About a week ago, a co-worker and a former co-worker e-mailed me with an idea for a musical. Because I liked the idea, I figured I’d send them a song about the day after the events it might be based on.
They both liked it, and one of them wrote back just after midnight with ten ideas for songs. I served back with one just before I went to bed around 2 a.m., woke up and started playing around with the other ideas.
I think my personal best might’ve been three songs in a day, but something about the challenge in filling and fleshing out one on the basis of an image, a title or a possible plot scenario was pretty stimulating.
The first five came pretty easily on the fly. For the next two, I used a couple of made-up temp tracks that fit with what I was writing. I don’t know in what form they’ll wind up used, but it’s almost beside the point. For twenty-odd hours’ work, it was exactly the way I’d want to spend one of several recent days off.
I figured I’d take it easy after a lot of folding clothes, dodging dust and stained surfaces, surfing the aisles at the nearby thrift stop, throwing out old credit-card solicitations and junk mail, sorting wires and chargers and cords, so I went over to my favorite Oaksterdam/Uptown Oakland bar.
What’d I hear? My favorite DJ spinning vinyl, everything from Donald Byrd’s “Dominoes” to the Pointer Sisters’ “What A Surprise” to Lee Moses’ “Time and Place” and Little Feat’s “Forty-Four Blues / How Many More Years.”
The surprise track for me was Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child,” which I always got confused with “At Seventeen” for reason and hadn’t heard before.
It’s a week for nostalgia. I’ve already looked back at U2’s “The Joshua Tree” because the darned thing’s coming back out again, and the Irishmen along with it. Tonight I might as well needle-drop another one of 1987’s monster platters that mattered, not least because today’s Pitchfork review of the reissue put it in mind. What comes to mind as I listen to it, drift away to a distraction of a video or two and swim back toward it, is how so many of today’s post-genre pop songs floating around draw on some of the same musical textures, without any of the classic-rock history that used to come with it. All that was solid, format and reference, has melted into air, or drifted off into streams and mixes, digital-audio workstation pre-sets and patches. None of this even takes into account the old choir, or Victoria’s lovely take on “Everywhere” kicking around somewhere on our band’s account. I’d better set my watch for whenever it is that Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie album they teased earlier this year will drop.
You get up and get dressed and go out, ready to chin-up and console. You sit down early in a corner booth to beat the rush. You look up what’s going on, and then you learn that someone rolled away the stone. You make a face and laugh loud enough to make a few people in the far corner look at you for a couple of seconds, not like a weirdo or like trouble, but more like someone having a Friday on their Saturday. This is my testimony: It can take a little while but when you learn that history never completely repeats and your day gets well and truly made, you find you don’t even really mind the wait. You find you’re just grateful to be present.