Thursday, March 5, 2009


*♪ * One - Mary J Blige & U2

Well, it's too late tonight to drag the past out into the light. I'm through with politics. I don't care what Obama and the Congress do or don't do anymore. All I care about now is the personal life. Maybe seeing some bankers and financiers twisting slowly in the wind. Maybe understanding how part of America keeps getting richer while the rest sink into poverty. But not politics. Not Washington. Not the Middle East. There are plenty of places for that. If you're looking for politics, go someplace else. Fall back by here for the personal life. All I care about anymore is the personal life.


Cypher Blueman said...

I guess I'm floating among the musical and cultural debris now, wondering what will be around when the money runs out. I like this thing. Go figure.

quinn the eskimo said...

That song has such a twist of meanings for me, BG. I remember hearing U2's "New Year's Day" for the 1st time. That guitar. What became clear over time was that these white kids had truckloads of gospel in them - and felt it. The trick was that the Edge used this soaring guitar to lift an atmospheric, cathedral sound up over it all. Eventually, U2 realized that actual gospel voices could blow Bono's away. Here's them live, with the Voices of Freedom at MSG a gorgeous thing.

Anyway. When I heard "One," I was living in Steeltown, commuting 3 hours a day, putting my girlfriend through med school. A really good person, but we were appallingly matched. (Funny, met Daniel Lanois, U2's co-producer with Eno, in that record store two years previously, and had a good chat - him being an Acadian and all.)

So I hear the album, and start playing & replaying "One." Listened to it in pretty bad state of torment one night... went to bed, woke up, sat up, and told her we were done. Packed and walked. Never done anything that abrupt in my life, before or after - I tend to be a long, drawn-out kinda guy.

In other words, that song, about being One, started for me as a song of break-up. "We have to carry each other" - I listened and thought, "No. This isn't my job."

Over the years, I drove my friends mad telling them I thought that song was probably the greatest pop/rock song ever. Nowadays, it regularly polls as #1, BTW. But I could NOT imagine a better version, even knowing it was gospel, even after hearing "Still Haven't Found" with the choir. Then my sister - cut from similar cloth - started yammering at me from Boston one day saying, you HAVE to hear this, see this.

So once again, my judgment gets blown out the window. Not only do I break up after hearing this great song about being one... I can't imagine the very thing that intellectually I KNEW.

So the song stands, for me, both as something incredibly beautiful, but also a reminder of just how fucking LITTLE I know. It makes me weep, for how much I manage to get wrong. So the bitter, pain, runs right through the heart of it. Which, I guess, is what a lot of us hear in it. The uplift... and the falling short.

Hilarym99 said...

I always thought of it as a break-up song too Q. But of the long drawn out sort. (Insert whatever emoticon represents a wry smile here.)

Cypher Blueman said...

I'm just not making it with the music scene here. I'm so out of style. ((((wow))))

Decidere said...

Don't worry, Blue Dude, a little Rachmaninoff or Bela Bartok and they'll come to their senses.
A return to traditional orchestra music like this:

This one makes me think of Roy Orbison or Johnny Cash:

This one reminds me a bit of Bird Dog:

Maybe I've been out of the US too long.

quinn the eskimo said...


I'd love to understand how our brains get re-wired for different music. There's no question for me that it takes time for my brain to grasp different styles. The obvious cases were Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix. I heard these guys 000's of times in my teens - because my friends loved them. But I just could NOT "hear" them.

Then, at 24, I "got" Hendrix. And started playing him 24/7. Same with Marley, though that took a couple more years.

But I have a quite CONSCIOUS wall against classical. I will find myself liking something & will quite deliberately then get away from it. It's personal - because of my father - but also, I have this very strong sense that once I enter that world, my brain risks no longer being able to listen to other music with as much enjoyment.

I know how music lights up my mind, and there's no question that whatever happens, it's overwhelmingly physical. Similar to what happens when I smoke, but stronger. Some days, I'll have that first ciggie, and my eyes lose their vertical hold and flicker up & down. But with music, it's stronger. The hair stands up on my neck, I see light, and I can't describe the sensation in my head. Fireworks of light, my whole brain feels connected and "lit up", and I don't know how else to describe it other than I enter another state.

With new music, I started searching & retuning my mind toward it about 2 years ago. My friends thought I'd gone nuts, but I downloaded 00's of new bands, 000's of songs, and let 'em roll. At first I found it really frustrating, all these indie bands, and 99.2% of them sounded... afraid. Afraid to take a hook & bring it home. Afraid to lean on the beat. And there IS some truth here, the lack of confidence compared to the 21 year olds in the 60's is noticeable. Some of the musicians even talk about it, how they'll throw a chorus of shouting over top of a good hook. There's lots of clever ways to argue for what they're doing, but in the end... it pisses me off. I WANT that brain "hit," and I think most of our minds are now wired for it - and they won't/can't give it. So we're left with endless yards of brutalist rap and hiphop filling the gap. For what it's worth, here's some of what floated to the top. I've top-loaded the songs form the last 5 years if you want a background soundtrack some aft.

It interests me even more than my bio-father (whom I literally never met, we never laid eyes on one another) spent the last 20-30 years of his life looking at how our brains connected to music and movement. He worked with researchers & writers on mind maps and the nature of creativity; dug into synesthesia (his colour sense overlapped with music much more than mine); he set up Alexander Technique schools in Europe to help sort out the way the body was affecting & limiting classical musicians; he taught at Menuhin's schools for gifted kids; and trained a lot of England's middle distance runners - worked to get them to loosen up, run in any damned way they wanted, to shake their arms and wobble and run backward, anything to find the ways their bodies could find their own groove. (See Paula Radcliffe for a modern example.) He used to tell stories about how Emil Zatopek used to come back and talk to the other runners as they ran, the guy just took such great joy in it. Zatopek would tell stories and encourage people, and then eventually run back to the front, and he had an enormous influence on my father, the way this guy was running in another state, beyond him.

But always, searching for what it was in the mind & body that made some people great. He just said, I'm a really really good violinist and runner... but not great. Which was true, world-class but mot world-beating. But then, in his 50's, he took up running ultramarathons. Held all the world records for his age group for 200, 300, 400 mile races, ran 117 miles in one 24 hour race. Which is bizarre, because he was only 5' 8" or so, about as streamlined as a tugboat when he ran, and he so wrecked his legs in 1952 he couldn't climb stairs without help into the 60's. But first he sorted out his body with the Alexander thing, and then, seemingly became able to move his head into a different space when he ran.

Kinda wish I had the chance to talk to him now about what he learned. Odd sentiments from the 50 year old overweight man sitting smoking in Winnipeg, listening to the Hold Steady crank out beer band anthems.

Hey. Make my day. Turn this viddy up, and check the images. Come on, admit it, this is a real band. ;-)

Billy Glad said...

When you run into energy like that, step forward.

quinn the eskimo said...

Yeah, and if I step forward... I run right into this damned desk.