Personal reflections based on the inspiration of songs. The 2016 series "Under the Big Top" was centered on the music of the Who. The “Forever Young” series in 2014 was inspired by Neil Young songs and “Stepping Stones” in 2012 was focused on the music of the Rolling Stones. The first 100 postings (the original "Gem Videos") emailed to friends and family and later added here are from 2008 and 2009; include songs from a variety of musicians. Bob Dylan and the Beatles are anticipated.
Setting aside relationships, studies, and work for the moment, I’m sure everyone here has experienced a period in their lives when they had a Zen connection with a hobby, an exercise routine, a handicraft, writing, mechanics, or even something potentially overlooked, like understanding the talent behind a master artwork or the nuances of a sporting event.In the latter case, I know brother Pat (there are two Pats on this email list) has connected the dots better than most of us when knowing what it takes for a team to win the Stanley Cup (I was in that Zen mode in the mid-80’s).As for the other categories, just thinking of everyone on this list, there’s cooking, running, wood work, scuba diving, weightlifting, writing, playing a musical instrument, swimming, knowledge of world history, rebuilding an engine and knock ‘em dead humor.I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but hopefully you get the picture.That Zen period can last a month, a year, or with any luck, a lifetime.If you lose it, you may try to get it back at a later date, not often to your satisfaction.
Same goes with an ear for music.I recall a stretch in the mid 90’s when every visit to Franklin would include an invitation from Dad to his study, where he would sit me down and have me listen to Mozart.To say Dad was into the music of Mozart at the time would be an understatement.Dad would turn the music up during a particularly poignant stanza in a concerto, opera, or symphony and then say something along the lines of: “Can you believe that!”.It was brilliant.Dad was in the zone (perhaps the result of successfully raising a family, along with Mom of course).
I think everyone’s been there at one time or another.I’ve seen it with Mac at Grateful Dead shows, Jeff Strause at folk festivals, and Mom listening to ‘The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley’ cd.It’s when you are connecting with the music at a bit higher of a level than those around you.It can happen in spurts with a given song or album, or cumulatively with a record collection or a string of concerts.
I can trace back to 1989 as the period when I was most in tune with great music.I know this because this was the year that Lou Reed released his ‘New York’ album, which I enjoyed thoroughly.Not that I am a big fan of Lou Reed.I look at it more along the lines of Lou Reed being that layer of musician that I could only tap into by wading in over my head.To get to Reed’s ‘New York’ album, I had to go through Beatles ‘White Album’, into Townshend’s ‘All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes’, into the Stones ‘Exile on Main Street’ into The Band’s ‘Music From Big Pink’, into Roger Water’s ‘Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking’ into Robbie Robertson’s self titled solo debut, into Dylan’s ‘Basement Tapes’.I’m not sure there could have been an easier route, and it could only happen during an intense stretch of concert attendance and listening loudly to music on Lake Streetin my bachelor days.
Critics reviewed Lou Reed’s ‘New York’ album as a return to his Velvet Underground days, so in a way I got to experience that 60’s New York City ‘underground’ sound that mesmerized many (including Jonathan Richman).Reed followed up the release of the album with a tour.A number of us got to see that tour when it stopped at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston.What a show!To enjoy it, however, you had to know the ‘New York’ album, because that was what Lou Reed played, from beginning to end.At one time a guy got up and yelled “Play Sweet Jane!”, to which Reed replied “Sit down and shut up or get out of here!” (the exchange was later documented in a Rolling Stone review).
Lou Reed is not one for pulling punches, as revealed in this week’s Gem ‘ Dirty Blvd’ (off the New York album).Feel good song, it is not, but, a gem nonetheless.
“This room cost 2,000 dollars a month
you can believe it man it's true
somewhere a landlord's laughing till he wets his pants”
Gem Music Video: Dirty Boulevard (the original link has been lost temporarily *Dec, 09*.This is an admirable live version)