Saturday, July 31, 2010

In the Minor Key

I often wake up with a song buzzing about in my head.  I don't know if this is normal or not, but most of the time, it's an awfully pleasant way to greet the day. I have started connecting it to that whole question of  "What songs would you include in the soundtrack of your life?", to which I would likely respond, "Ummm, it varies on the day..and also the song that happens to appear to me for whatever reason in the morning...put them all together and you have a soundtrack. Is that an answer?" Or, to put it more simply, "That is a very difficult question."

At 5:30 this morning, I woke up humming Lou Reed's Perfect Day, a maudlin ballad with some pretty nice little piano sections and a wonderfully impassioned Lou Reed belting out "Oh, it's such a perfect day," a sentiment I can almost always get behind. Alex pointed out that it is actually "kind of a really sad song".  Alex is not a morning person, and I made the premature assumption that he just wasn't quite on my "mornings with Lou" wavelength. Alas. The briefest bit of internet research yielded the popularly-held opinion that the song is about heroin. I suppose it should be somewhat obvious:

This disturbs me. On a few levels. For starters, as someone who can sort of groove with the bittersweet love ballad genre, I fully embraced the whole "you just keep me hanging on" can be about those moments, after all. But heroin?  A love song about heroin?  Having never even entertained the thought of experimenting with heroin, I can't really claim to know anything at all about its powers of seduction and the soporific effect that it apparently induces in musicians, thus rendering them lovesick.  Truly I only know what I witness on an all-too-frequent basis in the streets of Baltimore (if you don't live in Baltimore, watch The Wire - it will give you some insight into heroin use and its damaging dream-state). It wouldn't have even occurred to me, honestly. Which in itself is ridiculous, given the number of songs dedicated to "the altered state."  And I consider myself someone who knows a fair bit about music.

Pregnant pause.

I happen to have two other songs (among others) that would join the ranks of the hypothetical Paige soundtrack.  One is a poignant reminder of a particularly low point in my life and the sort of breathless effort it took for me to clear a couple of  Everest-sized hurdles: Running to Stand Still.  Which was kind of what my life felt like then.  I once listened to this song no less than ten times on repeat. That bit:

"You got to cry without weeping
Talk without speaking
Scream without raising your voice"

Well, it was my anthem. In my naivete, the "needle chill" was my own personal reference to the many injections, shots, blood draws etc...I underwent when I was very sick. For all of my love of nuance and the layers of the onion and all of that hooey, I can be remarkably literal. Apparently.

The song is about heroin.

The second is a song that Alex often hums: Golden Brown.  This particular version is a cover by Cult With No Name; it was originally written and performed by the Stranglers.  I falsely assumed that it was a love song and thought that it was sweet that Alex so frequently sings this (as an accomplished pianist, he tends to like songs foregrounding the piano), because I guess you could sort of call my hair that the summer...after I've been in the sun for a while.  Okay, it's a stretch.  But it is a pretty song and the piano gets me every time.

And it too is about heroin.

I have to ruefully chuckle at this, and find myself again bemused by my all-too-frequently naive impression of things in general. And though I am somewhat dismayed that my songs of love and human might and triumph actually share a slightly different story, I suppose we choose our soundtracks for what each song offers each of us...which varies, even in our disillusionment. Alex offered the logical explanation that I tend to prefer songs in the minor key, which are evocative of a certain "mood".  That could be the case. Woody Guthrie's lovely conclusion to this (as performed by Billy Bragg and Natalie Merchant) explains it better than I - and thankfully, without any references to heroin. I hope.

Way Over Yonder In the Minor Key

written by this guy, who knew what was up.  The smile says it all:

1 comment:

  1. 'Woody Guthrie was my only hero because he was my first hero.' I think that was what Bob Dylan said.

    You're not alone in the naive stakes, Paige. I've loved Golden Brown for years and associated it with the peace of the Scottish Highlands.

    Am I safe with 'Good Day Sunshine?'

    I think my number 1, though, would have to be Smaointe from Enya's Shepherd Moons album (even though I'm not that big a fan of Enya.) Maybe I should be glad I don't understand the lyrics because they're in Gaelic. I'm told the title means 'dreams or visions.' Oh dear!