Hello Old Friends

“Pretty good to see you once again, hello old friends” (tuneful slide guitar by Eric Clapton and fade out).

Except that this blog is not fading out but just starting, appropriately enough, with a song lyric. As my miserable life lurches helplessly on to its unspeakable conclusion it becomes clear – even to me – that certain songs are associated with certain times of my life. I remember laying in the dark with a small glow from my tiny am radio, and those magic moments when a new song came on and captured my imagination, my heart. I remember the percussive opening to Jackson Browne’s “Doctor my Eyes” single in the early seventies (yeah, I’m that old), and the harmonies Browne sang with David Crosby (didn’t know it was Crosby at the time).

Then there was the night when I heard the full version of Free’s “All Right Now,” with the long guitar solo blending into Paul Rogers raspy, perfect rock voice to end the song. In the tenth grade I was going to a school I really didn’t like, and as I was trying to wake up one fall morning I heard the jangly guitar intro to Maggie Mae – first time I’d heard the song, and I forgot all about the crummy school I was going to.

The spare compelling guitar, drum and piano intro to Fire and Rain – the heartfelt piano coda to Layla – Down to Zero and Love and Affection from Joan Armatrading’s first album – Main Street by Bob Seger – Little Feat’s first album – the first time I heard Late From the Sky by Jackson Browne – all are associated with specific times or events in my life

Then there was the warm fall night when I was away at college, feeling all f’ed up and lost, and out of nowhere a chiming guitar riff seemed to come in through the window, carried in with the breeze, and I heard these words: “Seasons don’t fear the reaper/ nor do the wind and the sun and the rain/we can be like they are/come on baby/Don’t Fear the Reaper…”

And on it goes. My musical tastes have varied over the years. In the last six months I’ve wanted to reconnect with music – some old, some new. The new I like very much, and the old music I’m reintroducing myself to has been just wonderful. So odd that I went for such a long time without listening to any music. One reason was I was going through a separation and divorce, and didn’t want to hear music when I was feeling vulnerable – especially when I wasn’t alone. But more than that, I was simply in a place where music wasn’t. Over time I started listening to music without words. Now I’m less sensitive, or if I’m still sensitive its sensitive in a good way. I recently had another music/life landmark. Coming home late at night listening to Tom Petty’s live version of Learning to Fly, and realizing that not only had I survived the worst time of my adult life, I was going to make it, I was going to have a chance to flourish again after being pruned to the ground.

So I’m into music again – it’s a sign of health for me now. There is some real neat indie music I’m absorbing: Stars of the Lid, The Album Leaf, Near the Parentheses, Olafur Arnauld and the Iceland Philharmonic (kidding about the Philharmonic, but there are some awesome Icelandic musicians out there).

Then there are old favorites: Tim Story, and a host of others in different genres. I bought an MP3 player and loaded it up. It’s so much fun to put it on shuffle: I’ll get a Fairport Convention ballad followed by a screaming Ted Nugent, followed by a piano sonnet by Liz Story, followed by the Smithereens (A Girl Like You), or a hilariously cryptic rocker from Blue Oyster Cult or Warren Zevon. So I’m having great fun at the moment, too much fun to write, although writing is fun too, when I don’t think about it too hard. Rock on youngsters, try to keep up with Papa Pump and his old (and new) friends.

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