True to the origins of this blog, I began writing when the first song came on. I’m astounded and pleased that Merle showed up in my music feed tonight! Merle, Willie, Waylon, The Beach Boys, and the Beatles have been a constant in my life since I can remember back to my first experiences with my parents’ hi-if.
My best friend and I a few weeks ago had one of our occasional “Best Friend Days”, which is code for her husband is out of town, and we want to drink red wine and have a dance party until 3am in one of our living rooms. So no problem. Enter my house, a lot of wine, and my record player.
My best friend and I, for the record, met 21 (sweet Jesus!) years ago as freshman year “potluck” roommates. After all those years, we live mere blocks apart, text each other daily, and talk like we haven’t seen each other for decades. We will be those old women in quasi funny birthday cards, 50 years from now, who joke about sagging boobs and skin like a Sharpei’s backside. I’d be lost without her. No joke.
We ended up my at my house for various reasons, but I’m the only one with a record player.
My most frequent LP in circulation is Pet Sounds, just because it’s so damn good. But we went through a bunch, including Willie & Merle’s newest, which she hadn’t heard and is brilliant. We played The Smiths, Elvis Costello, and Rod Stewart from the early 70s. And then I came across an unopened record of David Bowie’s greatest hits. How did this happen?!
It’s a double LP I bought off of Amazon this fall, and, well, my life intercepted, and I forgot about it. It’s hit after hit after hit. On bottle of wine #2 and side 3, my best friend said, “What the hell compilation is this?!” It was NOT the Columbia House special from 1993 for $29.99.
We inspected the cover, which was of course, gorgeous. It’s called “Nothing Has Changed” and was released in 2014. There are 2 images in the liner: both are Bowie looking into a mirror. The first is early, the second, maybe late 80s? Hard to say. But the only writing inside the media of the double album is “Everything Has Changed”, coupled with the back, which is a recent picture of Bowie and his reflection.
We were floored.
It could have been the wine, it could have been Prince’s early death that week, and youth’s naive gaze at eternity, but we both felt like he had, back in 2014, sent the listeners a hint about how sick he was. We suddenly were superfans again.
I have to say, regardless of my eclectic taste, I know my music. My best friend and I bonded one day over Rush. Yeah. The Canadian band. 1, neither of us knew the other had Canadian roots. 2, when I walked into our room the day I knew we would be best friends forever, I busted her for vacuuming to my Rush Chronicles CD. Turns out, it was hers.
Music is a distraction. For me, it’s like Carver or Twain or Danticat–a really off-the-charts distraction. I joke that my memory is an audio Rolodex. I wish it weren’t so, but I can remember every slow dance song (and believe it or not, there were a lot), background music during tough conversations, loved ones singing unabashedly the bridge to Simon and Garfunkel, break up words, passionate words, my own words, world crises, etc.
In spite of all the clutter in my life, especially today, music conquers all. It’s Merle, Willie and Ray. It’s Bowie. It’s Rush. It levels the playing field between two acquaintances but unlikely friends from 21 years ago in the form of Rush. It energizes, it soothes. It helps ground me and remind me to write already, goddammit.
I’ve always said that when a song comes on, someone is trying to say hi or be remembered. Funny how that rang so true tonight. Lyrics and words on a string, floating by to say that nothing and everything has changed. How lovely.
Another Saturday Night–Sam Cooke
Ain’t Talkin’ About Love–Van Halen
My Life’s Been a Pleasure–Wilkie Nelson, Ray Price, Merle Haggard
Barbecue–Robert Earl Keen
Bend Down the Branches–Tom Waits