[Written Thursday, November 12 at 12:00am]
A few years back, my friend Barb and some of her friends compiled, um, compilations under the moniker “Music That Matters To Me.” I helped her find a Gene Kelly song from her childhood and committed to building my own list. Peering down such a deep well was daunting, so Mr. Procrastination deferred. Well, I started a list, but articulating why the music was important was going to take some soul and sentence searching.
My list goes back to the glistening sugar brown sands of Revere Beach with nods to 680 – WRKO and their summers of the late 60’s featuring lots of the Motown machine catalog. From there the constant flow tore through the 70’s with the Stones, the Who, Pink Floyd, Zep, Elton John, KISS, Queen, Aerosmith, Neil Young and one particular Grand Funk Railroad song featuring my best buddy drunk dancing by himself in whitey tighties. Oh yeah, some of it wasn’t pretty. College in Arizona was dominated by Petty, more Stones, Who and heavy doses of Bon Scott’s AC/DC, although I dimly recall spinning Back In Black with the Gonnella boys over Black Russians made with “Joe’s Vodka” and “Hank’s Coffee Brandy.” I’ve never literally had a spike through my brain, but I know what one feels like.
The 80’s were owned by U2 and once I had children, music took a back seat until about 1995. It was “that year,” to quote the hugely influential Uncle Tupelo, that the RustedRobot casually asked, “Hey, wanna start a record label?” It’s from that era where our sonic journey will begin.
In March of ’99, the Robot and I were in Austin, Texas for my second South By Southwest Music Conference. We had rented a cool condo for the week, paid of course by mega-label Tar Hut Records, who agreed to upgrade us from the Motel6 they forced Jeff, me and the methane factory Hut234 to commune the previous year. Seriously, if we were hitting bongs or crack pipes back then I’m certain the Austin Chronicle headline would have read,
BLAST KILLS 3 AT MOTEL 6
Gas Leak Probed
“I think you’ll like this,” said Jeff with a full head of hair and no thoughts yet of twins dancing under it. The first few acoustic strums catch you, but the voice was thin and very mellow in the first minute of Elliott Smith’s timeless epic, “XO.” As often is the case, the third song of a record (or show) is often killer and “Waltz #2” wasted me. I’m not sure why it appears before Waltz #1 on the record. I’ll have to look that up, but it’s really not important right now so why spend much time dwelling on something not really relevant to the theme of the post because that would just be annoying and may in fact irritate the reader because who the hell likes a run on sentence, especially when it’s completely diversionary from the topic at hand and doesn’t even add context, and in fact takes away from what was turning out to be a decent story about “Waltz #2;” it really shouldn’t matter that it is sequenced before “Waltz #1,” but that curious fact is probably worthy of investigation and a post of its own, don’t you think?
Elliott Smith was gripped by demons that eventually forced him to grip a kitchen knife and shove it through his heart. Yeah, he dealt with some pain. From that anguish came beautiful music and “Waltz #2” is one of his most heart gripping for me.
In the place where I make no mistakes.
In the place where I have what it takes.
I’m never gonna know you now,
but I’m gonna love you anyhow.
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