One of the best things about my recent trip to Portland is that I returned with all my vinyl. I'm listening to all these old albums, with their scratches, pops and dusky warm sounds. The feeling of comfort they gave me my early life comes back, wrapping me up in a downy quilt.
When Beck put out the album Sea Change, it had the same effect. It seemed amalgam of 70s music and personal memory. So much so, that in a half sleep I would tell you my mom had played it on the hi fi when we were at the 83rd street house with my father and siblings.
Music, like movies, like books, is one of the things that kept me from completely losing all hope as a little person. Palliative, purgative, soporific, exalting, all these worlds of feeling and escape and transcendence were opened to me as a child, when no one else was there to guide me. I owe my life to the world of art, and to school, but that's another topic.
In the last several years, as I finally shook off the chronic physiological depression and anxiety which I had worn since grammar school like a leaden blanket (maybe it was a hair shirt), I lost my constant need for music. I have become more comfortable with the full emptiness of silence. It is comfortable for me now, and for quite a while, I rarely filled the house or the car with melody. When my car stereo died over three years ago, I didn't bother replacing it. I still bought a fair amount of new music, but didn't listen often. I think this was a necessary development, sort of a marker of the health of my mental life. Not an ascetic position, just a proving ground of sorts.
Now I am gravitating back. The new-ish car I drove back from Portland has a cd player, and about a year ago, I started singing with a friend in his basement. He's got a little sound system set up. Sometimes I consent to public karaoke, though this is a source of sheer terror for me, even though I can sing, apparently. Except that my throat tends to close off when faced with a room of more than zero people. I'm starting to get over that.
Last Wednesday I sang Quarterflash's Harden My Heart at a friend's birthday party at The Brass Monkey. It came off quite well, as evidenced by the hot, though admittedly deep in his cups, 23-year-old British bloke who prowled up to me as I sang, then seated himself on the stool behind me. As soon as I hit the high part - "Darling in my wildest dreams...," I felt him lick the back of my bare arm. That was startling. When the song ended, I was positively shaking from the adrenaline coursing through my body. I can see why rock musicians do heavy drugs - it's a lot of pressure in a sorry and greasy little club. I can't imagine what you do at Shea - my head would blow off my body.