other words than the sum of everything available to the senses--but somehow i ended up w/ the desire to do nothing more than walk about in the rain awhile, much to the amusement of the people at the windows of the coffeeshop i passed. (as i inadvertantly stepped into a giant puddle in my frayed hemp chucks, i immediately thought of gene kelly and made the most of it.)

for those who haven't read the book, why haven't you read the book? barthes, waging war against the tyranny of meaning, arranges his chapters alphabetically. throughout much of the book, it did all seem rather arbitrary--until the end. barthes perhaps realized that there was no way he could end the book w/ vérité; imagine the wrong idea the reader might get! et voilà : vouloir-saisir, which is a total showstopper.

barthes writes : "i love you is in my head, but i imprison it behind my lips." !!! it reminds me of a "single sensation of life" from a joyce short story, "araby," in which a young boy moving through a bustling saturday evening market thinking of his love feels as if he is bearing his "chalice safely through a throng of foes." anyway, i was struck so that, given my mood, i couldn't help but share this epiphany w/ another. so, literally, nothing has passed my lips--but, in reality, this is now the second time i've opened my big mouth.

this sentiment is at work in jimmy webb's "i keep it hid," here covered by ray charles. its protagonist is a fellow who sees his girl, w/ whom he split for unknown reasons; he'd love to tell her that he's still in love w/ her, still feels as he once did--only he's the sort to keep things like that hid. being the kind of guy he is (& being the kind of guy i am), though, webb has failed barthes' prescription. had he but placed this one in the desk drawer and locked it up for good, he would've remained true. of course, this isn't the kind of person the young jimmy webb was; many of his early songs refer to a "susan," his off-and-on girlfriend--and her actual name. he lived many a budding songwriter's dream : he actually had the chance to win a girl back w/ his music and fame (he didn't; she married linda ronstadt's brother).

is ray charles innocent? perhaps. he covered a number of webb tunes; he might have liked the way this number went. the way he sings it, though, i have my suspicions. even so, i can't really say for sure--but maybe there's a lady out there who knows better. & maybe b/c of this song, she was able to hear what he was otherwise unable to tell her, whatever his reason. i'd like to think that this is so, that when we hear this song we're overhearing someone's secret message to the one they love, whether it's jimmy to susan, ray to his beloved, barthes to "x," or me to you. like a lover's discourse, i hope that "i keep it hid," in its future iterations, continues to bring someone aid & comfort when they need it most.

i really, honestly do.
the stylistics - "you are everything" (from the best of the stylistics lp, available for purchase here.)

i got out of the house today, went to the mall--which is precisely where i was yesterday, except today i went as a civilian. (yeah, for some reason, when my shift is over, i want to get immediately out of the mall & don't really mind having to return the next day.) i bought a few t-shirts (white, black, baby blue); a steel blue shirt i thought was a t-shirt until i got it home (and must return); and a couple of pair of socks (blue, pantone 292; bright red). the preponderance of blue has nothing to w/ my mental state and everything to do w/ my eyes--which have always been blue and haven't undergone any change of color, a la crystal gayle.

then, i come home, visit amazon in order to do some innocuous shopping and get hit w/ this :

... oh, right. you have no idea the significance of this. my memory is v. good and though eidetic in character, its episodic recall serves me far too well. every first encounter has its reason for being; some of them involve simple commerce, the demand for a particular good and the hope of its supply (although we didn't have the book in stock!). it is at moments such as these, though, that i feel like i'm being taunted by some cosmic force.

i enjoy having an eidetic memory, mostly; i enjoy memories when i'm the one conjuring them. i do not appreciate, however, standing in the mall's bank and catching out of the corner of my eye a girl whose hair and physical build reminded me so much of her. it was fleeting; i corrected myself immediately and mentally apologized for this figure's appearance was far more tragic than even my ruffled mental state; still, it was enough to provoke an audible sigh. this place contains so many memories.

even today, innocently going a/b my business, i passed a particular store and remembered a smile & a wave and hoped for a replay. what were the odds? infinitesimal. proust writes near the end of swann's way of "how paradoxical it is to seek in reality for the pictures that are stored in one's memory." he's right, but i was not looking for that past moment! i was looking for a needle in a haystack! i was hoping for a reaffirmation. he also writes, "the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment." ah, here i disagree. cher marcel, je ne regrette rien! perhaps he fails to understand b/c all of the words i'd substitute for "regret" are of old english origin : yearning, pining, longing, craving.

russell thompkins jr. of the stylistics, though--he and i speak the same language : he gets me.

the titles of stylistics songs always make me wonder; everything else is so exquisite, so masterfully accomplished, the title must come last, when thom bell & linda creed are absolutely spent. "you are everything" as a title says something, but it's not nearly as voluble or as fluent as the song itself and its imagery.

take for instance, the opening, w/ its sitar and swirling, phased strings, and then how they so easily give way for the chorus. it is precisely the sound of waking up in the morning and leaving the realm of dreams. russell is still a little groggy as he begins the lyric; that he mistakes this girl for that girl is forgivable.

everything is forgivable when rendered by thompkins' falsetto croon and thom bell's swooning arrangement. oh, right, how could i forget? the only thing that isn't forgivable is that every other girl in the world isn't you. what begins as a mea culpa ends in despair. "you are everything" as a title and refrain is economical and spare, language pruned of all affect (unlike when r.e.m. self-consciously titled a song "you are the everything"). a statement's weight in desperate times evolves from its universality; such times call for direct emotional appeals.

or indirect appeals.
manfred mann's earth band - "living without you" (from the manfred mann's earth band lp, available for purchase here.)

there was this dream i once had. then, i woke up--and to my greatest joy, my dream was still there. the dream stayed w/ me all the day through, occasionally making vivid appearances in waking life. all of a sudden, though, i lost that dream; now only traces of it remain.

i thought nights would be the most difficult, hopelessly interminable, even as i longed for them. still, one is meant to sleep through the night and there are pills to help w/ that. on the other hand, i've yet to encounter the drug that enables one to get up in the morning, even when one has, in the words of this song, "something to get up for." once i cross that hypnopompic threshold, leaving behind the comfort of dreams, regardless of content--my God, it's miserable.

randy newman's "living without you," then, is brilliant in its suitability, b/c he rightly posits morning as the toughest part of the day--soooo hard--for someone living w/o someone. i didn't know doo wah diddly a/b manfred mann's earth band until i saw it ranked conspicuously high in robert christgau's favorite albums of the 70s. newman's own version of the song sounds exactly how i feel; manfred mann's gives it structure and a pulse and makes it into a viable hit, all of which makes it probably the only definitive performance of a randy newman song ever recorded.

"structure," the purists lament? yes. structure is just what this song needs--the give in the refrain of "so hard" is both rocksteady musically and unquestionably shakey emotionally--but it is more importantly exactly what the person singing this song needs, whether that person is newman, singer mick rogers, or myself. one needs to find something to get up for, a reason to get through the hours and then the hours that follow that. after all, if one wishes to someday reclaim the dream he once had, he has to live to dream another day.

21 April 2006

tony bennett & bill evans - "some other time" (from the tony bennett / bill evans album, available for purchase here.)

my two favorite songs from the score of on the town, "some other time" and "lonely town," were removed from the film version, much to the disappointment of frank sinatra who signed on to the project for the opportunity to sing "lonely town." they're both sad songs and perhaps that makes sense, for both the film version and for me : b/c how could you expect your cast to be all-singing and all-dancing if you broke their hearts? and b/c sad songs say so much about me.

on the town, for those unaware, is the story of three sailors on shore leave in new york. they meet some girls; they leave some girls. only in hollywood could there be a story about parting w/o significant sadness at said parting, right?

ah, if you expected me to tell you different, i'm sorry for you my friend--as sorry as i am for myself.

i value "some other time" b/c it valiantly strives to put a happy face on a sad occasion. i value it, also, b/c i believe in it.

my life is a succession of people saying goodbye, as a morrissey b-side once declared--but, happily--and perhaps this explains the mild variation in our two dispositions---people also have a way of saying hello again. indeed, the pattern of my life has been such that i can't bring myself to say goodbye. i've met friends from my small, small town at random on the streets of new york; i have a friend whom i was in love w/ four years ago who seems to pop up after an absence of that much time every time she breaks up w/ a guy (though i'm one to talk, since i only email her when i'm feeling distressed, which reminds me ... ); most amusingly, after a long absence, a gentleman, though i hesitate to use such a term, who used to hit on my friend's now-wife / then-girlfriend relentlessly when we all worked together in retail as teens popped up at my current job, almost ten years later.

in other words, i refuse to say goodbye--although it may be some time before we meet again. i see some of you still visit now and then; i'd like to think that means something, even if you haven't spoken up before. but, yes. check this space every now and again : for all you know, i may have returned; for all you know, i may be speaking directly to you (yes, you). & even if i don't hear from you, i hope you'll be listening.

18 April 2006

as many of you had known, i'd lost the will to keep vain, selfish & lazy going for myself. for much of its recent history, it was a thinly-veiled dedication to one incalculably important & special person. that person is gone; so is this site.

thank you all so much for your patronage.
adem - "these lights are meaningful" (from the love and other planets lp, released april 24, import available for preorder here.)

"it's hard to explain to, so hard to explain, how i'm so sure ... "

adem might be singing about the stars in the sky; happily, he's not so, ahem, blunt.

it doesn't matter, really, he could be singing a/b any of the little things that happen in our lives--or, rather, when many little things in our lives come together and seem to be pointing a way toward something, lighting the way to a destination we stumbled across in the dark by ourselves, giving us the opportunity to look around and see all of the signs, enabling us to believe there was some reason.

right now, i feel as if i see significance in all things; and when i hear something that has significance, well, that's become the imperative for my posting. "these lights are meaningful" is a beautiful song; it's also unlike anything off of homesongs, in that it seems like it could be, well, a significant hit w/ the right support. in its drive and the immensity of its chorus, it sounds like coldplay reclaiming their dignity. in the v. way it twinkles and sighs, it's like the glimmer in your beloved's eye, a light that might be mere biology but, in your heart, you can't feel as if doesn't say anything less than everything.

17 April 2006

camera obscura - "lloyd, i'm ready to be heartbroken" (from the hey lloyd, i'm ready to be heartbroken single, released may 9, available for purchase here.)

girls, be careful what you wish for : ask the lonely. i can understand the sentiment, the desire to feel something when you can't see "further than your nose." just last week, after the tempest, i was thinking, "hey dad, i'm ready for a sharp kick to the ribs," just to bring back what seemed like distant memories of sensation.

i've liked camera obscura before, but they often do sound like a band for people who thought belle & sebastian jumped the shark w/ the legal man e.p.

here, though, they've really got something wonderful. the "lloyd" in question is not lloyd dobler, but lloyd cole, though one could understand such a mix-up, while the song is a reply to mssr. cole's "are you ready to be heartbroken?"

it has the rush and sweep of lloyd's rattlesnakes, not to mention orchestration favorably comparable to anne dudley's work on that album. the overall effect is as if summer turned to fall w/ one fell swoop. the chorus tugs just as much, esp. near the end as the "hey"s become more desperate. "are you ready to be heartbroken?" is the question i'd ask of anyone considering hearing this song.

13 April 2006

scott walker - "cue" (from the drift lp, released may 9, available for preorder here.)

shhh. you didn't see this.

this isn't music. i don't know what this is. maybe a 1930's radio melodrama, but that might make you think "nostalgia" and "simpler times." no. imagine being nine years-old and hearing this in 1939. this is frightening stuff, esp. when--oh, i won't tell you.

it makes "the electrician" seem quaint and south american torture like getting off easy. no, this isn't nostalgia or from simpler times; this isn't from the 1930's : this is current day. & this is the work of the good guys. be v. afraid.

i should have put this first, b/c that's where it ranks in my thoughts, but i thought it'd have a greater effect if placed last. so: thank you v. much, all of you.

09 April 2006

hello all,

i need a vacation from my vacation. to tell the truth, i am spent in just about every way imaginable. thinking of a song to post tomorrow strikes me as not being unlike a chore. i am taking more time away.

some of you who know my history may have an idea of where all of this is heading. i cannot say for sure right now whether i'll be closing up shop again or not. i know that throughout this run, i've felt incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about what i was doing here. even recently it's become work and i thought time away would solve that.

it hasn't. for reasons unrelated to blogging or music, i'm even less committed to this undertaking. (for those concerned, i'm not okay, but i will be.) but i don't want this to sound too much like a goodbye : there will be time for it, if necessary.

i will be back--unless i'm not. you will hear from me one way or the other. i don't say it often enough but thank you for your continued visits and interest.