Perspective, too


As I stumbled toward the door this morning, I picked at random a  CD for the drive: a morning ritual I have nurtured in the forlorn fantasy of bringing myself fully to consciousness before I climb inside two thousand pounds of sheet metal and play road warrior. This was a piece of schlock entitled Summer of Love: a poppy (read: ‘vocal intensive’ and an absurd preponderance of the term ‘groovy’) compilation of songs from nineteen sixty seven that blatantly ripped off the popular misconception of what was then happening in the newly uncovered subculture. Beginning - of course - with Scott McKenzie’s rendition of Papa John Phillips’ San Francisco (be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in your Hair), I was instantly just soggy with nostalgia (quote from Tom Lehrer, with apologies.) Somehow it was able to avoid (or unable to pry the copyright from) the Fifth Dimension’s rendition of the Age of Aquarius from Hair, but precious little else was spared. I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of the Troggs’ Love is All Around; appalled by my introduction to Marcia Strassman’s strident, marshall rendition of The Flower Children (think of a thirteen year old girl screaming at her parents in an effort to force them to understand why she listens to Eminem); transported by the New York City summer samba of the Rascals’ Groovin’, and vastly amused by own reaction to it all. One of the great things about singing in the car is nobody CARES about your level of embarrassment: they know you are a wacko, screaming at the top of your lungs - if they notice you at all. Which is unlikely, because they are embarrassed by the things they do in the privacy of their own automobiles. Anyway...

Suddenly the cheesy Farfisa organ I associate with sixties pop pulsed nine staccato quarter notes, emerging from the sound of falling water. “I saw her sitting in the rain....” 

One of those subterranean memories that lurks dormant, deep in my repressed subconscious, loomed suddenly large before me. (I leave to your imagination my reaction to the dream sequence in the film Dumb and Dumber.) Does anybody other than I remember the Cowsills? I am deeply ashamed to admit I know this, but they were the real life mold for the travesty of a sham of the Partridge Family, and they had a song back in sixty seven called (gulp) The Rain, the Park and Other Things. (Yes: those ARE my heels, sticking out from under the bed and quivering.) The hair on my head, arms and back stood at attention while my limbic system took control, and as the production built, ludicrous images of myself at that time superimposed over equally absurd visions of me as I perceive myself today. A warm feeling enveloped me, as a kind of Robin Williams’ ADD free association threw these portraits in time one against another.

Suddenly I was again crossing into the far side of my fifteenth year, seeing as if for the first time the brave new world peering over the fence of my sheltered perspective. Awash in memory, I revisited the is the word that keeps popping up, but that isn’t exact. I guess High School party is the more-or-less term for this specific recollection. This was the first time anyone laughed hysterically - and appreciatively - after reading a short story I had written. The first time I noticed David Clayton Thomas sing You’ve Made Me so Very Happy with Al Kooper’s new band, Blood Sweat & Tears. The first time I touched a woman’s breast, although by accident, in an attempt to avoid being kissed, (shaking my head) ...believe it or not. A veritable plethora of firsts for me: the first instance I recall of feeling everything is for the first time; the first time I was around others smoking marijuana, though I did not partake at this juncture. The first time I carried a couple from mid Atlanta to it’s edge in my mom’s car, running on fumes and turning off the ignition to coast downhill. The couple were tripping heavily - something absolutely outside my limited experience - and engaged in coitus: also beyond my agonized grasp. The amazing detail of this is I didn’t crash and burn attempting to watch and drive. But - back to the associative properties of this song....

How innocent and optimistic it sounds, in comparison to today. There is no posturing, not a shred of attitude - just simple joy in being alive. Which could be the result of some Machiavellian producer using his knowledge and ability to manipulate my feelings. That I recognize. But - then, we were losing young men by the thousands, daily in Viet Nam; black and white americans were killing each other over the absurd idea that one color was somehow more equal than the other. Women burned their bras in protest of treatment by a masculine dominated society, an activity I believe should be encouraged (the burning, not the treatment.) So - what has changed?

The soft focus of memory! It is said time heals all wounds, but - THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TIME! Mr. Einstein, you are the supreme scientist, and science wants to quantify everything  to prove it exists. I submit man created the concept of time, and a way to measure time so it would adhere to that premise. Our memory forms scar tissue over the sharp edges of those things we don’t want to remember, and one great attribute of human consciousness is selective reality: if you don’t remember it, it never happened - the central theory behind anesthesiology, and the movie Total Recall (a masterpiece of thematic science fiction from supremely diseased film maker Paul Verhoeven {based on even more supremely warped Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale}. (Verhoeven should stick to sci-fi and avoid any association with Joe Eszterhas. Just a suggestion.) It all seems so unblemished from this viewpoint because we filter out all the war, infighting, parental totalitarianism and acne.

And while I’m free associating - not to say ranting - what is the motivating principle behind those people known as critics? Why do they tell me garage bands are ‘better’ or more ‘honest’ than more sophisticated production values? Why do they place such value on my ‘dark side’? And - my personal favorite - those who say ‘I don’t want to know too much about music: it gets in the way of expression and feeling.’ What a master work of crippled logic! (Or, in the words of my friend Peter Beagle “...a kind of national park for underdone thoughts.”) I personally would love to venture into a nuclear reactor to fine tune the thing, knowing nothing more than the rudimentary basics of nuclear fission.

Is it a basic human tropism to think “I like this. I don’t like that. I like the Stones. I don’t like the Beatles.” ? Why can’t I like different things, with different sounds or values? Why should I define myself by one rigid paradigm? Aren’t we really talking about bigotry, and it’s inbred religious cousin fundamentalism? An open mouth and a closed mind in every home? Less importantly, why should I allow myself to be intimidated by a loudmouth who belittles me because I like something he doesn’t? I love rock and roll, but five hundred songs with exactly the same chord structure are not in the same league as one of George Gershwin’s compositions. To quote one of my favorite writers (blush): 

“A critical review is worthless unless you know the reviewer’s perspective. If I, for example, think Abbey Road is the most brilliant recording ever made, it is stupid to read a review from someone who thinks Limp Bizkit (or fill in the blank with the current fifteen minute wonder/bottle blonde sugarcube) is God. Find a reviewer who’s taste reflects your own, and there will be far fewer times you think “What an opinionated asshole!” Because music is subjective: just because I know a sh_tload of theory and history and am myself a musician doesn’t make my opinion more - or less - valid than yours. It’s just mine. However, I get paid to be an opinionated asshole. So - just for the record - my Top 5 “Desert Island Selections” on this particular day would be (in no particular order): Beatles - Abbey Road (betya never woulda guessed); Miles Davis: Kind of Blue; Jimi Hendrix: Rainbow Bridge/First Rays of the New Rising Sun; Alice Coltrane: Journey in Satchidananda; and Beach Boys: Pet Sounds. Of course, this is just a snapshot. Ask me  a different time, and almost certainly you will get a completely different answer.”

And, of course - that’s just my opinionated opinion. It could and will change, but it’s only true for my ears. Figure it out for yourself, from your own perspective.

“she had made me happy!   { happy!           happy!  [and everywhere]} 

flowers in her everywhere!       I love the flower girl.......”    

    ( I will change my Top X as consistently as possible. Don’t hold your breath.)

Be appreciative you’re not in my head, and have to babysit thoughts like these.