Friday, March 15, 2013

#87 The Wall - Pink Floyd

"Look Mummy, there's a drone up in the sky..."  :)

My encounter with this album evoked the most surreal experience I have had yet throughout this project.  I should have expected that with Pink Floyd, but I'm not talking about the way my brainpiece processed their information the way they wanted me to perceive it.  I'm talking about something else entirely.

The first time I listened to it, I was invigorated and awestruck.  There were moments when I felt like crying--because (ironically) I thought, these people feel the same way as I do when they perceive an institution and those who wander around like zombies.  They also could understand the appealing nature of building a proverbial wall against all the other breathing thoughtless creatures who occupy my immediate space, or identify with how good it feels to just shut people out while scrambling to paradoxically not be alone.  Of course, Roger Waters and his friendies are in their box feeling just as alone as all those people plugged into their phones (listening to PF!) or those of you watching trash tv with a box of wine.  or two.  Ironically, we are all as alone as the next guy; try as we might to "stay connected."  Obviously, we can invert this entire paragraph and claim that no person is an island, try as they might to get away.  Like someone chatting with babes on the Interwebz is actually alone and not at the same time.

But this album resonated with me on such an eerie level.  God, I thought, I must really be screwed up to identify with Pink Floyd, of all the bands so far.  When I heard "Another Brick in the Wall pt 2" I immediately thought of my short-lived teaching experience.  Quitting teaching was sort of the best thing that ever happened to me; Roger would OBVIOUSLY agree.  I'm glad I don't have to indoctrinate people anymore or lie to them and tell them they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up as long as they work hard and try.  Or tell them college will help them get a job.  Or encourage them to take out student loans to go to school, which only enslaves them into the system to spend their lives paying it back with time at a soulless job under fluorescent lights that smell like burnt skin and fried dreams.  Whatever happened to teaching people to just grow up and be happy?  And why the fuck do they still make people respond to bells?  And when will people learn that time is an illusion and they've all been programmed to respond to clocks (thanks to the public education system!)?

This album made me realize that hopefully, I'm not the only person walking around so lost inside my own head that I feel like I can't function normally sometimes in social situations.  Maybe everyone feels so incredibly alone that they mask it with their own walls and distractions.  Like drinking or watching grown-ass men in colorful foamwear mount one another homosocially to fight for an oblong shaped brown ball with laces grunting over gained yardage.  My tactic for distraction is no better; I mask it with humor.  Like making someone laugh creates a semi-real bridged connection with another being to distract from the constant isolation.  So I just make people laugh and I think, is this normal?  Is this real life?  Am I interacting just fine with these people?  And then I just keep piling bricks upon bricks.  Or feeling at odds about things other people find to be so normal, like sleeping, eating meat, or old horror movies, for example.

"Is there anybody out there" made me recall the five minutes I stood frozen by the inundating waves of shock and fear when as a child, I walked into the living room while my brother was watching The Shining.  And something inside of me broke that night in those five minutes, and I felt so utterly alone for the first time.  I've never seen the whole movie, but there was an aura about being so helpless and alone that not even your parents could save you and it fed my childhood realization that maybe nobody is ever really connected to another person.  We are all so alone and I, at the time, was more alone than anyone else because the images in that movie built a wall around me that didn't allow comfort or compassion to enter when it came time to sleep.  Whereas, my brother processed the information like he was watching just another cartoon.  And that disconnected and unshared experience isolated me further and reenforced the terror that movie (and this album) creates because he was able to just blow it off when I wasn't.

And then, as an eight-year-old, the lights went out and I was in bed.  There were expectations of sleep.  And the suffocating anxiety about sleeping crept up, like a cloudy hand from under the bed to pin me down by the chest and force me to stare up at the ceiling in tears until dawn because sleeping was so unnatural to me.  We willingly shut down, like machines with dead batteries and give up all of our power to become vulnerable and exist in a mind state without senses.  On purpose!  (some crazies even take NAPS) And I thought, I might not wake up tomorrow.  I might not wake up ever again.  And then like always, I succumbed, after exhaustion took its toll and night after night, in a struggling battle against sleep--I would fail and as sleep took me into the night, I acquiesced to the fact that I was going to die alone again tonight like the night before and the night before that.

That feeling is almost as terrifying as being around a lot of people--because the more people that are around, paradoxically, the more alone one feels.  Like being at a concert, which I believe is the very idea that inspired the concept for this album.

Understand me a little better now, college roommates?  Childhood friends who I bailed on for sleepovers?  Sorry Mumsey for never napping as an infant.

Many years later, I listened to a This American Life podcast about the Fear of Sleep, and someone else had an experience with The Shining that was similar to mine and I wondered how many terrified youngsters were out there unable to sleep for decades because of just FIVE whole minutes of the movie.  You are not alone, my fearful friends.  Get the mother fucking twins out of the mother fucking hallway.  nuff said.

So, in the midst of all this thinking, I asked my husband if he would watch the movie "The Wall" with me.  He looked at me, shaking his head and said that if I chose to watch it for this project, I'd have to do it alone because it really creeped him out and he'd rather not see it "or the marching hammers" again.

um, after watching the trailer, that's just out of the question.

After the dreadful recollection of my childhood hypnophobia, I relistened to the album but this time, I couldn't suppress the memories of my bedtime rituals that would help to stave off the anxiety I associated with sleeping (i.e. turning on and off the lights 15 times.  Kissing all of my stuffed animals over and over etc.  Like the little narrator in Proust's Swann's Way, begging Mumsey to come up and check on me before she went to bed) nor could I disassociate my reoccurring Zombie nightmares from the album--I forgot to mention those; I have them often.  So, take all that unnecessary baggage and top it with the idea of a fascist regime taking over a population, inspired by my husband's description of "The Wall" and watching the trailer and you probably wouldn't want to listen to Pink Floyd again either.

So I reached down and touched the pause bottom halfway through the song "The Trial" and left all that weight, bad energy, baggage, and bullshit lying in the middle of the sidewalk behind me as I changed the music to Bob Dylan, who pretty much makes everything better, and kept walking.

Leave the childhood fears behind.  We don't need no friggin triggers.

The album is amazing, literally seamless, flawless, and hits so close to home that I just couldn't bear it any longer.  I have nothing bad to say against the album but I don't think I can handle listening to a song from them again because I just get so heavy with angst and bad energy that I could never get "comfortably numb" to Pink Floyd.  The surreal experience was the drastic change in perception from the first listen to the last.  I went from loving this album to being completely unable to listen to it--and my fascist 1984 private room 101 hell would be at this concert plus Jack Nicholson, a sleepover and some hallway twins (and pickles).  Which was pretty much what they were going for, it felt.

I hate your Lonelier than Thou attitude, Pink Floyd.  I'm so creeped, I don't want to look up the album cover to put on this entry.

Columbia, 1979
Pink Floyd's most elaborately theatrical album was inspired by their own success: the alienating enormity of their tours after The Dark Side of the Moon [see No. 43]. As the band played arenas in 1977, bassist­lyricist Roger Waters first hit upon the wall as a metaphor for isolation and rebellion. He finished a demo of the work by July 1978; the double album then took the band a year to make. Rock's ultimate self-pity opera, The Wall is also hypnotic in its indulgence: the totalitarian thunder of "In the Flesh?," the suicidal languor of "Comfortably Numb," the Brechtian drama of "The Trial" and the anti-institutional spleen of the album's unshakable disco hit, "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2." Rock-star hubris has never been more electrifying.

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

#3 Revolver -- The Beatles

Revolver is an intimidating album to cover, because I actually know a lot about it but don't really want to share the knowledge with you about how they came up with this or that name, or which song helped to influence the psychedelic movement, WTF is Yellow Submarine about anyway, yadda yadda ya.  That kind of music talk is so boring to me, and it's the only kind people even find anymore.  I'm more interested in what you felt when you heard the album.  Where were you when you heard Revolver?  It's like when people talk about authors and poets and not the fucking books.  Example: William Faulkner's life wasn't really that interesting, contrary to his novels.  He didn't know how to mail letters at his job and he had such alcoholism that he was often found covered in vomit passed out on toilet seats, he was short, he got old and wrote his nobel prize speech on the airplane on his way to get the award.  BFD.  Moving on.

Not to mention, everyone already knows everything about the Beatles anyway.  So if you want to learn that shit, go to wikipedia or find you a music blog that doesn't talk about the life that happens around the music.

I recently saw "Lars and the Real Girl" and that movie was so profound that I thought about it while I listened to Revolver over and over again.  The two meshed in my head and I came up with an idea about music that has probably been thought before, but probably nobody was inspired by the supporting actress in Lars and the Real Girl (she's a life size "love doll") to come to this thought.

So, in Lars and the Real Girl, Lars has had a difficult childhood full of abandonment and as an adult, he suffers from this delusion that he has fallen in love with a woman named Bianca, who is actually a life size doll.  About half way through the movie, there is a point where we begin to notice that life happens all around this doll, because of this doll, and in spite of this doll.  The town comes together to assist in the delusion, by having Bianca volunteer around town, hang out with church women, etc. etc. By treating her as a real person, Lars finally realizes that they care about and love him.  Thus, this hunk of plastic begins to bridge the gap between Lars and people.

And I believe that's what music does.  And not just music, but bands as well known as the Beatles specifically.  It doesn't matter what nationality you are, you've heard the Beatles, and they mean something to you.  Even if it's nothing.  My Venezuelan Brother, Daniel (long story) once told me that back in Venezuela, one of the songs they learned in their English class was "yellow submarine" and they had to learn to sing it in English.  It totally makes sense to use that song.  It distinguishes between sky and sea, and there are loads of colors to learn...(woot! go ringo!) but anyway,

Albums are tangible things; they are not alive.  But life happens because of the music they repeat, in spite of the music and all around it.  All the people who have heard Revolver will take that music with them and when they hear Eleanor Rigby, they will think of an old woman they once new, or the person they met in a car while the song was playing and wonder how those people are doing.  Maybe when people hear "Tomorrow Never Knows" they will think about that one time in India when they dropped acid or whatever.  who knows?  Probably tomorrow doesn't.

I thought about how Eleanor Rigby is one of the best songs they ever wrote.  They all supposedly contributed lyrics to it too (if you cared).  I had the string trio I hired play it at my wedding.  And it'll be at my funeral too.

And your bird can sing:

"I don't see too much difference between Revolver and Rubber Soul," George Harrison once said. "To me, they could be Volume One and Volume Two." Revolver extends the more adventurous aspects of its predecessor – its introspection, its nascent psychedelia, its fascination with studio artistry – into a dramatic statement of generational possibility.
The album, which was released in August 1966, made it thrillingly clear that what we now think of as "the Sixties" was fully – and irreversibly – under way.
The most innovative track on the album is John Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Knows." Attempting to distill an LSD trip into a three-minute song, Lennon borrowed lyrics from Timothy Leary's version of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and recorded his vocal to sound like "the Dalai Lama singing from the highest mountaintop." Tape loops, a backward guitar part (Paul McCartney's blistering solo on "Taxman," in fact) and a droning tamboura completed the experimental effect, and the song proved hugely influential. For his part, on "Eleanor Rigby" and "For No One," McCartney mastered a strikingly mature form of art song, and Harrison, with "Taxman," "I Want to Tell You" and "Love You To," challenged Lennon-McCartney's songwriting dominance.
Part of the album's revolutionary impulse was visual. Klaus Voormann, one of the Beatles' artist buddies from their days in Hamburg, Germany, designed a striking photo-collage cover for Revolver; it was a crucial step on the road to the even trippier, more colorful imagery of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which would come less than a year later.
Revolver signaled that in popular music, anything – any theme, any musical idea – could now be realized. And, in the case of the Beatles, would be.

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