Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wond'ring Aloud

"Wond'ring Aloud"

Wond'ring aloud --
how we feel today.
Last night sipped the sunset --
my hands in her hair.
We are our own saviours
as we start both our hearts beating life
into each other.

Wond'ring aloud --
will the years treat us well.
As she floats in the kitchen,
I'm tasting the smell
of toast as the butter runs.
Then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed
and I shake my head.
And it's only the giving
that makes you what you are.

Saturday (October 25th) will mark the 40th anniversary of the first full album released by Jethro Tull.

Now I'm not normally one to wax overmuch on a single band or artist... Elvis or the Beatles notwithstanding (and that's about the cultural impact, not the music). I do have my favorites of course and I talk about them some, but most music just passes me by... as it passes you by too I'm sure.

Of course there are those artists and albums which are different. That have an impact. That change you.

Tull is different.

When I was a teenager, I built my own apartment in the house that we rented from my grandfather. It was a 90 year old (at the time) house, two main living floors with an attic and a basement; split up as a two family house. At the time, my mother, my brother, my aunt Maureen and I lived in the upstairs half, and my aunt Susan and her husband Carl lived in the bottom half.

The basement was unfinished... would have been hard to have it otherwise, since it was literally carved out of a solid granite hillside; and the other side was aggregate blocks (kind of like concrete except instead of sand you use granite dust and granite pebbles); and the whole thing was taken up by a massive heating oil tank, and the two furnaces and water heaters... with just enough room for two pairs of washers and dryers, and a door to the outside...

It's amazing the little details you remember about your childhood isn't it.

Anyway, because the house was built into a hillside, the basement had an entrance on one side, and there was a front entrance at the top of a flight of entry stairs, and another entrance around the other side of the house; that opened into the back stairs.

Those back stairs went from the basement all the way up to the attic; separate from both living floors, by their back doors. That way both apartments had access to both non living floors without having to pass through each other.

Well, when I was 13, we took the attic, which was the size of the entire house (about 50x50 square) and converted it into an apartment for me. I walled it in so that instead of extending all the way down to the outside walls of the house, I had six foot walls. That left a huge storage space in behind the walls (that we used quite effectively), and about a 30x30 living space for myself.

Importantly, I also thoroughly soundproofed the whole place. You could set off a bomb up there and no-one would have heard it.

I built my own furniture in there; set up my own library, my own workshop... my own life. It was my own apartment with my own private entrance...

A place away from my family. A place I needed... it would have been bad otherwise... worse maybe I should say.

I've mentioned this before, but my teenager years were... not good. Oh I had some good times, some good friends; but my life in those years... I've talked about my mother, my brother, and my aunt before... I'm not sure how I made it out of there sometimes.

My family was bleeding to death around me, and trying to drag me down with them... and I was busy on my own trying to dive down a different, but just as deep... maybe deeper... hole.

I needed to escape. More than anything... and I did, as soon as I could; but those years in between... I would escape where I could, when I could.

Anyway, I had this jury rigged stereo. An early Sony five disc CD changer I'd picked up for free as broken, and fixed myself. It was playing into some junk bookshelf stereo... I think it was an Aiwa maybe?

At any rate it sounded like playing music through two tin cans. So I jumpered into the clean channel on my Fernandez guitar amp and cabinet... it was an interesting effect. It could easily fill up my world with sound... and I built it into the headboard of my bed (a waterbed, that I'd also built myself).

Hey, I thought it was cool at the time.

I've been an insomniac since I was five years old; but when I was a teenager, my sleeping became markedly worse. I would sometimes go days without sleeping; then sleep for 12 or 14 hours.

When I couldn't sleep.. when my brain just wouldn't let me rest; I would just put on five albums on repeat, as loud as I could stand, to drown out my brain:
Jethro Tull - Aqualung
Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick
Deep Purple - Machine Head
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV
Pink Floyd - Wish you were here
The sound would just pound out my mind. Drown out the thought, the trouble, the pain, the anger... just let me sleep.

I would leave them on repeat, and they would wash over me for hours and hours. Filling my world with sound, and driving out everything that made me not want to be there.

That helped keep me sane... or at least as sane as I am, whatever that is.

There were other, darker and harder times; and darker, and harder music to go with them. It was then that I really became a metalhead.

... but it always came back to those five albums. Over and over, for years.

Still today, when I hear those first flute notes from "Thick as a Brick", it takes me somewhere else.

One of the moments of pure joy in my life, was a few years back: I had just come back from Ireland a few months previous, but my life was pretty chaotic. I was traveling all over, doing contract work, and my mother was in ever worse and worse shape... and my brother moved back 'round and started sucking off my mother again...

I'd picked up my black 5 series a few weeks earlier, and had just put the new stereo in with Sirius satellite radio (10 alpine components inside, going into 500 watts on 4 digital channels; plus 1000 watts into 2x12" alpine R2s); and then had to go to New York for two weeks on business.

Well, I was really stressed out, burned out.. coming home I was just in one of those moods where you ask "Why the hell am I bothering doing this".

I got out into the long term parking, and started to head for home... but instead I took it out on a night drive up highway 89, from Phoenix up through Prescott; and I was really wringing it out.

I got out past Wickenburg, and had the radio pumping, trying out the Sirius, on the classic "vault" station, the DJ started up the whole album "Thick as a Brick"

Really don't mind if you sit this one out.
My words but a whisper your deafness a SHOUT.
I may make you feel but I can't make you think.

And I just flowed. That way that sometimes, if you're lucky, you can get where everything just fits together. Motion to motion, thought to thought.

It's like it's all in one piece; and you start in one spot and 45 minutes later you're 6o miles away, and you know and remember and feel every second and every foot of that 60 miles; but you really have no idea of time or distance passing.

That's what I mean when I say some music is different. Some music moves you. Jethro Tull is different.