A lot of people stay up at night, staring at their ceilings with mundane worries about tomorrow, something their boss said at work that day, and so on. Me? Well, I get caught up in random visitations by Radiohead. I don’t, of course, mean that Thom Yorke and company barge into my modest, one-bedroom apartment and rouse me from slumber. If they did, well, that would be pretty amazing, but anyway…
The other night I was lying in bed and, just as clear as if it had been playing on the stereo next to me, I heard Thom Yorke’s urging vocals singing one of my favorites (from the album, The Bends) “Been Thinkin’ About You.” True, this song has references to sleep, the bed, and other self-explorations, but it was followed by a complete musical array of other Radiohead favorites. Such numbers as “Anyone Can Play Guitar” and “Black Star” were among those on the set list of “Rachael-is-doped-up-on-pseudophedrine-and-regretting-her-sick-and-late-evening nap.”
As a writer, one of my biggest sins is repetition. Too much repetition. (Oh, shit, I did it again. See?) And I’ll write about that in my writer’s blog “Maybe when the time is…WRITE!” But it can’t ever be said enough how fantastically talented and progressive Radiohead is. You can check out an earlier entry of mine in this blog about them as well.
But what you should really do is listen to this track and have a most excellent and peaceful evening:
Be well and rock on,
This blog post should be more about a band than a location, but it is inescapably both. (Also, Snakes is my deceased cat who lived 17 years, five without me because I was in college.)
I was not looking forward to moving to Pennsylvania in 2006. To me, there was nothing better than the Blue Ridge Mountains. But my family was there, and I needed to be with them.
During the first week, Mom presented me with a generous and exciting gift: two very good seats to see the Counting Crows and the Goo Goo Dolls in concert. THE COUNTING CROWS?! She knew they were on my “must see before I die” list. I fell into her arms and cried. They were the band I fell in love with the year Snakes was born.
One of my comforts in my new situation was that Snakes and I were finally reunited. It was as though no time had ever passed. Her devotion to me never wavered. She laid on the heart rug in the kitchen when I ate, she slept right next to my head every night and greeted me at the door each day. She was on my bed the night I called Lindsey to tell her about the concert tickets.
“Yeah! And what’s that song…that really great song…Colorblind. It’s…it’s on the fish bowl album. Oh, what the hell is the name of that album?!” I exclaimed. “I always call it the fish bowl album but can never remember the title. Hang on, lemme check…Oh, my God. OW! Ow…ow…ooo…eee….” I dropped the phone and Mom came running. Somehow, I tripped backwards over a pile of clean laundry and fell to my back on the floor. There was a hot and blinding pain searing my right knee.
“Rachael. Rachael? Are you okay?” Lindsey’s distant voice crept from the receiver of our house phone.
Mom grabbed the phone as I rocked with my injured knee. “Lindsey, we’ll call you back. I think she’ll be all right.”
“Can you move it?” Mom asked.
Tears streamed down my face. “No, it hurts too bad.”
We put ice on it. I had no doctor and no insurance. In retrospect, we should have gone to the ER immediately. This physical setback, however, did not prohibit me from going to the concert. There were 17 stairs from Mom’s kitchen door to the porch, and then another five to the sidewalk. The outdoor arena, Montage Mountain, was exactly that: a steady, uphill climb up a mountain to the outdoor arena. As we neared the venue, signs burned my eyes: “The Counting Crows will not be performing due to illness.”
Tears threatened my eyes. “Illness?! I broke my goddamned knee and hobbled up here to see them and they’re cancelling due to illness?!” We stayed for the Goo Goo Dolls anyway. While I am a fan of their music, (I own three studio albums, in fact) the concert was anti-climactic. They are, unfortunately, a band that is verbatim to their albums. No surprises, no great energy. The seats were so incredible, the best I’ve ever had. And the whole time I kept trying to imagine Adam Duritz (the lead singer) crooning there in my sight, close enough that I could see his facial expressions.
The Counting Crows, much like Pearl Jam, have been a constant in my life. Though I knew I was a poet by age eight, the poetry of their lyrics as well as the somber tone of some of their music, has always spoken to me. Their first album, August and Everything After, is arguably their best. You could argue otherwise, but it would be difficult to persuade me. That was the album I danced to, sang to, lived to. It was an album that always made me think of Snakes, too. The final track is called “A Murder of One” and, when I was only 12, I made an interpretive dance to go along with it, much like my Madonna days.
It wasn’t until recently that I saw a documentary on PBS about crows that the meaning behind the title made sense to me. A group of crows is called “a murder of crows.” For some reason, my adolescent mind had always associated murder with the violent taking of one’s life. Though I knew the origin of the term “murder of crows” this refreshed look at the title was more meaningful. I’m not well-educated on the band but I do know that Adam Duritz suffers from some horrible mental instability like bipolar disorder or manic depression or something. I say horrible, because I am, what I like to call, a survivor of clinical depression.
A time after the concert, when reflecting on the disappointment of not seeing them, I softened. I was well aware that illness doesn’t always mean a cold or flu. Flashes of my college “dark” days illuminated my mind. I was able to forgive them, but I vowed then and there that I would see them before I left Pennsylvania. In 2006, I never fathomed I’d be here in 2011, but life does some strange things. Sometimes you just have to let things happen. Maybe one day I’ll be able to tell them the story of how I trekked up a mountain with an injured knee for them.
A recurring theme in the band’s lyrics is rain. “Raining in Baltimore” and “Rain King” are two of the most well-known, but there is a mention of rain on almost every album. Now, when it rains, my right knee aches. But I can walk and drive and dance, still. Sometimes, I think on that. I’ve used music to make sense of my life. It is fitting that even my injuries are music-related.
Be good to one another.
Be well and rock on,
Simply put: Tom Petty has been a staple music artist in my life. While it is true that the radio bludgeoned “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” it was still a good song to boot.
How could you not love a band who risked it all, travelling from Florida to L.A. in a small van in the hopes of making it big…and then, making it big. You almost want to cheer them on two decades after their inevitable success.
So what makes Tom & Co. so irresistible? Honest, relate-able lyrics, memorable guitar, and let’s face it, Tom’s crooning lovelorn-ness (“Room at the Top of the World Tonight”)and/or his rock and roll determination. (Tracks like, “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “I Won’t Back Down.)
My favorite track is probably “Learning To Fly.” My college roommate and I even came up with a hand interpretations to part of it as we drove down Route 8 to “hippieville”(i.e. Floyd, VA) on warm spring evenings. The ingenuity of this piece makes you feel like Tom is calling you to comfort you about your lost youth. But he’s also saying that it’s okay and there’s still time to embrace it. You can still learn to fly.
I can understand that not everyone will feel the way I do about the greatness of Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers, but I’d like to think they are few and far between.
If you are a fan, what is your favorite tune?
Be well and rock on,