Soundtrack to a personal archaeological dig

(beautiful piece on life, lyrics, and love of music – promoted by pfiore8)

The simple task of reorganizing a CD collection, punctuated with stops to listen along the way, affords your humble essayist the opportunity to honestly identify a long-crusted-over, never resolved, and wholly destructive inner inconsistency. Wow. Who knew?

Let’s get right to it. The conflict is so apparent, it’s astonishing only in how long seeing it for myself has proven elusive:

I’ve got plenty of java
And Chesterfield Kings
But I feel like crying
I wish I had a heart like ice
Heart like ice

The Nightfly
Donald Fagen, The Nightfly, 1982

Take a knife
Cut out this heart of ice
Hold it high
Walk into the sun

Heart of Ice
Joe Jackson, Body & Soul, 1984


These are lyrics that spoke to me. I felt them. I let them stick around. And it’s only now that I reckon the sentiments expressed don’t play well with each other. There’s just not enough room in this town for the both of them.

I’ll now fire up the wayback machine.

Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly and Joe Jackson’s Body & Soul were released–and promptly found their way into my vinyl collection–when I was a high school student.

By this point in my late childhood, I’d spent a bunch of increasingly quality time with the saxophone. I’d established, and, to the extent possible in my rural chunk of the planet, nurtured a very keen interest in jazz. This interest absolutely informed my rock listening. I was hugely into the Police, and knew that Sting was also a saxophone player and had spent years prior to his success paying dues in jazz combo settings. Ska, in particular The English Beat, certainly grabbed my attention through the prominent incorporation of the tenor saxophone. Joe Jackson 1982 Jumpin’ Jive completely delighted me with its modern yet very dedicated and deferential take on popular swing and jump tunes from the ’40s by the likes of Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway. And for me, Steely Dan was the absolute living end. Their compositions were of a harmonic sophistication well apart from most else on the radio at the time, rooted in the fact that both Fagen and partner Walter Becker were both studied fans of jazz. Their selection of chord changes and voicings selected for their songcraft are clearly reflective of their love of jazz.


And, really, I was a music listener for whom lyrical content was, if not necessarily in the way, at least secondary. I was listening far more intently to the bass line. To the horn solos. To how the piano or guitar was framing the chord progression. I could absolutely appreciate a great voice as an instrument, but it was a rare thing that a lyric would essentially burrow into my brain and lay its eggs there.

I’ve got plenty of java
And Chesterfield Kings
But I feel like crying
I wish I had a heart like ice
Heart like ice


I couldn’t verbalize why for so long I wanted to feel things less intently and intensely. I just knew that–particularly prior to coming out just shy of my 30th birthday–there was this incessant, background pain. Compartmentalization became the course of action. I saw a safety in walling off the challenges, the pain, and the difficulties; a manageable, sad stasis through affecting a deluded but happy-faced numbness. Of course, this is a growth-stunting and psychically cancerous path. But when the time you spend inside your head turns out to be not-at-all quality time, you’re really not terribly likely to achieve critical distance and call yourself out on your stupid, stupid shit.

Take a knife
Cut out this heart of ice
Hold it high
Walk into the sun


Heart of Ice is the closing song on Body & Soul; the lyric excerpted above is the entirety of the song’s lyrics altogether, and we don’t get to them until nearly the end of this nearly seven minute song. A repeating melodic line carries the lion’s share of the tune, in series by flute, trumpet, saxophone, and the entire ensemble before a ripping good guitar solo, then into the lyric. Really, a very lovely piece of pop music. And I’d listen to it, and I’d often find myself in tears. Deeply and genuinely sadly. And here too, I just did not know why; I lacked the clarity that the person I’m intended to be while I’m inhabiting this particular meat-vessel to which I’ve been assigned for this go ’round is supposed to feel. Deeply. To own it, to share it, to act upon it.

These will remain favorite, and occasionally revisited members of my collection.

But I can listen to that Fagen piece and know full well he’s not talking to me.

And I can enjoy that magnificent culmination to Body & Soul, and if I feel like crying, no big. I’m really trying hard to keep evolving. The occasional tear of joy could be the thing.

So. What’s everyone else been listening to this week?

36 comments

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  1. how led zeppelin managed to escape me entirely until 1989.

  2. also sold some of my early punk complilation albums that now no longer exist at a garage sale after I moved out.

  3. lately ive been finding myself listening to the old ‘toad the wet sprocket’ cd’s more frequently than usual.  especially ‘coil’.

    maybe that buddha at the top of the page sends out subliminal messages???….

    • pfiore8 on September 18, 2007 at 4:41 am

    dammit!

  4. wow. thank you. much.

  5. Final Fantasy

  6. I hate to say I love you,
    Because it means that I will be with you forever or will sadly…, say goodbye.
    And I love to say I hate you,
    Because it means that I will live my life happily without you or will sadly…, live a lie.

    • snud on September 18, 2007 at 5:22 am

    Not that I ever disliked them at all. But I’m a drummer and a huge Steve Gadd fan.

    Recently I sold all of my film camera equipment and (so I wouldn’t annoy the neighbors anymore than I already have) bought a set of these puppies which aren’t cheap.

    Yeah, I know… the purists poo-poo electronic drums – but I swear these things are like driving a Porsche and sound awesome. If I only use headphones, nobody can hear ’em but me. If I amplify them… look out! They’ll give you a sunburn!

    In fact… about two weeks ago, after YEARS of trying to get that DAMN drum solo in “Aja”, I finally nailed the SOB.

    I thought I was gonna cry! 😉 That thing’s a bitch to play!

    (And I LOVE the sax parts in Aja too!)

    Good luck to you!

    • snud on September 18, 2007 at 5:34 am

    (Since you just got started with Zep not long ago) Check out Gentle Giant.

    Please give it a minute to get rolling. The guy playing the recorder is the guitar player. The bass player is also the violinist. The cello player is the keyboard player and the guy on vibes is the drummer. The singer and bass player/violinist are brothers.

    The musical virtuosity is incredible. Some of their songs are incredibly complex but this, I think, is a beautiful song. When they want to though – they can ROCK! While they’re all still alive, they disbanded around 1980. This was back in the mid 70’s, I think. Give it a spin – I’m always amazed at how many people never heard of them:

  7. … Cesaria Evora:

    found on one of my favorite blogs

    Had never heard her before.  I think I am in love.

    • snud on September 18, 2007 at 6:13 am

    what a beautifully written essay you did, HN!

    And now, if I may, I’d like to toot my nephew’s horn. He lives in London and is an absolutely amazing jazz guitarist and only 23 years old.

    You might recognize his friend standing to his left, (on the right, in the shot), Pat Metheny.

    Yeah. I’m jealous. 😉

    Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.com

  8. They will stop charging for online access to their stories and archives.  That should help us with both research and the ability to link to full articles instead of just teasers.

    Now back to our regularly scheduled thread.

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