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This is an older instrumental that’s been looking for a name for a long time. Since I’ve been inspired by Kristin Hersh’s, “Kristin With an Eye” images to connect my songs to her visuals (ala “Southern Waste”), I though it made sense to finally give it a name.
Here’s Kristin’s image that retroactively inspired the song:
And, here’s the song:
It was written many moons ago upstairs in the little make-shift studio I put together above the Ryko offices in Gloucester. I’d disappear on occasion, when the business overtook the art, to try and remember what pulled me into this business in the first place.
The sort of drone-y under current in the song is a dulcimer. While sort of thought of as the autoharp’s less cool cousin, dulcimers are actually pretty happening. Have a listen, for instance, to this:
“Everybody hit the ground,” indeed.
Sachuest Point by George Howard is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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.
REM recently wrapped up their unbelievably great tour. I was lucky enough to see them a few times. Mind blowing.
As sort of a parting gift, REMHQ has posted a video of the truly unbelievable encore from the last show of the tour.
The encore includes some of their finest work: I Believe, Country Feedback, and (one of my all-time favorite REM songs) Life and How to Live it.
If anyone doubts my assertion that Peter Buck is one of the finest, most inventive and lyrical guitar players of our (or any) time please do pay attention to the solo during Country Feedback.
On another note, I can’t encourage you enough to order the Deluxe version of Murmur.
Whether you’re a fanatic, on the fence, or new to REM you sort of have to have this. Not only is Murmur one of the greatest records ever made, and even more haunting now in its remastered form, but the package also includes a seminal REM boots, which – among others – has a great version of Harborcoat. Harborcoat went on to be the first song on the follow up to Murmur, Reckoning. Can’t wait for that reissue.
They’re REM and this is what they do:
There are lyrics from many REM songs that cycle through my brain daily (“Can’t buy my harborcoat/Can’t go outside without it” for some reason is always rattling around in there), but the lyrics for “I Believe” are almost always playing (and have been since high school):
“When I was young and full of grace/And spirited…a rattlesnake”
“I believe in coyotes and time as an abstract”
“Trust in your calling, make sure your calling’s true / think of others, the others think of you”
“Perfect is a fault, and fault lines change.”
“I believe my humor’s wearing thin/And I believe the poles are shifting.”
But, the one that I hear most often, and the one I heard loudest and clearest in my head last night was:
And change is what I believe in
I lectured this morning to about 100 freshman business students. I asked who was happy that Obama won, who was sad, and who didn’t care. Even in this red state where I teach and live for half the year, the vast majority were happy.
I try not to preach when I teach, but I had to fight back tears when I said (the teachings of Elie Wiesel, who I was lucky enough to study with for a year, rattling around in my brain):
“I don’t care who you voted for, but America has had a sickness since its inception. Racism has been our curse; it’s what keeps us from being truly great. It’s been a global embarrassment that we haven’t had an African American President, and it’s an embarrassment that we haven’t had a female President. But yesterday, those of you who voted, took a giant step towards curing our national sickness. You should be proud and honored. And, I believe.”
Ethan Kaplan has a great blog called Blackrimglasses, and he posted the following video of R.E.M. announcing Obama’s victory. I couldn’t be more delighted that Bertis Downs, who I’m honored to call a friend, and who I respect more than just about anyone in the music industry (or any industry) was able to say the words.