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(No year end lists, just musings which didn’t become columns proper)


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Mockingbird Hill

A heavy work load which was made all the more slow going by the social commitments which come up around the holidays. I now do not have the chance to do the daily ritual of the walk which I use to clear my head every day; as is normal. Two days of overcast weather and we are not even in to the rainy season, combined with the slow motion traffic of people out and about gift grabbing; to lend everything a near claustrophobic air.

Tuesday; it’s once again overcast but I have my head down, pointed at the papers on my desk. Around three in the afternoon the sun actually pokes its head out.

At midnight on Dec. 31, Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times in an effort to expel 108 types of human weakness. In Spain to attract twelve good months, twelve grapes are eaten. My own rituals involve a purging of my bookcase and CDs, anything that no longer means anything to me either mentally or spiritually. At this point, most of the books stay put; same with the music collection.

I did find one CD from another lifetime ago. There was this girl I worked with at a crappy retail job of youth. To be passive aggressive the manager would show up late. We were both young enough and new enough at the place, that to be fired would be no big deal. We decided to stage a rebellion, going to a nearby café to have a drink and let him work twenty minutes alone.

We sat down. She kept looking at the menu and biting her bottom lip.

“What’s wrong?”

“I want a coffee, but sort of want a Coco-Cola too.”

“So, get them both.”

This was like some sort of revelation for her. From then on we were fast friends. We made our way back to work but our political statement was for nothing as the manager was extra late on account of a train workers strike.

The way Vera saw it, I had not just given the go ahead to get two drinks at once but to now, thoroughly pursue stimulation and the appetite which fueled it. The few times her mother had to come in to drop something off, I got odd looks.

Just because she never had before, Vera decided to steal something. She didn’t want to start off too big so she stole a CD for me after days of grilling me on what music I liked. I took it with good grace. At this point in my life almost everyone was doing something “wrong” and I could see how this might be viewed as some kind of right of passage.

What leads you away from each other? Life, age, ambition. Some of us move up, others down a few are just gone.

I kept that CD, not as a totem but just because every time I had picked it up to toss it, I would smile and stick it on a shelf where it hid amongst hundreds of more important CDs.

The sun has put in a brief appearance. I decide to go for a quick walk. The CD is on my desk waiting for the toss. I have not listened to it in a decade. A spur of the moment whim, I decide to listen on my walk.

I never went through most of the atypical music phases which can cause embarrassment when looked back upon after one has been around. This was as close as I would ever come to aural juvenilia. I was pleasantly surprised, it was not all awful. I once used to be able to listen to the CD from start to finish savoring it, I admit I did hit the track advance button a few times.

The sun was out but there was cold air coming in from the bay. A heavy fog arose as I was halfway through my walk. I decide to keep going anyways. The fog makes everything look like a German expressionist film. Part of the trail is lined with pines which are now reduced to a series of barely visible spiked silhouettes. Walking along the canals, the fog moves almost as if powered by its own tide. It moves differently around my feet, head and the shrubs under which wide eyed rabbits wait for me to pass.

At this point I am sure that were I to walk backwards or maybe sideways, I would bump into a past version of myself.

Most of what we are into when we are young is part of us, indirectly. It fuels what we will seek out to explore. The actions and ambitions that we eventually let define ourselves. Few things from youth age well or even merit a revisiting; they are often not as brilliant, beautiful or flavorful as one remembers. This was a postcard from the past. I could listen and contemplate it the way one would an ex-girlfriend from so far back there was now no emotion attached to the memories. I heard what had initially attracted me; I heard too the faults and the little idiosyncratic things I had enjoyed but also had forgotten about.

I am far from a nostalgic person but part of me was glad to not have felt foolish or disappointed. I gave the CD to a friend’s daughter who was just getting into that sort of thing telling her to eventually pass it on. She gave me a strange look, but that was just for now.

I was playing dominos at my bar, two drinks in the hole and needing a double six or at least a three. To lengthen the game I began telling Samuel, who knew things, about the CD. He had about fifteen years on me and I was interested in his take on not just this but the passage of time.

“What do you think?”

“I think even as we get older, you have to keep both your heart and the vendetta open.”

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The Doors

The Summer of Love, everybody was told that “if you’re going to San Francisco be sure to wear flowers in your hair.” People hitchhiked out to the West Coast, to Woodstock, to the Monterey Pop Festival.

The Rolling Stones are often cited as having tolled the death knell for the Summer of Love with The Altamont Speedway Free Festival (1969) where lack of foresight placed the motorcycle club The Hells Angels in charge of security. While the Rolling Stones played “Under My Thumb” (not “Sympathy for the Devil” as is popular lore) someone by the front of the stage was stabbed to death.

While this definitely showed the other side of the hippy coin, the darker intentional mirror was held up to this youthful utopia by the Venice Beach (California) band The Doors. If hippies were populating the roads as they trekked to various festivals and counter culture havens; so too was a killer: the dark underside of all the hopeful dreams as fueled by sex and drugs.

In his rich tenor, only ever mustered with such clarity in the studio, lead singer Jim Morrison said as much in one of their radio staples “Riders on the Storm”.

“There's a killer on the road His brain is squirmin' like a toad..”

The group was named after a book by Aldous Huxley (1894-1962) “The Doors of Perception (1954).” Further inspiration came from far from usual sources including that of French theater of cruelty theorist Antonin Artaud (1895-1948), whose artistic renewal through a type of primitive violence singer Jim Morrison would attempt to put into practice more and more as the group continued to evolve. And musically the band was also equally eclectic and open eared, being fans of jazz; including John Coltrane and things which leaned towards the free and whose discordant devices the band would sometimes employ live as spoken word poetry was recited.

I am not a big fan and definitely tend to prefer the more “obscure” or live things the band did. It did not all age well, but for me the appeal is the same as that to be found in jazz, even when it’s bad or the band had an off night, it was real. A rarity more and more in the new days of lip synching and paint by the numbers rock bands.

To All a Happy New Year!

Maxwell Chandler


Maxwell will return in 2008 with more adventures in sound

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Page one of Max's Jazz reviews

Rock reviews.

Index of Music Reviews

© Winamop 2007