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Thursday, July 26, 2012

(30th in a series of) Stepping Stones "Alot for the Fey of Heart"

Song: I Am Waiting
Album: Aftermath
Released:  April, 1966

A few months back, Nancy, Peter and I watched ‘Rushmore’, a 1998 movie about the adventures of Max, an eccentric 15-year old, attending a private academy for teenagers.  Now when it comes to movies, I’m not all that easily pleased:  If I were a popular movie critic, I would have probably been knocked off by a producer’s hired gun at one time or another because I tend to put my thumbs down far more frequently than the Roger Ebert’s of the world.  But I liked this movie.  It was quirky, yet it captured some things very well, including the strong will of the main character.  More importantly it captured a unique spin on the innocence of youth which I am sure is hard to do for someone who is many years beyond that point in their lives (in this case, director Wes Anderson). 

‘Rushmore’ also has an incredible soundtrack, which frankly blindsided me; including the Kinks Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl, the Faces Ooh La La, and the live ‘The Kids are Alright’ version of A Quick One (I couldn’t believe that one).  But what really caught my attention was a Rolling Stones song that I must admit I had not recalled hearing before.  The song was played in its entirety during a very well thought out and poignant sequence in the movie, which I will get to in a moment.  Clearly it was an early-years’ Stones song.  I loved it right off, and immediately thought it a perfect Stepping Stone.  I set the thought aside though, after determining that I had more investigation to do; not the least of which being that of tracking the title of the song and its place in Stones history. 

Last week I finally initiated that bit of research by first going to the ‘Rushmore’ web page and reviewing the soundtrack list to the movie. The song turned out to be I Am Waiting, which I soon discovered was on the 1966 ‘Aftermath’ album.  From there, I turned back to a trusted source during this now half-year process, that being a special 148 page edition of ‘Uncut’ about the Rolling Stones, published last year.  Among other articles, the publication includes re-reviews of each of the band’s 22 British-released studio albums.  The ‘Aftermath’ article, written by rock critic Rob Young, was a mixed review.  In it, Young points out that the Stones were still at that time releasing albums that included a few fillers, something the Beatles would never do. I’d have to agree with this key point, but having listened to the album now for a solid week, I can at the same time see that the Stones were beginning to distinguish themselves from the crowd in 1966 with well written and well performed hits, such as Paint it Black and Under My Thumb, as well as a few solid deep cuts such as Think and Goin’ Home. 

Young makes reference a few times in his article to this week’s Stepping Stone, I Am Waiting.  One point he makes is in his use of the term ‘feyness’ to describe it, while at the same time stating that the Stones would rarely if ever delve into this uniquely atmospheric sound again.  With this re-read of Young’s article under the belt, a few dots were beginning to connect in my mind.  From here I went on to You Tube, typed in “Movie Rushmore, I am Waiting”, and up popped the portion of the movie that unfolded during the playing of this song on the soundtrack ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCKKSeNWkJQ ).   Since the sequence was so well done both musically and visually, a wave of my own youthful flashbacks hit me.  Rob Young had gotten it precisely right:  This song indeed has feyness.  It’s a mid-60s sound that not too many bands’ I enjoy have achieved.  Leonard Cohen is an exception, having pulled it off quite often, most notably in his song So Long Marianne.  The Who actually did it a decade later on Who Are You, which can be heard in the bridge to the song.  And the Rolling Stones pull it off here.  It’s the sound of nostalgia.  It’s the sound of youthful innocence.  It’s an otherworldly sound.

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A number of years ago, walking with Charlotte and Peter through my old Franklin neighborhood during a visit to my parents’ home, I challenged the kids to point anywhere and I would share a memory of my youth of that very spot with them.  And so they took me up on it, and over time we touched on a number of my younger-day experiences.  Below is an approximation of several of our many exchanges:

Charlotte:  How about there, Dad” (pointing at an area just out front of a Dean College building)
Me: “In that corner, we used to make our way up on the roof to retrieve golf balls that we would hit onto the higher roof from the field beyond.  See how the higher roof is connected to the lower one by a steel rung ladder?  When we did this we had to keep a look out for the Dean Police, who did not want us up there.  On a few occasions they spotted us, and a mad scramble ensued.”
Peter: “Over there?
Me: “That’s the Fitzpatrick home. I delivered there on my first paper route.  I used to keep a checklist of the dogs that accompanied me on that route, including my most frequent companions, my dog Nicky, and Phil’s dog Whiskers, who routinely met Nicky and I at a rendezvous location at the start of my route from his home 2 blocks away (with an impeccable sense of timing I might add).  One Thursday, collection day, Mrs. Fitzpatrick opened her door in response to my knocking, looked out on her lawn and saw 15 dogs behind me.  I recall her reaction being one of utter disbelief.  She insisted I stay put, ran back into her home, and took a photo of the group of us. No, I’ve never seen the photo.
Peter (again):  How about that barn back there?
Me: “One summer, Bruce and I came up with the unusual idea of seeing how many barns we could sneak into and investigate.  There were so many large, unused old barns in the neighborhood, and it was often easy to crawl into a back open window.   It was scary but fascinating. That particular barn had a few old deer head mounts in a corner on the upper level.
Charlotte: “Over there?
Me:  I remember when a significant part of downtown Franklin, that included Puritan Drug Store, went up in an inferno of flames.  My friends and I were hanging out on ‘The Wall’ when we heard the commotion from a distance.  I was on crutches at the time, having broken my leg a month earlier (another memorable story).  Everyone sprinted ahead of me, and so my hope that the crew meet at a common location when we got there quickly faded.  But good-friend Pete was a bit slower than the rest, so I was able to keep an eye on him, just catching a glance each time he went around the next bend (I was getting pretty good on crutches by then).  I remember going around that corner you pointed at early on in the sprint to downtown, seeing Pete, and just somehow knowing that I’d be keeping a bead on him for the remainder of the trek (which was the case).
Peter and Charlotte:  There?
Me:  That’s Mac’s yard.  I got pretty good at croquet there, but what I mostly remember is the kick-the-can nights.  Right there, a very large oak tree would cast a night shadow across the spotlighted field.  When you stayed completely in the shadow, you were practically invisible to the person who was ‘it’.  This was the surest way to make your way from the front to the back, which was a great area to launch an attack from.  Also, looking further back into the back field….the trees behind it had an amazing labyrinth of vines interconnecting them at the top.  Sitting up there on top of those vines was awesome:  A veritable super-sized crow’s nest for kids.
Peter: “Up there?
Me: “Those are the water towers.  You see the components of the towers broken up from top to bottom by connected steel drums?  We used to compete to see who could hit the highest drum in the chain with a rock or a chunk of asphalt.  The rocks would make a higher pitched tone the farther up you hit the water tower due to the level of water inside.  One day we were tossing rocks up there when we noticed, for lack of a better term, a local madman, shooting at us with a bee-bee-like pump gun from his 2nd floor deck below the towers.  I was actually hit in the shoe.  We ran home to tell our parents.  I’m not sure how it all played out, but one of the results was us promising not to throw rocks at the towers ever again.  I guess the madman accomplished his goal.

To this day Charlotte and Peter still take me up on that initial challenge, and occasionally I challenge myself.  Rarely am I stumped, and not just in the immediate neighborhood, but other parts of town.  For example, when taking the King Street route to Amy’s, I usually spot the former home of one R. Shores, who never once tipped me for the first handful of months during my Sunday driving paper route.  Early in this job, I did not have my license and so Dad would selflessly do the driving.  Picking up on the lack of a tip, Dad had me write notes attached to the newspaper stating things like “A penny saved is a penny earned”.  Before long, I was getting generous tips from Mr. Shores. 

And then there was the location on the Dean Field where we would play pickup baseball games:  Frequently short on fielders, Phil’s aforementioned dog, Whiskers, would occasionally fill in at shortstop, making amazing stabs of line drives with his mouth.  There were the train-track hiking discoveries with Dad: giant praying mantis, walking sticks, salamanders, lady slippers, and the like.  Dad again, hosting pickup football games, punting the ball and stating things to Mr. Bonolo like “That’s about as high as a kick as you would have seen from Harvey Shmeltzsticker”.  At Dean Junior College alone there were so many memories: There was the circus in the field; the Houdini character in the gym; the parachutist miscue, also in the field; the Mickey Mouse masked female streakers slicing a path between Phil and I as we cut across the campus one early evening; there was the fight with a bully (3 year’s older than me) not far from that same spot several years later.  Downtown also, so many memories: Vargin’s Market, Newberry’s, Kearney’s Drug Store, Jimmies Penny Candy Store, and the News Store.  Each location host to a flurry of thoughts: Wacky Packages, Slush Puppies, Fribbles, comic books, coin collection exchanges, lime ricki’s, creaky wooden floors, pinball, Fat Albert miniatures, sneaking into the loft areas and roof tops of vacant buildings, making friends with the employees, Big Butch, Joe Yoder.

And the list goes on.

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This all brings me back to that poignant sequence in ‘Rushmore’ with the otherworldly sounds of I Am Waiting playing in the background (by the way, can anyone explain the scene at the beginning of the attached clip when the tree collapses with Bill Murray’s character watching?  I have a few theories but welcome input).  Feyness can probably be related to many things, but ‘Rushmore’ really captures the essence of it here.  The days of your youth can feel millions of light years away at times.  Life’s experiences can separate you from it, not simply in terms of time, but also in terms of state of mind.  There is no going back, unfortunately.

But this week, I got as close as I am likely ever going to get again.

-          Pete

1 comment:

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