‘tis been quite awhile since the last post on here - a lovely, heartfelt meditation by sir ken murphy nonetheless. i feel like i am always commenting on how much time has passed since something is written here. i suppose i can make a list of excuses but i don’t like to write or create until i feel inspired to do so. they say that you should write every day as a means of getting in the groooove. i’m not sure if that is egotistical (because i can very well tell you what i had for brekkie this morning - so far, only a nectarine and 1.5 cups of coffee - give me the time! the day is young! she says). needless to say, here i am, fueled by none other than The Band.
driving around yesterday listening to their brown album (my favorite color, to boot!) - this is also one of my favorite things to do : listen to The Band in the car, belting the best of tunes and trying to find my spot in their beautiful, beautiful harmonies. some days are good. some days not so good but it doesn’t quite matter now does it? so, there i was, wailing about the night they drove old dixie down and i remembered a conversation i had a couple of months back about why i may be drawn to certain artists, certain songs. yes, i do listen mostly to folky-rocky(took a lover)-type musicians. to the point where people are shocked when i tell them i don’t like john mayer or jason mraz or :insert cliche beau with guitar here: this revelation of mine - as it will from hereon be referred to - came to me while i was watching a musician, with a guitar and pretty pedals that make his guitar do things that he can’t because he was by himself about three feet in front of me. yes, i was enjoying myself. yes, i will admit his voice was quite impressive but something wasn’t resonating with me. at first, i couldn’t quite put my finger on it. he took a small break and it was then that it kind of clicked that - despite his musical ability (and those similar to him) i wasn’t blown away by the showmanship because most of the songs are written in the first person : i drank too much, i broke up with my girlfriend, i’m so tired from traveling. that is all well and good (says the fille writing - on a blog - about her own opinions on music - how much more self-centered can you get? it has taken me everything in my power not to capitalize the MEs and Is in the post but - rightly so - The Band is the only thing that should be grammatically correct in this blabbering). for the first time, consciously at least, i am drawn to artists and songs that are stories that are either reflective of a time of history or a made-up fairytale that swirls your own misunderstanding of the universe into the character of a man named sal (I’m working on it…). my favorite artists - springsteen, dylan, ritter… - all do this seamlessly. look at jungleland, outlaw pete, the lonesome death of hattie carroll, the temptation of adam, etc. etc. im not sure if its the english major in me and the looking for imagery and meaning (because - lets face it- you could read the lyrics and linear notes of any given artist and break it down in a literary way - the good ones anyway) in every little thing but i love the epic scenes these songs depict. sure, they also have their share of “personal” songs and tales of drinking on the hood of a dodge but they are still making a character of themselves giving you a glimpse into this manifested, glorified story that you aren’t sure just how much of it is true.
The Band does this perfectly. the best way i can explain a “good” song - in a very immature yet (unfortunately) reachable manner is that it can’t be summed up as a facebook status or be used in an aol profile (remember those days?). “rachel is up on cripple creek she sends me”. don’t think so. believe me - i feel terrible for even trying to describe it this way but these songs read like novellas and short stories. so much so that you can imagine jungleland being a broadway show (i dont advocate this AT ALL (damn caps!) but would still like to see it done - maybe this could be my next pet project of sorts…) im more inclined to want to listen to how you & jiggs sat on the porch and listened to townes van zandt than here about your lovely lady lumps and how you’ve got a feeling that tonight’s going to be a good night where you go low low low on the dance floor or some shite.
i struggle with this in my own sadly, attempted songwriting. i have a lot of stories to tell - as we all do - from a lot of different experiences, situations and circumstances in my life but how do i make that interesting, unique but tangible to the audience (i.e. beckett, the elephant-eared puppy).i know that we are drawn to certain songs because of their beats, melodies, harmonies, instrumentation - a variety of reasons - but as a “musician” (i use this so so so so loosely) its inspiring to listen to other musicians who have told these stories, spun these yarns for years and years and done such a poetic and prolific job of it. and this goes for any profession or activity - we must surround ourselves with people that push and challenge us to better ourselves and to tap into those things that unite us with one another. it is not about being intimidated but by learning how to find our voice. we each have one - it is just a matter of how we use it.
A bit of time has passed since I last wrote a contribution to this blog but it has been time well spent. I have been immersed in music, squishing through crochets and quavers in wellington boots made of bows and plectrums, doing a high D breast stroke through waves of semi-breves and minims, dancing in soft allegro designed loafers and seeing nothing but wafts of fresh musical air drifting through soft Irish summer rain. Or so I like to imagine it.
Ireland, it has to be said, is rich in the currency of music through the summer, well, certainly my experience of Ireland is musically rich. I travelled to Donegal a few weeks back, not carrying much save for my guitar, my assortment of harmonicas and a couple of changes of underwear and the other essential things. I arrived at a small town called Narin that I travel to every year. It boasts one pub, a shop that opens for half a day every second day, a beautiful beach and some of the friendliest people I’ve been blessed to meet. The pub, Annoras, has a reputation as a stalwart bar for the music that drips out of each rafter in the roof. It is held in high-esteem throughout the traditional music world in Ireland and myself and my friends eagerly anticipate our annual visit. On arriving, we placed our orders at the bar, tuned our guitars, harps, harmonicas, mandolins, tin-whistles, flutes, banjos and fiddles and took our seats. Each of us had a giddy sense of excitement hanging over us, we knew something musically special would happen this weekend and that we were considerably lucky to be afforded the chance to take part. Tom, the honorary proprietor sat down among us with his myriad instruments and we set to what was a furious, emotional session. We played from 11pm to 5am, then departed the pub and went back to our rented house, to close the night and welcome the sun with some more songs and tunes. That night we witnessed an amazing musical duel between a banjo player and a fiddler, a riotous rendition of a bawdy Dublin drinking song and some amazing adroitness in dancers. We brought our music to Donegal, but the music, as ever, brought us so much further. I would love to write in detail about the songs that were sung, the tunes that were played and the jokes that were traded, but too many do they number. A choice few, I may delve into. As the night quieted down and the atmosphere of music and our bond embraced us, so too did our direction and speed. I sang one of my favourite songs that I’ve only played once in public before, a ballad of Scottish origin called “The Unquiet Grave”.
My interpretation of this song is that of the classic tale of love and broken hearts. The lover of the singer has died and is buried and the singer cannot bear to be parted so sits by the grave. I find this song hard to sing as it brings up images of people that I have lost through the years, dear friends, family… To sing this song means that I too share the pain of the bereaved lover, the broken child who has lost a parent, the band leader who has lost his best friend and muse…
And as I wish I could write for evermore on the power of the words of songs, on the lift that a jig or a reel can give one, this post must end sometime. However, I have to acknowledge the gift that we all share, the gift whereby we have the ability to appreciate music, the ability to listen and take some comfort when it is needed, or even to provide the same by playing it. My Dad died when I was very young and I recall making a vow to myself in the days after his burial, that never again would I sing or listen to music. The thrall that music has over me, thankfully, forbade me from following this vow to its end. Music and words are where my comfort lie and I combine them through song. I cannot state honestly that I would be the happy person that I am today if I was without music. Music has given me so much, friends, comprehension, peace, anguish, too many things to name. But the greatest gifts that music has given me are freedom and hope. And when I heard the sad, sad news a few years ago that my best friends father had died, I was crushed for him. For the tough journey my friend would face in the coming years, for the pain and horror. But when I heard him play the beautiful tune called Inis Oírr at the funeral I knew he would be ok. The tune told me that, his playing told me that in ways that words could never dream of telling me, or him, or his dad. And when I heard the sad news of Clarence Clemons, The Big Man, I was sad, more sad than I thought I would be. I was sad for Bruce, for the band, for Clarence’s young wife. I was sad for myself, that never again would I hear live, his horn cutting through the night to salute the music, the friendship, the legions of fans. And then in the days that followed, in my meandering through the internet and DVDs of footage, I found a live version of If I Should Fall Behind where Clarence had a beautiful verse to himself. I knew then, that someday The Boss, The E Street Band and those fans and followers would again be ok. The healing power of music never fails. And that healing is one of several powers that music holds, but any exploration of those other powers must wait for another day. Until then…
…if I carefully blot out the thoughts of the mind, shut down the mental clatter, breathe deep and simultaneously listen to my insides, my heart and soul….
Then softly, softly, deftly, from way aways, creeping towards where and what I am, I can hear my Dad, my friends and my friend’s dad, Clarence Clemons, relatives, all those who have gone before, in one clamour so quiet one could miss it if they didn’t know to listen out for it, I can hear their music, an individual-collective fusion into the sweetest symphony one could ever hear, a gentle flutter of music, a scent of freedom, all hopeful on a fleeting whisper on the wind…
There have been many reactions to the death of The Big Man, Mr. Clarence Clemons. Articles, videos, interviews, posts. I woke up early Sunday (the 19th) morning in order to listen to the weekly Bruce Brunch on 105.7 The Hawk out of Manahawkin, NJ to see how they would honor Clarence’s life. People phoned in their memories. The Stone Pony was opened up at noon that day for fans to stop by and share their experiences. It was all too perfect that a horse named “E Street Shuffle” won the third race that day at Monmouth Park.
My first exposure to the E Street Band was undoubtedly during a round of “Rachel, who’s this?” played during car trips with my dad. Strapped into my carseat in the back of his red, Ford Escort, I’d say “The Band! Bruce! Bob Dylan!” whenever my pops would throw out the query. I’m sure, too, their records were played before I even grasped the concept of music memories. I also recall stories of my dad working the Tilt-a-Whirl on the Asbury boardwalk and, how growing up in Belmar, he lived blocks away from the actual E Street. I say ‘exposure to the E Street Band’ and not solely Bruce because - okay, Bruce is THE BOSS and is quite something on his own - but c’mon now, he’s backed by some talented, talented folk who help to tell his epic poems (as described by Mr. Conlon, quite rightly, me thinks).
I heard of the news while celebrating my birthday at The Scratcher in NYC. A friend walked in and said “I’m sorry to hear about the Big Man”. Clearly, I had no idea and immediately had to verify this terrible, terrible news. I (annoyingly) immediately asked the bartender if there was any Springsteen on the iPod. None. After the initial…shock…(sounds a little too dramatic)…I didn’t think much of it the rest of the night. It would hit me in little waves and, thankfully, I was surrounded by likeminded pals who were also devestated - looking to share their experiences and emotional ties to Clemons’ music. Questions were thrown out as to whether or not Bruce would tour again. “How can he play Tenth Avenue Freeze Out anymore?” “He’ll have to retire it. Rosalita? Jungleland?” I don’t think that will be the case. Let’s not forget the death of Mr. Danny Federici* in April of 2008. The Boss and the band moved on, replaced temporarily by Charles Giordano. It is my hope that Bruce will continue to tour and play those songs louder and stronger than ever before. It is also my hope that perhaps Clarence’s son, Jake, will get to honor is father in the biggest of ways in joining Bruce and company at one point (as Jay Weinberg did during Bruce’s last round of tours - and man, he killed it - like Animal from The Muppets up there). That is not to say that The Big Man is capable of being replaced - but I think NOT playing those songs would be a disservice both to his memory and his great contribution to the E Street Band and music as we know it.
Of course, his death brings about a few other emotions and thoughts for me (and others who I’ve conversed with), mainly what happens when more of our music icons pass? How will we deal? How will the world mourn? Morbid but undoubtedly real possibilities seeing as most of the music I listen to is of my father’s generation. There is only one other rock & roll death that caused such pain in my heart thus far in my twenty six years : that of George Harrison. I remember being in the hallway of my high school and crying with a couple of close friends who, too, had deemed the quiet Beatle their favorite. I also sat in the front of the tele in 2000 when there was special after special for the 20th year anniversary of John Lennon’s death. I collected all of the newspaper clippings and taped (yes, VHS!) the ceremonies so I could watch over and over again.
Like any experience with death, we tend to be hit with a reality check of just how fleeting our moments here on earth are. Not too get religious or philosophical on you now. But what better way to immerse yourself in these moments of sorrow than to celebrate the lives of these musicians by turning it up a little louder, singing a bit more soulfully (no matter how off key. My favorite place to do this is in the car, on the NJ Turnpike, driving to the Jersey Shore. Sorry, Snooks. Bruceland, not yours) and seeing as many concerts and live shows as you can? I’ve personally and vicariously seen and FELT many, many instances of the healing powers of music - in the last few months especially. Through death, sadness, pain and loss - it carries us through and forward. Some of these sentiments are expressed in previous posts. This has not been my intention which just goes to show how much and how often it comes back and comes down to the music.
So, regardless of whether you have or have not already, please forward to track 8 in your Born To Run hymnal and let yourself give praise to The Big Man.
I felt it was important to write today. But writing is essentially not speaking what you’re thinking and when you are at a loss for words, where does this leave you? It’s one of those days where you feel a tremendous amount but can’t exactly put your finger on it. You feel as though you’ll either wind up smiling and singing the day away or burying yourself in a corner of a room wishing it would end.
A lot of people (by a lot I mean the two or three who read or post on this blog & some interested friends here or there) have asked/inquired/hoped for(!) a little something about Bonnaroo and my experiences there. In all honesty, the last few days have been quite a (non-drug induced) fog. On a personal note, I find myself back to the drawing board with my “career path”. I hate the phrase because it can pigeon-hole one into sacrificing desires and passions for a monotonous daily life that yea, may pay well, but… you know the rest. In simplest terms, my heart belongs in music and that’s where I would like to “work”. Again, I know that only I can change the course I am on and my desire to find “work” in that vein of life is rooted in a deep passion, love and pleasure - it’s the greatest, longest and most unconditional relationship I’ve ever had so why not make a marriage of it? At the risk of sounding completely silly & dramatic, on the dawn of my 26th birthday - I really thought I would be at a different place in life. Some days, I am a ball of clay - left on a table and shaped into the molder’s vision of beauty and idealism to the point where I no longer know my original form. I can dress it up in any metaphor or simile I like but the fact of the matter is I allow myself to be affected by others opinions and wishes for me, I lose myself, berate myself, disown myself. Thankfully, the recovery time from these minor relapses has become shorter and shorter over the years. I consider myself very self-aware and confident but oftentimes my actions and thoughts contradict these characteristics and blaming it on my being a Gemini only works so well.
The only way I can describe what is happening in my heart and mind is a shedding of sorts. I can ever so slightly feel delicate layers being stripped away. I’m quite shit at being concise and putting what I’m feeling into words which is why most of my posts, conversations, texts, e-mails (see what I mean?) ramble which turn into apologies for not being able to adequately say what I’m feeling. The beauty of something such as tumblr is it provides a space for these ramblings that is safe (as safe as this big world wide web can be) and freeing for me - I don’t feel like I’m burdening anyone with my thoughts. That being said, I wanted to write coming off a week such as the one I’ve had to vent, to air out the dirty laundry (literally and figuratively - fun fact: I didn’t shower for four days while in Tennessee) and work out some mental kinks.
This past week, the only day/night I didn’t hear/see music being played was Wednesday, however, Wednesday was eventful enough as I found myself resigning/not quite being fired from my current job. As someone that prides myself on being hard-working, efficient, dependable - basically a good employee - this was crushing. I had never once been talked to about my job performance and sure - I have my beliefs/reasons for how I dropped the ball on this one - it doesn’t make it any less sucky (eloquent, I know). There is a slight consolation in the fact that I had come to the conclusion that my current job was not for me (hello, self-awareness). I would wake up and go to sleep with a pit in my stomach with so much anxiety. The efforts I was putting forth were not pushing me forward - I wasn’t understanding as well as I knew I should or could be. I am not a quitter and I acknowledge the short length of time at this position may make some think that I clearly couldn’t know this early on but you most certainly can and, honey, life is too short. These are scary things to admit. Initially, I felt like a huge failure and that voice does have a quiet solo in the back of my head. But, here I am. Thankfully, I was smart enough to take off today in order to re-cooperate from my musical travels to Manchester this weekend. It is a grey morning which is a fitting companion for my artsy angst. With my black coffee on my nightstand and my clustering of instruments in the corner, I feel like I’ve got a good handle on things. I feel ready to take on this next chapter - however short the last. I kind of like this choose your own adventure lifestyle which is funny because I’ve been told I float through life - meant condescendingly and initially very hurtful - but if the alternative is to be shackled to unhappiness and lack of passion then, yes, rest assured I’ll fire up these wings and keep my head above the clouds. At Bonnaroo, there is a distinct sense of community. There are 100,000 people on a farm in Tennessee who become your neighbors, friends, helpers (who assist your attempt to move 6 cars so you can leave a day early). When I was telling people about my trip to Bonny, a lot of times I was told “that’s so you” - which made me laugh. I think, at times, when repeating this, I sounded defensive when really I just like the idea of what makes something “so me”. What is it that people see in me that makes Bonny such a “me” experience - my vegetarianism/pescatarianism (yea - I’m that snobby)? my interest in yoga and folk music? my style of clothing? the fact that my favorite colors are earth-tones or that I bring reusable bags to the grocery store and try to drink fair-trade and/or local coffee when I can? For me, this was a “me” experience because I love music and had never been to Tennessee. I’m not sure that is really original or specific to the likes of me in particular. While I was there, I saw Arcade Fire, The Low Anthem, Phosphorescent, Civil Twilight, Mumford & Sons, My Morning Jacket, and Ray LaMontagne (I may be forgetting one or two). While I was there, and sitting here now, it was very surreal but the main point being was that people had traveled from all over the country and globe to gather for a weekend and listen to music. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
That was not my only experience this past weekend where my (musical) dreams were actualized. Driving home last night, I felt something - the same something that brought me to this keyboard this morning. The frustratingly beautiful thing that is happening right now is that there is an understanding of what is present in my heart but the way it is attempting to manifest itself in the real world is merely a mirage at this stage and I am sat here trying to reach it, make sense of it - even crossing my eyes to see if there is a clear picture in the dots a la those Magic Eye puzzles circa 1994.
I get anxious because I know that this is perfect timing and I feel completely empowered and know that the ball is in my court - I’m just not sure which direction the basket is in. It is extremely overwhelming in the best way. I recognize I am not unique in these moments of revelation and understanding of self but a very small, yet powerful, fire is burning in the pit of my stomach. I’ve always felt that I was “placed here” to do a couple of things in particular. I think I’ve been successful in some respects and am confident that this tune, too, will play itself out in some way.
So, why am I having a dear diary moment here on what is intended to be a music-based blog? Well, last night I was again reminded of the beauty and strength of music. It is what carries us through the good and bad, the pretty and the ugly, in sickness and in health ‘til death do us part. I think of all the oppressive words and things people do or say - the sole purpose being to establish some sort of power or control over another and I feel extreme sadness for those individuals. It is clear to me that they have not found a passion - something to pull themselves out of the hole in which they are sinking. I do not intend to sound so all-knowing or condescending, I am not better nor worse than they, but thankful that - through music - I have been able to find footing in the earthquakes, family in strangers, strength in weakness, love in moments of hatred and ignorance. Once again, I feel let in on a really great secret that despite its magnitude in reality still feels intimate and unique to me.
I feel like this posting has been a summation of a lot of little things I have said previously but I needed this today so thank you for taking the time to read this (the assumption being that I lured you in with my words and wit and you’ve actually gotten this far).
Regardless of taste or style, it is my sincere hope that you find comfort in music. That you fall into its open arms. That there is a song that takes you to a certain place in your mind and heart and allows your better self to guide you forward and acknowledge that this too shall pass - you’ll be truer and better for it when it does. I am eternally grateful to all of those people, words, melodies, chords and bridges that have made this understanding possible for me and - to those few included in this list who read these ramblings - you know who you are.
I had intended to post this … post… a couple of weeks back but the last thing I wanted to do at that time was look at a glowing screen (mostly because I’ve been in a fight with Tumblr for completely losing an entire piece I spent an hour or so writing…why I oughta…). So, here I am - “inspired” on this lazy Sunday, “What Happens When The Heart Just Stops” playing with some hot, hot coffee. You see, I’m feeling everything.
I’m going to save the apologizing and risk the “humble bragging” I’m certain I may be scarlet-lettered with by typing this next comment : two weeks ago I ran my first half marathon. It was both physically and mentally challenging and stimulating. I had fully grown to love and appreciate the body that one spends so much time deprecating and hating because it doesn’t look at a certain way or move just so. It carried me 13.1 miles (not counting the 70+ miles I had accumulated training for three months) for cryin’ out loud. As I began my training, I, of course, started to compile a play-list of music. If I was going to do this, I was going to have my biggest protector, motivator and inspiration along for the ride. I knew that come May 2nd, I’d have to drop some - that some wouldn’t make the cut - the cut being not helping to assist in my forgetting that I was only at mile 2 not 12.
I just thought to myself yesterday while going through mixed CDs in my car that if someone were to find them and pop them in they would think ‘what the heck is going on with this girl?’ There is no consistency, no reason why you would lump Dylan with Aqualung (the artist not the Jethro Tull song - that would make too much sense). But, the important thing as we all know and love about music, is that certain songs do fit in our heads, they do have a purpose and sound right to our ears. Mixes are compiled at a particular time (for instance - the one with The Frames that I popped on this morning is entitled “The Rain Falls In Tears” and has slow, mellow tunes - perfect for a Sunday such as this - but was made when I was down & out & sad & I go right back there - at least whimsically so. I also tend to name my mixes after titles of poems - most frequently Billy Collins - in case you were wondering). Needless to say, you can bet your bottom dollar that my running mix was going to have to do a lot. As a first time half-marathon runner, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew is that I needed to be distracted, carried, uplifted and that, my dear friends, can solely be done by music.
That being said, I’d like to take this post to share some of the songs that pushed me through. I can try and explain as best I can why because indeed some will not make sense to the outsider - even I thought - “wow, really? You sure you don’t want to replace this with Lose It by Eminem?”
1. Well, come on now. Do you see the title of this here post? OF COURSE Springsteen’s Born to Run made the first and final list. No, I’m not a tramp. I wasn’t strapping my hands across anyone’s engines to get over the finish line. But, I was running the race in Long Branch, NJ. On the Jersey Shore. It was also a memory from my high school days (sigh, so long ago) where my x-country friends would play it as their pep rally introduction. It has the word run in the title and damnit, at that moment in time after having gone through the training and finally making it to race day - yea, I felt fucking born to do it. So, there’s that. (Radio Nowhere and I’m On Fire also made the final 65 - yes 65 - song list.)
2. Sigur Ros’ Hoppipolla has always been extremely emotional for me. It can call forth happiness and sadness in the drop of a hat. I’m not sure if it’s the build or the language but running to this song would always give me chills - always. I’ve also used it for acting. I remember one play in particular that I would literally stand off stage until it was my entrance cue with my headphone buds in my ear just blasting this song because it took me somewhere - evoked so much emotion that allowed me to take stage and engage in a fight with the character opposite me with enough anger and vulnerability to make them cry - something, if you know me, I’m not capable of doing very often.
3. I had only heard The Frames’ People Get Ready within the last six months but, oh, when I did - it was on repeat over and over and over and over … again. To hear that we have all the time in the world to get it right and all the love in the world to set alight with that build - try not to feel empowered. Just a wee bit even.
4. Wake Up by Arcade Fire. Enough said.
5. I put a couple of Dylan songs on the mix for good measure - specifically Subterranean Homesick Blues (the tempo, folks) and Things Have Changed but it was the latter that was the most inspiring on the long runs. I love the line “I’m locked in tight. I’m out of range. I used to care but things have changed”. As I said before, training and running such a distance challenges you on much more than a physical level. It plays with your head when you are out there for sometimes an hour or two - just running. It is mostly mental and sometimes that is a hard thing to overcome. I wasn’t always successful. But I think it has helped me get to a place in my own life where I see myself through a clean pair of eyes (David Gray plug) as a strong and capable woman who can, indeed, achieve those things I set my heart and mind to.
6. There is something about Tongue by BellX1 that is so angry and intense. The opening guitar riff - maybe. Talking about airplane food isn’t really going to inspire you to move mountains but that overtly sexy “I need to be bold - start using my tongue again’ oughta do it. Or maybe “I ain’t losing - this one’s for me” (followed by the heavy guitar? - deadly.)
7. For the tempo alone, Bruce Hornsby’s Every Little Kiss made it on the mix. Oddly enough, I tried taking the song off the final list but silly me in syncing the ol’ iPhone made an error because what was the first song leaving the starting line? You guessed it. Ah, well. It made for a good chuckle starting out so - thanks Hornsby, you sneaky, lanky, tall son of a bitch.
8. There is something about the Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal’ that just does it on a nice morning run. I think it largely has to do with the harmonies and the Beach Boy-esque sweeping, dreamlike ambiance it brings about. It, too, has a pleasant little beat to keep with your feet hitting the path.
9. ‘Little Lion Man’ on Mumford & Sons’ album is probably my favorite. I call my dog by that name sometimes when he is being cute. (I say sometimes because Beckett ain’t always the big-eared cutie he appears to be - especially when he has wee-wee pad stuck in his mane - see what I did there?) The pulse of instruments at 0:15 is pretty sweet. And also, I am attending Bonnaroo quite soon and I’ll be damned if this song isn’t going to rock the crowd like nothing I’ve ever seen. Bonnaroo was my gift to myself for running the race so in the final stretch - this was necessary.
10. Florence + The Machine’s The Dog Days Are Over was largely included because of the tempo but also because this was race day! & quite cheesily (not a word) the dog days were most certainly over! Also, these seven months or so - happiness has hit me like a train on a track. Each month, I’ve accomplished goals for myself. I feel inspired, awake, centered. I unexpectedly fell in love with someone who I can be myself with, who protects me, with whom things are simpler. better.
11. With Arms Outstretched by Rilo Kiley used to be a difficult song for me to listen to because it was associated with a past relationship. But, getting over that hump as we always, always do it only brings back the best memories now, being young, in college and performing at my first open mic on lead vocals singing this song - backed by an accordian, a flute, a guitar and so on. We even planted people in the audience to clap at the break later in the song where it is just the band singing. One person in particular was a dear friend of mine who came to take his own life the end of my senior year at Scranton. His laugh was infectious, his voice booming and he was the first out of his seat to help us bring the (coffee)house down. Every time I listen to this song, I think of him and how happy he made me and those times when the song would come on during my runs - that is what pulled me through. I know he was clapping for me then, too.
12. I absolutely adore Ghosts by Mark Geary and it’s combination of simplicity & complexity is just the right balance that makes it appear on mix after mix that I make. Both this and A Prayer for St. Rita made it on the final list for that reason. In addition to their beats - which, too, make for a nice running pace - I love the way the songs come back to one another (…’don’t fall in love with ghosts’ is in the latter song as opposed to the former). Very reminiscent of Dylan but has clearly made a beautiful place for himself…
13. …as does Mr. Josh Ritter. He was featured the most on my “Born To Run” compilation (yes that was the title - I’m not very original). Lillian - Egypt, Kathleen ( and not just the name of my best friend from the 3rd grade who was waiting for me to finish the race!), Snow is Gone, Right Moves and To The Dogs or Whoever (Go on, then, TRY AND NOT RUN TO THIS SONG!) were the selected few. Sure, these are some of his more upbeat songs but I get lost in the lyrics and stories that he’s telling which when you’re only at mile marker 5 is pretty important. Sure, Josh, tell me about Casey Jones or Casey at the Bat. For me, he is the ultimate. I am fascinated by his personality, generosity and sincerity in both his song-writing and his interaction with his audience. (He is putting out a book in June entitled “Bright’s Passage” and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll read it). It was Good Man, however, that was playing as I crossed the finish line & yes, quite fittingly, my hands had held on, my mind had let go.
To not post about Record Store Day seems somehow, I believe, to be breaking a music lover’s code considering the excitement, purchases & listening that took place yesterday, April 16th, in my own life & all over the world. I woke up, got outta bed, ran a comb across my head (a.k.a. covered the curly mass with a cap, as per usual) & made my way down to my “local” to purchase Bob Dylan In Concert : Brandeis University 1963, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band ‘Gotta Get The Feeling / Racing in the Street’ & Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’ - the last being an impulse buy - seeing as though I don’t own many jazz records - but something told me I had to have it even if just for playing on a Sunday while winding down from the week & preparing myself for another. At 9AM, there was already a line stretched to the back of the store, the remainder of the store filled with people milling over new releases, re-issues & the like. I had never before seen this store so busy. These are the kinds of things that make me smile & that I did as I quickly & nervously scanned the tables to see if my picks for the day were still available. Although RSD is a yearly occurrence & despite the crowds that flock to independent records shops around the globe, you still feel like you are in on a really, really great secret that many people don’t know about; a special club that keeps you connected to the artists you follow, admire & provide the soundtrack to your daily lives. It was started to simply, yet greatly, celebrate the art of music. On a larger scale, it gives us music lovers - & the artists themselves - a chance to give back to our community, those local, smaller business that continue to introduce our kind to new things & (attempt to) satiate our musical hungers. This blog stemmed from a similar train of thought - to create something just for the sake of discussion & insight based on a love of music. I remember writing & giving a speech for a, well, speech class I had during my undergraduate studies. It was a rather obvious observation that I had never met someone who doesn’t like music. Sure, some don’t like theatre or would rather eat nails than go to the opera, but I have never heard someone say, “Oof. Music? Really? Nah, that’s not for me”. I don’t care if it’s Hanson, African drumbeats or chanting during a yoga class, music is EVERYWHERE & EVERYONE has some opinion or preference, a like or dislike, a favorite artist or group. We find melody & sounds in everything we do. I know I’ve tried to replicate sounds I’ve heard in the environment such as the beat the NJTransit ticket machine would make while printing out my roundtrip pass from Middletown to New York Penn Station. It is very unique & very specific & I always listen for it whenever I have to buy one. Would it sound different if my origin was, perhaps, Red Bank which has fewer letters & may require less pulsing from the machine? I think in terms of music. It consumes large chunks of my daily life. I hear it in my footsteps, in the rain & I convinced myself on numerous occasions that the song playing on my iPod at the moment, everyone can hear, because certainly that man’s arm movement is coinciding with the bass line or the car lights flashing up ahead just there are picking up the drum beat. I love how intense people’s reactions are to music & I love how, I, myself, can be such a snob about it. I get heated & angry & I have done (& continue to do) my fair share of “pushing” music on people. Some really appreciate it while others just appease me. My Facebook status is used mostly as a means to post links as opposed to telling the universe how much laundry I have & how hungry I am. (a lot & pretty ravenous most of the time - in case you were wondering.) I will fight & defend “my bands/artists/songs/etc” to the death & get (not seriously) offended & exasperated when someone doesn’t like or see what I see. As I stood in line to purchase my RSD treasures, I noticed the man in front of me buying Lady Gaga on vinyl, among other things & I thought to myself “Really? You’re going to waste your hard earned pennies on that?”. In the past week, there has been an ongoing discussion amongst a few friends & me, my friends saying that Lady Gaga is kind of punk in that her following is similar to that of The Clash & such. I couldn’t believe this was even a discussion & my dear friend put me, rightly, in my place by saying I didn’t know a lot about punk. Which is true - I don’t. However, I do have my own opinions as to the artistic integrity of arriving in an egg. I was born that way, too, ya know? Needless to say, after part 2 of my RSD adventures, I found myself having pints with one of these friends after having visited Bleeker Street Records in Greenwich Village. The topic of Gaga came up again & we agreed to disagree but said friend told me in so many words “I love having these conversations though. The point being is that we can talk & argue intellectually. I don’t have many friends like you”. That was probably one of the biggest compliments I could ever receive because I do take music as seriously as I do passionately. I may be biased in my opinions, as we all are, but who am I to judge or question someone’s connection to an artist? My heroes may come in the form of Dylan, Springsteen, Helm (I can go on…) & more currently Ritter, Hansard, Geary, BellX1 (I can go on…) but that doesn’t mean my opinions are more important or “better”. I’m the crazy one making tracks off an automated train ticket machine. The point is these conversations are happening because of things like Record Store Day - because we love music & want to share that with the world. We ARE part of a cool little club - in every track we play, every mp3 we purchase, every concert we attend (those other attendees - your friends.) I’ve gone to concerts alone & made conversations with people standing next to me because we were already connected in a sincerely intimate way - they, too, have found some root, a tie to the artist on stage. I don’t think there is anything comparable to the community & connection you feel while listening to music - whether on your turntable, at a concert or in those little ear-buds of yours. Yesterday served as a reminder of all of these things, a nice refresher course offered by this really awesome club we all belong to & if anything, I hope next year you participate or begin to have these conversations of your own because there is a really beautiful give & take that occurs - one that not even the howling wind & rain of NYC could deter on that third Saturday of April.
Today, the 8th of April is National Music Day in Ireland. The title makes it seem very grand, but in truth today is not any different to any other day in Ireland. There are no free outdoor gigs, no music workshops, nothing out of the ordinary to suggest that today has been any different to a normal day in Dublin. (I write purely personally. Perhaps there were clandestine gigs in the open, posters flying in every secret breeze and stealth symphonies being played publicly behind closed doors, but of these I know nothing.)
As disappointed as I was with this massive non-event, I have to say that it gave me food for thought. I originally saw a post on Facebook this morning about National Music Day and as I was rushing out the door, I pushed it to the back of my mind. Yet it crawled back in and kept knocking on the window of my inner thoughts. As a result, all day I’ve been asking myself, what does music mean to me?
This is a question that I hope I never answer. I wish never to know what music means to me, not fully, because then I fear I might stop searching for the meaning of music in my life. This search takes shape in the form of obsessively buying CD’s and vinyl, constantly scouring the world-wide-web for new groups, new melodies and new harmonies that sail on the back of these melodies. The search brings me to second-hand shops, flea markets, gigs and over-priced high-street stores. I’d do anything to get my fix, man. My computer groans and grumbles from the weight inside it due to the musical content. My iPod shudders to life and wearily plays anything at my behest. My three guitars have sung, wailed and blasted thousands of chords, my voice has sung hundreds of thousands of songs and there is no end in sight.
And then, how does music make me feel? I presume, and hope for all our sakes, that we all have a good friend in our lives. I hope that this person is someone that you can talk to for hours on end, or when the time is right, sit silently with for hours on end. A friend we have laughed, cried, drank, eaten, fought with and even slept beside if it so passes. Music, is that friend to me. Music is my soul, my elixir, my breakfast with which I break my nighttime fast, my fuel in my melodic engine.
That friendship, for me, is immortalised in one song. By Mr. Bruce Springsteen. The song is called No Surrender. It’s a tale of friendship, of staying true to oneself, and above all else, no matter what, remembering the promise you made with a friend, that vow that would always be defended, come hell, high water, a winters night or a dimly lit street.
That vow I honour daily when I pick up either Musgrave (my Taylor) or Roisin (my Yamaha), wrap my harmonica around my neck, bust out of class with my companion to learn from a record, learn what I can’t learn anywhere else while my heart pounds…
And oh, my friends, how I hope that you find something that you can swear your life on too, if you haven’t already found it. Because when you do, you won’t let it die. You too, will swear, no retreat, baby, no surrender.
The last couple of weeks have had more than the usual share of quarter-life crisising and strifing about what the future holds and how to make sure whatever it holds is good and creative and right. The end isn’t in sight, but a few lyrics from Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim helped remind me that that’s probably okay…
‘Stop worrying where you’re going, move on
If you can know where you’re going, you’ve gone
Just keep moving on.
I chose, and my world was shaken—so what?
The choice may have been mistaken
but choosing was not.
You have to move on.
Stop worrying if your vision is new.
Let others make that decision …
they usually do!
You keep moving on.
Look at what you want,
Not at what you are
Not at what you’ll be
Look at all the things you gave to me….’
never take it seriously. if ya never take it seriously, ya never get hurt, ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, & if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store & visit your friends - almost famous