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Watercolor Past

February 1, 2009

I wonder about the spark that ignites a song.  A lot of the time it’s random, like when Paul McCartney started singing “Hey Jude” in the car on the way to see Julian Lennon (John’s older son).  John and his first wife had just split, and Paul wanted  Julian to know that things would be alright.  As the story goes, he originally sang “Hey Jules” but changed it to keep Julian’s privacy.  Then there’s the story of Keith Richards waking up in the middle of the night to write down the riff for “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction” and promptly going back to sleep.  One moment everything is normal, the next we’ve got a classic song on our hands.  An honest emotional moment.

I think it’s a kind of subconscious thing, a watershed click in the brain.  Something that had been nagging someone crystallizes, bringing with it a sharp realization.  Or something becomes simply too awful, or too thrilling not to be let out.  Because that’s all anyone ever wants, really.  To dig out the bad feelings and put them that much farther from the inner reaches of their soul.  To give them a dull edge as a means of insulation.

I mentioned that I discovered Glasvegas recently, and I’ve been listening to their album constantly ever since.  The words started to hit me yesterday, now that I can wade through James Allan’s Scottish accent.  The sheer heartbreak behind them is staggering at times.  Take this verse from “Flowers and Football Tops”:

“Baby why you?

No sweeping exits

No Hollywood endings

Flowers and football tops

Don’t mean a thing

My Baby is six feet under”

I can’t imagine opening the door to find the police have come to tell you that your son is dead.  I don’t even know what you do in that situation, besides curl up in a ball and hope to shut out the pain completely.  Unexpected death by itself really, really hurts.  It must be exponentially worse when the person who dies is your child.

But listening to the song I realized something.  In dire situations you have to let those feelings fade, just a little.  Reach up and twist back the lens of your mind’s eye until it’s slightly out of focus.  Let the edges blur ever so gently.  The thing is, a memory is just that.  A mental record of something that happened.  It is irretrievably part of the fabric of your life that has gone by, and nothing and no one can ever drag it back to face you.  They can only make you think it has returned to form.  Or rather, they can try.  That’s the beauty of time crashing forward.

All this might seem naive or callous, but I don’t mean it that way.  I love my grandparents and I will respect their memory no matter how many years it has been since they died.  But I’ve been subtly hyper-aware of their absence for a while now, and that’s no way to be.  It’s too much, it crushes me in and wears me out.  So I’m refocusing the lens on my mental camera.  Just like packaging scraps of lifetime into song, it gives you room to breathe.

I guess the spark isn’t a spark after all.  It’s a gentle trickle through a floodgate.

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One comment

  1. […] bookmarks tagged naive Watercolor Past saved by 4 others     seanbedlam bookmarked on 02/01/09 | […]



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