Just sent in the final draft of my second novel “In Elysian Fields” a love story between a baseball player and a poet, due out July 4.
50’s music — straight standards with strings —
Sinatra Fatha’ Hines — my parents’ music
Schmaltzy corny square, any way you
Want to put it — understandable
After a Depression and war.
I was a captive audience,
Who, while hearing, wasn’t tuned in,
Much less turned on,
knowing there must be a better way.
And there was.
My music, when it finally arrived,
Meant freedom of a sort,
Which, while not total,
Took me to another place In time
Just in time,
A place from which I never came back.
It meant more to me, you see,
Being the soundtrack of my life,
And why I was so
Opinionated about it,
Perhaps to my detriment,
Eclipsing everything else as it did.
In fact, like Fiddler Jones,
To this day I’d drop everything
For even the briefest strain of
Music or lyric that caught my ear
Hoping it would last forever,
Knowing it wouldn’t.
A quick study, I almost instantly
Had the words of a new song by heart,
Except when I didn’t, some impossibly garbled
(“Louie, Louie” being the most famous example)
With some songs it didn’t matter,
“A Whiter Shade of Pale” for instance,
Many of the words unintelligible,
Like the line I thought was
“As the metal tore his chest,”
Until looking it up recently
Found it was really
“As the miller told his tale,”
Which, while good to know, didn’t change a thing.
I decided I liked my way better,
The song being so ethereal,
Not meant to be construed but felt,
And so many memories attached
to my version.
There are the exceptions, some songs
You need to get the lyrics exactly right,
Fit them to the music to make it complete,
A song like “Dangling Conversation”
For example, or most of Dylan’s songs
(especially when covered by others and
you can actually understand them)
As with all good music It not only
Evokes your past, if you’re receptive
(Or high) enough it can take you right back
To where or when you heard a particular song,
Perhaps recapture the same feelings
You had whenever or wherever
You heard it, recovering
Your youth, if only in part.
Listening lying down, needle in groove,
Vinyl slightly warped, static and hum,
Stacked six records high,
Light some candles and incense,
Your magic carpet ride would begin.
It was going to be a while,
Might even make a day of it,
Nothing else, or better, to do
Nowhere to be,
It was a necessity,
And what kept me going.
Stoned, drunk, sober, tripping —
Each a vastly different experience
Requiring different music, if not bands –
Something mellow when stoned
(Though at that point
Almost anything will do) –
Jackson Browne, Byrds,
After the Gold Rush –
Something loud when drunk –
Stones, Allman Brothers, Moby Grape –
Something trippy when tripping –
Dark Side of the Moon, anything Hendrix,
Sergeant Pepper —
Everyone had their go to music.
The blues were an entirely
Being Introduced to it Relatively late,
And then, by an English rock band
On the album English Rose,
With several authentic covers of
Elmore James tunes — also hearing
Slide guitar for the first time,
Which, to this day, is still my favorite style.
Definitely drinking music,
The blues didn’t really hit me until,
Well, I had the blues, which I
Didn’t realize until I heard the blues.
Whose Muddy Shoes, my first real blues album,
Played over and over, was all
I would ever need to get me through
The tough times — they understood, I didn’t
Need to say anything, it was as if I was
Talking to myself, and they to me.
Until I was turned on to
Mississippi John Hurt,
A completely different style
Bred on the Mississippi Delta,
Acoustic fingerstyle guitar,
Much more mellow than the
Urban blues, though at times even
Sadder because it was so wistful;
He was the ultimate raconteur –
Funny, sly, wise, spell binding,
One of his several (among countless
Others by others) versions of
“Stagger Lee” the best
I ever heard, talking for the
First several minutes, giving
The back story of Stagger Lee
And Billy DeLion, leading into
And his rendition of the song;
In “Payday” and “Casey Jones”
He’d sing a line and then, seamlessly,
Would have his guitar sing the same one,
And I swear you couldn’t tell the difference.
Forty years later and trotted
Out on stage at the
Newport Folk Festival,
He brought down the house
With his performance,
Was signed to a record deal
And made several albums
Before he died a few years later,
And several more posthumously.
Better late than never, I suppose,
Though he was never one to be bitter.
Everyone had their own first concert story,
But none could beat mine:
Hendrix at the Aud, sneaking out to
See it, wearing yellow bell bottoms
With blue pinstripes, the only I ever
Wore or stole;
It was a night of firsts: first concert,
First smell of pot, first toke on a joint,
First snowball fight with Mitch Mitchell and
Noel Redding, first time in a taxi,
Paid for by them after I missed my ride;
“Take your hat off,” someone in the cheap seats
Yelled at Hendrix, “I’ll take it off
If you take your pants off,” Jimi replied,
I don’t even remember the music
I was so overwhelmed by it all,
And, after having the taxi leave me
At the top of my street, I shed my
Bell bottoms and tossed them in a
Neighbor’s bushes, never to be seen
Again, then made my way down my street
In a blinding snowstorm, nobody the wiser
As far as I would ever know.
Steppenwolf, with songs like “The Ostrich”
And “Monster” were a Howard Zinn
History lesson in the guise of a
Rock song waiting to happen,
Turning out to be the most prescient
Lyricists of their generation
(Who would have thought?)
Though I doubt many listened to them for
That reason, but not surprising for those who knew
John Kay had been through the shit as a child,
And was lucky to be alive.
In the very preliminary stages of exploring the possibility of turning my book into a movie
Lie down and hear the music.
Hear the melody as it moves,
The blend of the instruments,
The cadence of the violins.
Imagine the shadowy dancers
Waltzing on the polished floor,
Feel the breeze
Through open windows
As it ruffles clothes and curtains.
See the tent of sky above,
The stars in the dark night,
As the music envelops you.
Alms for the weary soul.
My second novel has been accepted for publication, due out on July 4, 2019
A.A.’s kidnapping and drowning
When I was a child, horrified me,
And still does.
It was an image of my
Own childhood —
To be taken away
In the midst of play —
What to say to the little
Brother (almost a twin)
He, too, came home
To an empty room.
You say — “We have packed your things
And are moving away.”
Away, today, from Jewett Parkway.