Friday, February 18, 2011

Closest Thing to Heaven

211.0lbs. Man this is death by inches. Ugh! I so want 210lb, I am almost willing to cheat to get there. Almost. Cheating is not eating - consciously. It also might actually cause me to lose less weight. Odd how that works. You know, the culprit that kept me from my beloved 210lbs was a single can of Diet Dr. Pepper. Phenylalanine never fails in wrecking my train. Thank you, you scientist bastards, who disregarded legitimate concerns from several other scientists, so that you could make us fat with your chemical sweeteners. In honor of a new Radiohead album, I will quote them: "When I am king, you will be first against the wall." Pretty violent lyrics from a self proclaimed pacifist, don't you think?

Speaking of music, at the bottom of the post is a song by Tears for Fears, much maligned for being an 80's group. A lot of my friends who were into hair bands really hated the New Romantic and New Wave period of music. The biggest complaint? "Oh man it's just nothing but keyboards and computers!" Now that was just plain stupid since the very music they liked was filled with more keyboard and keyboard wizardry than most. Take a listen to Van Halen's 1984. If Eddie "Guitar God" Van Halen didn't have such a love for electronica and keyboards that album would a much blander affair. Rush wouldn't even exist without the computer and keyboard triggers that Geddy Lee played with his feet, yes, his feet. You see they were all smarter than us idiot kids who were drawing battle lines musically. Like Rush says, "All this machinery making modern music can still be open hearted, not so coldly charted, it's just a question of your honesty."

That's why I love all types of music. You can still love Led Zeppelin (a very early adopter of electronics in music) and the Eurythmics if you like because the musicians figured out a long time ago you can use whatever tool you like as long as it serves the purpose of the song. Having seen Tears for Fears live I can tell you I was surprised by how little electronics are used by that group. They are just so "tight", it sounds like electronics are making the bass lines and the fast guitar work. The truth is, they are excellent musicians. There is very little difference between Rush and Tears for Fears at some points except TFF probably leans more towards the Brian Wilson school of music while almost everything Rush does sounds epic. I love that about both groups.

But my defining measure of what makes a great song is the lyrics. It might sound snobby but it is precisely the reason I have never bought a Def Leppard album but own everything Led Zeppelin ever did. I like Def Leppard to a point. It's great party music but I don't think the original lyric sheet to "Pour Some Sugar On Me" will ever be entered into the Smithsonian for posterity.

Lyrics are just my thing. I carried the lyric insert to Al Stewart's Love Chronicles around in my back pocket for years. Lyrics were also what got me into poetry; lyrics were my gateway drug to deeper thoughts and concepts when I was in my teens. I consumed Teasdale, Eliot, Tennyson, Blake et. al.. At one point I could recite you The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock from memory. I still can quote snippets out of most songs I adore. Here is one I love: It's a dark train of thought with too many carriages. Paddy McAloon wrote them for a spoken word piece performed by an American woman over some music he composed. The thing, like Stewart's Love Chronicles, is 17 minutes or so long. One complete headphone listen while you have the lyric sheet in hand is life changing.

The lyrics for today's song fit the day quite well. As I type this, it is starting to rain and it is a huge storm for us. The lyrics the tripped through my mind most of the day and made me run to Youtube to find a video are: 28 days of rain, flash floods in February. Before we get to the song, here are the lyrics to the song that made such an impression on me when I was all of 14. I still think it is as good as anything T.S. Eliot ever wrote.

Love Chronicles

Al Stewart

I can remember the first girl that I did love
It was Stephanie
In kindergarten arithmetic classes she used to
Sit next to me
I'd pass her sticky sweets under the table
Where the teacher couldn't see
Although she wouldn't remember me now
Sometimes I wonder where she can be

I can remember the first girl I kissed
It was Christine when I was ten
I'd been told we were moving away
I thought I'd never see her again
Oh don't forget me
I'll be back when they let me
Before you learn how to lie when you're leaving
Love is so much easier then

And at school would you believe three hundred boys
And no girls at all
But you're a fool if you should leave
Just think of the joys of rugby football
And prep in the morning and Brylcreem and acne
And cross-country running to kill evil thoughts
I'm surprised that I survived
I ran ten thousand miles with my back to the wall

I can remember the first girl that I made love to
It was in a park
In the lower pleasure gardens in Bournemouth
In summer just after dark
My mind was reeling: Oh what a feeling.
I missed the bus and walked twelve miles home
And it really didn't seem far

And all through my seventeenth summer
Running together from crowds and ties
Taking our clothes off and feeling each other
With fingers and senses and mouths and eyes
Incurring the glances of old disapproval
From elderly local inhabitant's eyes
Oh time, time we hardly even knew you
You didn't touch us with your lies

In the halcyon days of my late adolescence
My goal seemed clearly in sight
Playing electric guitar with a beat group
We set the ballrooms alight
Camping it up for the dyed blonde receptionists
Who told us we were alright
An ego trip for a teenage superstar
On thirty shillings a night

And so it fell that I came up to London
To look for fortune and fame
Starry eyed in my seaside successes
And much too sure of the game
First girl I met there, I thought I'd get there
But the first girl was nearly the last girl
She left my eyes in the drain
She sat on my floor in the dead of the night
Rolling a joint and looking round for a light
Her clothes were so black and her face was so white
How could I know what was right?

And I sat all huddled upon my bed
Watching her in my innocence
And it was no sense at all, but too much sense
That took me to the bridge of impotence
Oh Artaud's anthology lay spread on the floor
And the thoughts that she gave me,
I'd not met before
And stranded half hypnotised,
I watched her in awe
Of everything that she stood for

And I wanted more than anything to be like her with every sense
But it was no sense at all, but too much sense
That took me to the bridge of impotence
She came over to me and kissed me in play
Taking my hand between her legs as she lay
And she looked in my eyes but I turned them away
Finding no words fit to say

And I hated myself, but could not move
Shattered in my confidence
But it was no sense at all, but too much sense
That took me to the bridge of impotence
Now the stare of the lightbulb tore holes in my brain
As she got up in the silence that hung like a stain
And I wanted to speak, or to call out her name
But how could I begin to explain?

And my prosecuting room still holds
A strand of her hair in evidence
But it was no sense at all, but too much sense
That took me to the bridge of impotence
Oh I still think about her when the night fills with rain
And speaks in its voices uneasy and vain
And I think were I maybe to find her again
Oh I'd probably see her more plain

And I should have known she was just like me
It was after all only common-sense
But it was no sense at all, but too much sense
That took me to the bridge of impotence
But it was no sense at all, but too much sense
That took me to the bridge of impotence

At first I didn't go out much at all
I just stayed at home in my chains
Picking over the threads of my confidence
And searching for the remains
And when I couldn't stand any more of it
Going down to a club
Mixing in with the sounds and the crowds
I let the music cover me up

And only, lonely, the harlequins and painted phonies
Pick their ways, through the haze
Of highs and lows and blues
And all that I could do was to pick my way to you
Though I didn't tell you
You were just a thing to prove
I was hungry when found you, but I'm alright now

They sigh, they lie, the refugees and superheroes
On ice, so nice to see you, what's your name?
And all that I could do was to say the same to you
Take you for the moment, though the moment wasn't true
But I was hungry when I found you and I'm alright now

Though the street lamp cut through the curfew
It shed no light on our mind
It would have been so easy to love you
At any other time
Only, lonely, you came to me the night hung coldly
In your eyes, some other time I might have stayed with you
But all that I could do was to turn around to you
Thanks for what you gave me now it's time to say "Adieu"
I was hungry when I found you but I'm alright now.

And so it came that I stood disillusioned
By everything I'd been told
I just didn't believe love existed
They were all just digging for gold
Widows and bankers and typists and businessmen
Loved each other they said
But all it was though was just a manoeuvre
The quickest way into bed

And so I followed the others' example
And jumped into the melee
In the hunting grounds of Earls Court and Swiss Cottage
I did my best to get laid
Beer cans and parties, deb girls and arties
Bouncing around in the social confusion
Missing and making the grade

The very first time I must confess
I thought you'd be like all of the rest
And we'd be strangers once again
By the time we were dressed
But when you'd smoked your cigarette
And talked of some people that we'd met
I found myself asking was it set,
did you have to go yet

And so you laughed and then kissed me
And stayed for the whole weekend
Although the bed was so narrow
We had to sleep end to end

And so the weeks passed through my brain
In their dadaistic chain
I found myself seeing you again, and again and again
And all you gave, you gave it free
Asking for nothing back from me
You gave yourself unselfishly as a part of me
And where I thought that just plucking
The fruits of the bed was enough
It grew to be less like fucking
And more like making love

Of all the girls I ever knew
some loved and some denied me
And all the words I ever said
have been no use to hide me
And all the songs I ever sung
each one of them untied me
And all the girls I ever loved
have left themselves inside me

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