In Which My Roomate Punches Me… Twice.

Sometimes a piece of music just punches you in the chest. Sometimes it’s an emotionally charged punch–a song associated with a memory, or a song with poignant, emotional lyrics; sometimes it’s just sheer power busting out of the speakers and throwing you back in your chair (a melancholy but forceful instrumental, for example).

My roommate has punched me twice tonight.

The first hit was an emotional one, Nina Simone’s “Pirate Jenny.”. It’s Mother’s Day (or was, until several hours ago), and having lost my mother when I was young, Mother’s Day always leaves me a bit nostalgic and sad–and Pirate Jenny was a song I used to listen to with my mother. The song begun, and instantly I was seven years old, sitting on the floor in the living room of my childhood home, right in front of the stereo, listening to that song while my mother made granola or miso soup in the kitchen. We called it “The Black Freighter,” and in fact I didn’t know the real name of the song until an exhaustive search for a recording of “The Black Freighter” came up fruitless and I started listening to every song on every Nina Simone CD until I found the song.

In my mind, it’s still “The Black Freighter,” just like grapes are still “brapes” because that’s what my dad called them, and every time I hear someone ask for a whole sandwich, I expect it to show up with a hole in it.

“The Black Freighter” was one of my favorite songs when I was a kid, and I would ask my mother to play it for me over and over again (she usually obliged). When I listened to music, I liked to be right in front of the stereo, so I could look through my mother’s tapes and pick what I wanted next. I was a big fan of Wayne Shorter (because he used animal sound effects like roaring in some of his songs and his music was weird) and Aretha Franklin, although I must say in retrospect that “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” was not the best album of hers I’ve heard. My mother got most of her music by recording it from WGBH, the public radio station from Boston, and she had a wooden rack full of self-recorded tapes, all labeled in her own code. One of them was marked “The Black Freighter,” even though it contained the entire album.

The second punch was straight up power: Ween’s “A Tear For Eddie” (an instrumental tribute to Eddie Hazel, the late guitarist from Parliament)–live–a song I’d never heard before tonight. It was about thirty seconds into the song that I said out loud to my roommate, “Sometimes a piece of music just punches you in the chest,” and he said, “…Yeah.”(1) [Incidentally, some other songs that have knocked the wind out of me the first time I heard them are: Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye”, along with about half of the rest of the songs he wrote; Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny” live at Carnegie Hall, the last part of Concrete Blonde’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” B.B. King’s “How Blue Can You Get,” live at Cook County Jail, which opens with a two-minute guitar solo, and pretty much the whole Dark Side Of The Moon album.]

But isn’t that why we listen to music? We listen for hours every day, waiting for that WHAP to happen, and when it does–if it does–the music is so strong that it draws you in, and you can’t think about anything other than how fucking great it is.

~ by saltgirlspeaks on 11 May, 2009.

One Response to “In Which My Roomate Punches Me… Twice.”

  1. Indelible memories:

    Last Goodbye and Lilac Wine – A turbulent two-night stand

    Dark Side of the Moon – My entire middle childhood, lived-out on their turf, and bumping into aging band members occasionally

    B.B.King – My eternal love affair with my turntable, and especially ‘In London’

    Useless (Depeche Mode K&D Sessions) – Driving very, very fast late at night on long road trips (and more recently The City Sleeps by MC 900Ft. Jesus, which tends to make me drive even faster…)

    Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ – Dancing around the house like a bandit, always on a whim

    Wax Tailor, the ‘Tales of the Forgotten Memories’ album, and so much more – The girl I let get away…

    Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water – My sweet dad and his turntable (a record I mercifully recovered while cleaning-out his house)

    …at my funeral, I’ve arranged for everyone to get a compilation of these (and other) tracks. Maybe if they crank the volume up real loud I’ll still hear them. Like you say, how fucking great is it! Play on…

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