I overheard a conversation at work a few weeks ago that went a little something like this:
Worker A: have you heard the new *insert forgettable band name here* on the radio?
Worker B: Oh yeah, it’s really good. It reminds of that American Idol singer.
Worker A: yeah. Oh speaking of American Idol…
This is right around the moment in which I passed out from sheer boredom and annoyance. Can one actually pass out from annoyance? I should really look into that. When I finally came round amidst a chorus of co-workers mumbling to each other “I told you he was weird”, my mind started wandering. I know all three of you are sitting on pins and needles asking yourselves what the hell I’m rambling about. Well, I’m here to tell you. There’s something else. Two paragraphs in and I’m already tossing out a Prince reference. God help me.
In all seriousness (be forewarned, for I’m not sure how long this will last) that minor exchange eventually led me to the topic of friendship. Not in a hey-you’re-my-co-worker-and-considering-we-spend-so-much-time-together-we-may-as-well-make-the-best-of-it sort of way, but more specifically friendships forged with music as the foundation. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the fellow office dwellers in question, but there’s something internal, some common bond I will never share with them. They will never appreciate the sheer overwhelming joy of Lisa Gerrard, or the dirty yet smoothly gutteral sounds of Morphine.
Now before you start calling me an elitist snob (I’m looking in your direction Jenocidal), I do have friends that don’t exactly share my musical tastes, let alone my passion for it. That doesn’t mean we’re not friends, but admittedly I seem to be much closer to people in my life who, for lack of a better term, “get it”. It’s hard to explain save for using words like feeling or emotional to describe what music does to the lucky listeners whose brains or souls are wired in that specific manner without sounding like a complete douche, but oh well what can you do? It obviously goes much deeper than that. I am a firm believer that there are two types of people when it comes to listening and enjoying music. Some people can enjoy it on a singular level and go about the business of existence without a second thought. Personally I think this is why radio exists to this day. Independent radio notwithstanding. Not that there’s anything thing wrong with that. Then there are the others who devour music. These are the individuals that let the music envelop them willingly. Seeing music as a conduit to some universal feeling and understanding that can only be completely conveyed when presented in this medium. Far less common of course, but far more of you out there than I originally expected. The internet has helped in that capacity. Now of course you can break those two groups down into a thousand subcategories, but I’m already long winded as it is, so I don’t really see the point.
Ummm ok, reading that back I sounded like a complete twit. I think there may be a point in here somewhere but bear with me here for I’m feeling around blindly for it. Ray Charles without the talent if you will. And slightly less melanin. Or cool shades. Ok, so I’m nothing like Ray Charles. So sue me. At least I didn’t do horrible Pepsi commercials.
So what was I talking about? Oh, right. Friendships. I bet you can remember that first person that opened your doors to a much larger musical landscape. Be it a sister (no such luck for me) or an uncle, etc. there is usually someone who grabbed you and said, “Hey! Over here!” Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, you suddenly find yourself in a world where nothing is what you expect, but you can’t wait to see what’s lies in waiting just around the next tree or over that nearby hill. Something clicks, the switch is flipped and you instantly tell yourself this is where you belong, quickly followed with ‘Where can I obtain more?’ It’s an addiction, pure and simple.
I remember my “eureka” moment. Ok, now I’m going to be dating myself here but since the lot of you have already seen my blips, I think it’s not a stretch to say I’m “seasoned”. I was a freshman in high school. I was sitting in art class. Or was it drafting? Whatever it was, there were pencils and big blank bits of paper involved, so for the sake of argument we’ll just call it Darting. I was your atypical…hahaha…Ok that’s not true. I couldn’t even get through that sentence without laughing. I was the introverted shy art kid back then. Didn’t speak much and kept to myself for the most part. It wouldn’t be too difficult to rustle up a few people who wished I had remained that way, but true to form I’m rambling and getting away from the point of this little diatribe.
His name was Craig Steely. He was my catalyst. Sidling up to me one cold rainy December morning, he mumbled, “Hey, so what kind of music do you like?” I remember looking at him and saying, “Oh the usual.” The usual being whatever I stumbled across. Nothing too extraordinary or off the beaten path. He smirked at me as if to say, ‘Oh dear boy, you have no idea what lies beyond the pale’ and said, “take this home and give it a listen and tell me what you think.” He handed me an unmarked cassette tape with no case. Remember cassettes people? I gingerly took the tape and managed to blurt out “mmkay, thanks” before he shuffled back to his desk without another word.
Upon arrival to the ‘ol homestead I went off to my room, closed my door, flipped on my rocking Sound Design tape deck, (complete with the awesome racing stripe I procured myself) slid the tape home and pushed down the over-sized play button. For hours I sat, transfixed at the sounds pouring out of my speakers, filling up my room with the sound I had been searching for. Now before you make fun, I must explain that in 1981 in a small California town musical diversity was non-existent. So anything outside of The Police on the radio was a rarity. On one side of the Tape of Destiny (heh heh) was Depeche Mode’s Speak And Spell. Side two was Oingo Boingo’s Only A Lad. You couldn’t get any more diverse if you place those two bands side by side. That was it for me. I could never go back.
Needless to say I was hooked. Lyrically, musically and every possible way imaginable these two records had attached their tentacles into my being, forever changing me in how I viewed and listened to music. I had to have more. Anything I could get my hands on that wasn’t plastered all over the radio or MTV. Although I must give some props to MTV for some early concerts with bands like Split Enz and the Art of Noise. Thus began my musical quest. A journey that has no ending as it turns out. That’s quite a nice feeling, isn’t it? Knowing that there is no final stop on the trip of musical discovery.
I only mention this story to drive the point home. From that day on, as I built up my musical muscle, I began instinctively gravitating towards people with the same outlook in regards to music. Conversations with complete strangers in record stores about music. Meeting people at shows, and eventually school as the “weirdos” started to show their true colors. Hmm, maybe they always did but I hadn’t noticed. Could it be that I was blind or was my internal switch set to off? Friendships created and cultivated from something as simple as “Oh, you like Fad Gadget? Have you heard Bauhaus?” is something that (to me) only music can do. Like a domino effect, you find yourself hopping from one genre to the next, amassing a library of music and friends who are just as electic as the music you’re consuming. Then before you even can fully comprehend what happened, you’re part of something. I do feel a bit sorry for the youth of today. With everything mostly digital now, that entire experience of discovering music on your own or from a very helpful record store clerk is almost totally extinct. Not to mention the way music as a whole is produced and packaged on an assembly line for the short attention span demographic. The smell of the records lining the shelves (not unlike an old bookstore) or a hidden gem just waiting to be plucked. It’s sad that some people will never know what that feels like.
Now for us old dogs, the internet has allowed us to find others that share our passion for music, so I’d have to burn my geek card if I didn’t at least admit to the positive aspects technology has wrought.
I suppose my point is this: Friendships (at least in my experience) originally formed with a similar love for music as its support base seem to last far longer than any other friendships. Be it a way of dress, a band sticker on a car, you instantly recognize and sense that overall, the person you’re communicating with is going to have far more common with you. From books to movies, it seems the music addicts have such similar tastes across the board. Why? Could it be the openness of one’s psyche that allows them to appreciate what’s not deemed the “standard”? Personally I think it’s just how people are born. Just as some individuals are born with a natural talent for painting, the same holds true for the music lover. There’s something in your genetic makeup. You can listen to something run of the mill and appreciate the ability, but it doesn’t move you at all. No, for you, the true music lover, you are moved by something else. It’s almost impossible to explain, but everyone one of you knows exactly what I’m talking about. Oh sure, we all have our guilty pleasures, but if forced to choose, there is no question in which path you will take.
Just remember to bring comfortable shoes. It’s going to be a long walk.