Yesterday I twittered out a pretty unvarnished sentiment about my love for music:
I was delighted by all the “@” responses I got – I ain’t alone.
What I like about them is that these records are endlessly fascinating to me. I don’t feel like I can sort of figure them out on first listen in the same way as I – rightly or wrongly – do with so much non-jazz stuff these days.
Well, thanks to Aquarium Drunkard, I had a recent reminder that it ain’t all (that) jazz that is so easily understood.
AD recently did an amazing piece on one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands: The Replacements’ “I Can’t Hardly Wait.
It’s a song I’ve loved forever, and thought I had pretty well figured out. In my mind, it was a song about coming home (“I’ll be home when I’m sleeping”/”I can’t hardly wait”) after being away from someone you (maybe) miss (“I’ll write you a letter tomorrow”/”Tonight I can’t hold my pen”/”Someone’s gotta stamp I can borrow”/”I promise not to blow the address again”).
However, after listening to the earlier versions, it’s pretty clear the song – at least in its earlier incarnations – is about suicide. In this sense, one of my favorite lyrics from the song (“Jesus rides beside me”/”He never buys any smokes”) sort of takes on a different meaning. Other elements – in particular, the reference to the “water tower” – in these earlier versions also push the song in that direction.
In any case, it’s a testament to the nuance of Westerberg’s writing. While not a jazz composition, the variations of this song have the same mystery and heft that all great songs – irrespective of genre – do.
Of course, another reason I love music is because of the internal references that it creates. I’ve read that the reason we so strongly associate smells with memories is because the olfactory gland is right next to the part of the brain that controls memory (I have no idea if that’s true). If so, the gland (or whatever) that deals with music must be right there beside these things.
To wit, I can’t even write the word “water tower” without thinking of another song that has the same, uh, heft as great jazz songs: REM’s “Time after Time.” This song, one of their best and most under-rated, is, I believe, about suicide:
Ask the girl of the hour by the water tower’s watch/
If your friends took a fall, are your obligated to follow?
Maybe not, but to me it always has been. So, upon hearing “Can’t Hardly Wait” with a reference to a water tower…well.
Lots of rambling here. What else, however has this power? I guess all art. I can see geeking out like this over the inter-connectedness of Faulkner, for instance. For now, though, it’s music.