In my last two years of high school I added on part time community college classes via the "Running Start" program. Between the two it was a lot of school. It was kind of ridiculous. For some reason I didn't really question the sanity of it.
It was the one time in my life that I ever really drove. I had delayed as long as possible before getting my license, and only a year or two later when I arrived at college I ditched personal transport for public transit. But when I was doing high school and community college at the same time there was no other way to get it done. One of the few things I liked about driving was the excellent acoustics. There was something just truly personal about being sealed in with music all around you.
I have a distinct memory of driving to class at the community college when "Little Wing" came on. It created a dilemma. If I were to get out of my car right then (which is what I needed to do to be on time for class) I would miss the rest of the song. But this song was too good. I hung out in the parking lot to let the song play out. Finishing that song was clearly more important than my education.
The thing is, that wasn't even my first time with the song. I had heard it plenty of times before, and knew I would again. That was kind of the problem; I knew exactly how good it was. It's pure bliss, beginning to end, and on a level that manages to make Jimi look like barely knew what he was doing with the original.
This unassuming song takes me a couple places.
First is to an empty parking lot with my friends Kristin and Dave. We're listening to Dave Matthews on the car stereo, windows down, and dancing outside. We probably look like total idiots, but we don’t care.
Next is at a church Young Life function, where Kristin is going through the song lyric by lyric in some presentation on the power of secular music. Dave and I are in the back, dancing in our chairs, and being thoroughly distracting.
Finally is me by myself, playing the song on the guitar. This was one of the few songs I actually learned how to play in its entirety. That may sound like it’d be a more common occurrence, but unless you're actually performing music it's far easier to just learn the main riffs of songs and leave it at that. This song has many different forms and transitions, and I decided to learned them all. I could play it from beginning to end, or at least I could back then.
It's not my favorite Dave Matthews song, but it is one that's special to me through some set of oddly personal events.
This song is Dave. He was a totally charismatic guy that would go through the halls and somehow be friends with everyone. I've never known anyone with as much school spirit as Dave. During Senior year he called everyone "All-Star". He was kind of a catch phrase kind of guy, but he somehow managed to make it sound personal for each person.
We eventually became pretty good friends. We'd been around each other for all of high school and earlier, but it wasn't until Senior year that anything clicked. This was largely the result of shared proximity to Kristin, but Dave and I found our own ways to bond, like Starcraft.
Later we had a sort of a falling out. There was an incident involving a girl that Dave didn't approve of, but we never talked about it. We just allowed things to drift apart. When you've both left to different cities for college it's incredibly easy to just let things fade and die naturally.
Later in life Jessica (we’ll get to her, but not quite yet) would be worried about exposing me to Morcheeba because of the record scratching and general mixed and/or electronic elements. I had become pretty strongly acoustic in my music listening habits, and she was worried about offending my gentle sensibilities. But she had nothing to fear, because years earlier I had been listening to the continually evolving and experimenting music of MMW. Although it was dormant then, I’d already adopted stuff like this to my vocabulary years earlier.
There are two memories to go along with this song. The first is well before this moment in time, somewhere early 90's.
It's dinner time, but MTV is playing in the adjacent living room. For some reason it just gets left on. My dad wanders over to watch what's going on over there. On MTV is Madonna, specifically "Like a Prayer". He seems a little overly fixated, or at least according to my mom's perception. Shortly thereafter a call is made to the cable company and we no longer have MTV.
This remains true until years later when they switch what channel MTV airs on and instead we're blocked out of some other (far more harmless) channel. My brother and I neglect to inform my mom of the change.
Pulling the plug on MTV was for the best, really. By then it had already started its transition from music television to teenage marketing. I was glad to be exposed to music videos at all, because the pairing of music to imagery can be extremely powerful. But in the long run I was better off without MTV.
Okay, so given that story why am I talking about “Like a Prayer” now?
It's Senior prom. Not my school's prom, but that of a friend. A special friend who never really became a special friend. Look, it's too complicated to get into here.
Despite not knowing anyone there because it wasn't my school I still had a good time at the prom. When it's over we head to an after-party at one of her friend's house. Nothing rambunctious, just a small group of people hanging out, giggling, and signing karaoke.
It was at this point that my friend completely transformed my interpretation of this song. She explained to all of us that this song is about fellatio, right before singing it, and dancing along. I remember laughing, a lot. She was quite convincing, and now that's all I hear from this song.