Thursday, March 8, 2012

Music Made Me - Part 11

I Could Be Wrong - Seven Mary Three

There is a drum kit in my basement. There isn't normally, but today there is. That's because there's music brewing in the basement. Me and a collection of friends are recreating “I Could Be Wrong” to the best of our ability. Including drums. Including horns. This shit is happening.

I don't think we did a terribly good job of covering the song. But we tried, and it was fun. I remember going through the shared guitar/horn solo with Andy. I remember that feeling of a group of people working together to co-create. For as much time as I've spent on music in my life, not very much of it has been spent making music with other people. That's probably not very wise of me.

This motley crew of half-committed musicians also attempted some original works. I have a cassette case labeled with one of those recordings. Cruelly the case is empty; the tape that goes with it got lost in the shuffle. I still hope that one day I'll stumble upon it and unlock a window into this time period.

Born on the Bayou – Creedence Clearwater Revival

In Freshman year my social studies class required a presentation on a scale that blew my middle-school mind. The teacher wanted us to talk for how long? In front of everyone? It was supposed to be about some modern nation, but I had Egypt and totally cheated by talking about pharaohs and mummification the whole time. I spent more time on the rendition of Anubis on my oversized poster than I did on planned talking points. When my presentation was over my teacher made some comment about my radio voice. I barely heard it over my relief to be finished. But it turns out he was slightly prophetic, as that I ended up being a radio DJ for my final high school years.

Okay, so it was only the local student station (KGHP). And it's not like I was selected for my voice - I just got the gig as a hand me down from my friends Phil and Ethan after they graduated. But I had a fair amount of fun with it.

I played a selection of music that sourced from all the things you've read about here, but more than anything I played classic rock. And Creedence Clearwater Revival is about as classic rock as it gets. So why "Born on the Bayou"?  Sure I could put on something like "Fortunate Son", but that song's only like two minutes long. Since I needed to manually transition every song change I found myself subconsciously preferring the longer songs that gave me more time between. Plus "Born on the Bayou" has a great groove.

Shelf In The Room - Days of the New

My dad has acquired a rental property. I'm there to see the units for the first time. For some reason there's an odd thing in the wall that also acts as a radio. I don't think there was a callbox, so this wall device can't be related to that. I feel like it was a thermostat, but what's a thermostat doing with a radio? I remember thinking this was odd, but nonetheless tuning the radio and picking up this song. The speaker sounded awful, but there was still something nice about filling the empty apartment room with some raw acoustic music.

That wasn't the first time I had heard the band or the song, but I think it was shortly after that that I picked up the album. It was exactly the sort of thing I needed: a celebration of the acoustic guitar. There are other instruments at work here, but there's no denying the aggressively foreground guitar. It's got a full and varied sound that makes you question why you'd ever need to electrify and distort such a powerful instrument.

I was excited to try to learn these songs. I bought the guitar tablature, but it turned out almost every song on the album had a crazy unique tuning. That killed the ability to pick up and play songs like these in a mixed rotation. It was hugely disappointing because I had been so excited to try to learn this style. Oh well, it was still inspiring to listen to.

Paran - Bar Kokhba

So my friend Kevin had already been this great source of music influences. This one time I was hanging out at his house and he was playing… this. It catches my attention. I got the name from him and later bought a copy of the album. It's the most Jewish thing I own.

I believe Kevin found the album as a result of the involvement of John Medeski, one of the M's in MMW. It's a strange album compared to the rest of my collection. I didn't know exactly what to make of it, other than that there was something I liked about it. And because of the purely instrumental nature it was something I could listen to alongside all sorts of things. This gave it some legs.

There's something about this album that makes me think of Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption, a PC game that I would be playing later in college. That association exists, but I'm not exactly sure they are things I experienced overlapping. It's true that this album feels like a good soundtrack for the early sections of the game in Prague and Vienna, but logistically I just can't imagine myself setting up custom background music. There's always been a mental connection between Kevin and Vampire (both the pen and paper game and the card game), so it's possible that my brain just connected these two things up all on its own.

#41 - Dave Matthews Band

Eventually I took a deeper look at The Dave Matthews Band. I can't remember what song brought me in, but it's safe to say that Crash was the album. I listened to Under the Table and Dreaming around this time too, and very much enjoyed it, but for whatever reason it didn't manage to form concrete memories like Crash did. Crash will have more contributions to this timeline than any other album, and that's on a list where I try hard to only pick one song per album unless absolutely necessary.

Once I discovered The Dave Matthews Band I got into them a big way. The band was capable of a diverse sound from its unique combination of instruments, which I appreciated. But something that was particularly important to me was that Matthews could actually play the guitar. Well. And it was an acoustic guitar. These were not simple three chord jams hidden behind waves of distortion. Playing along to these songs demanded that I make significant growth as a guitarist.

I can't imagine "#41" being played by any other band. It's a song that defies description, which is probably why it never got a name. It was most likely "Crash Into Me" that caused me to pick up the album, but it's the complexity behind something like "#41" that caused me to delve deep into this band for years.

Although I also have a loving memory of my dad dancing around like a monkey to "Proudest Monkey". That's good stuff too.

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