Friday, April 9, 2021

3 a.m. thoughts

My second COVID vaccination shot kept me up tossing and turning last night. Some random thoughts I had while staring at the ceiling....

I miss the rpm adjust dial on my old turntable. I'm very happy with my AudioTechnica table, but I liked being able to easily nudge a song while playing it to "go" a bit faster, or in rare occasions a bit slower. I've written here and here about torturing my younger brother when we were kids by playing songs at wrong speeds, and adjusting the rpm when I got bored with my AC/DC records back in the 80s. There's something about the analog omniscience that rpm adjustors provide; you can subtly affect reality by changing the speed of the turntable, because in a very real way you're tricking your mind to hear the song new again, as if you're catching up to it bar-by-bar the way you did when you first heard it. (The digital revolution of 1s and 0s wiped out this possibility, of course.) I was afforded a hands-on way of altering the fabric of a song, and, so, the way it's heard. All of this is "artistically irresponsible" in that I'm playing around with a song on my terms, rather the artist or band's, yet I miss that feeling of bending sound waves in such a way as to make a song fresh again, in a kind of laboratory of the mind.


As I often do when I'm battling insomnia, I tried to sing myself to sleep, and the first song that popped into my head was Peter and Gordon's transcendent "I Go To Pieces." The first line—"When I see you walking down the street"—struck me: how many times has that line, in various tenses and versions, appeared in songs? Thousands of times? So many lyrics seem to begin, be struck by in the middle, or end with the singer seeing someone walk(ing) down the street. Something eternal, archetypically social in that.


To my ears, the Spongetones' "You Better Take It Easy" is a great song that completely transcends its slavishly retro and revivalist origins.


When I finally fell fitfully asleep, I had this dream: I was at a packed rock and roll show, standing at the right of the stage. I'd hung a large computer monitor on the club's back wall on which I was streaming the show, and I was preoccupied with adjusting the image—cropping the musicians, playing with filters, etc.. At my feet was an oversized color printer. There were a few people at the show who I knew—one of my brothers, and an old friend, among them—but I didn't want to be bothered with or by them, too busy was I at the monitor. In the dreaminess of the dream some time passes and I sent an image through the printer, which made such a loud noise that a guy next to me grabbed the photo out of the printer, cursed me, using my full name, as a parent would, and tore the photo to shreds. At that moment, I realized with a sickening feeling how obtrusive I'd been at the show, and that the printer was actually louder than the band. I awoke and thought, after William Stafford, I must revise my life. 

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