Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bread on the Pyre

Sometimes you have to sacrifice for a friend.  Back one summer, now almost lost in the mists of time, I loaned my favorite Bread album to a friend.  She took it and wore a visible trench in the vinyl by playing one song over and over for days on end.  It’s what she needed to save herself from despair.

        For both the sake of her dignity and the survival of our forty-year friendship, we’ll leave real names out of this–let’s call her Sue.

       Sue had been dumped.  There’s no kinder way to say it.  She’d been unceremoniously, unfeelingly, inexplicably dumped. And it didn’t matter one iota that everyone except her could clearly see the guy was all wrong for her.  She was bereft and the only thing that brought her solace was listening to “Baby, I’m a Want You” nonstop–every... waking... hour.

       I’m not embarrassed to say I was rather fond of that album.  I’m a kind of big-tenter when it comes to rock, I like a little bit of everything, and people who set themselves up as arbiters of what’s cool and what’s lame get on my last nerve. So yeah, I admit it, I listened to Bread and I liked them.

Gates had the kind of voice I’m drawn to, slightly vulnerable, a little nasal. He didn’t try too hard and he had the courtesy to look slightly chagrined when he sang the lyrics–”Baby, I’m-a want you?  Baby I’m-a need you?”  Seriously?  But they made it work somehow. Bread turned out some infinitely listenable soft rock and I appreciated them for their contribution. Course, by the time Sue had been at it for the first full day I thought I’d go mad from hearing that song.

 I can never hear it again or hold the album in my hand without remembering Sue’s heartbreak. Much as I love my records, I didn’t mind offering up that album on the pyre of her pain if it helped at all.  And I think it did.

Sue?  She got over it eventually and went on to a wonderful life with an amazing guy. But Bread will always be part of the soundtrack of her life–and mine.

 How about you?  Do you have a heartbreak song?  Did one of your friends have an experience like this?  Is there a song you find heartbreakingly sad?


For the Love of Vinyl

I love vinyl records.  I love the way they look, the glistening spiral groove winding around the ebony disk. I love the way they smell, crayons for the ear.  I love that the artwork has room to explode across the foot square jacket and that inside you frequently find surprises–cool lyric sheets, liner notes, maybe a mini-poster.

 It’s still pure magic to me that music can be held captive in those tiny grooves just waiting for a needle to liberate it. It’s a ritual to take the record out of the sleeve and set it on the turntable.  You have to pay attention and because of that you end up paying more careful attention to the music as well.  At least that’s my theory.

I’m not a collector; I’m more like an accumulator.  Once a record comes into my life and memories attach, it’s hard to let it go. So I have a hodge-podge collection with no sense of order or purpose to anyone but me.  Taken as a whole it’s of little financial value, though there are a few rare gems.  Still, I love simply having the records.  They trigger the same nostalgia as looking through a yellowing photo album or reminicing with an old friend.

And I love the sound. I’m certainly no audiophile.  I’m sure I lost a good chunk of my hearing range standing too close to the amps at concerts back in the day, but the experience of listening with hisses and pops included somehow makes the memory more complete, more authentic. That’s how it was back then, unpredictable, a different listening experience each time.

  Records were simply the artifacts of daily life for me through some wonderful youthful years.  So, in celebration of vinyl--and of classic Rock 'n'  Roll—I’d love to hear about records you’ve loved and music that’s made up the soundtrack of your life.