Eat My Dust…
You Insensitive Fuck. Or, ‘Where’s your tambourine?!?!!’
The former, a great tune by Catherine Wheel and the now solo Rob Dickinson. The latter we will get to in a moment.
CW is, in my mind, one of the great British rock bands come out of the 90’s, and, Dickinson still one of the best voices in rock. If you don’t know them – try ’em – look them up on whatever music service you use. Stylistically, they walked the fence between heavier rock and a sort of shoegaze influenced by later Talk Talk, among others. While the 1990’s production of the original recordings leaves something to be desired, the songs are great.
I’m struck again by how strong a memory trigger music can be. Songs can take me back to specific times and places. This is something of a miracle for me – bad memory. The aforementioned song and others like ‘Heal’ represent a time and people who now belong to my past self. A self, by the way, that did not know what it had…or perhaps had brief glimpses, but missed the bigger picture.
Thankfully, that self that no longer exists. Self-absorbed, ungrateful and wasteful. I’m working on it.
This song instantly triggers a bewildering barrage of memory and feeling. Perhaps this is both the joy and pain of being blessed with long life (here’s hoping). Much like our palate develops a taste for things complex and rich, as we age bittersweet memories become more frequent and precious. While moving on to new and better things is necessary, as time passes, looking back is crucial.
Music has been a part of me since I was very young, and I would not be who I am today without it. I’ve believed it to be among the highest forms of human expression, and, despite our current mainstream culture devaluing it beyond imagining, still feel the same. Songs, like smells, are intense memory triggers, and can take me back to the time I’d first heard them and (more importantly) to the people I shared it with.
1995. Heal is released as part of Catherine Wheels record, Happy Days. I was working at a record store, playing music and pretty much nothing else mattered. I had good friends, and was a part of a community of musicians. I was very fortunate. An inspired time – this is where I first heard CW, and when I met some of the most generous, talented and interesting people I have known.
Now -fast forward about 10 years- here’s my early 00’s, carefully disheveled self in my corporate cube managing a team of people who liked being there even less than I did…still playing music with people I’d known for years, now all seasoned musicians. This band was the one for me – where I had some real moments, by the way – The kind you only get thrice in a lifetime.
In a moment of misdirected (triggered by one bandmates email regarding rehearsal schedules) angst drawn on a reserve of loyalty and protectiveness for my band, music, and some elusive and barely sketched ideal, I wrote what may be the funniest and meanest email I can recall writing…of course, I no longer have the email but let’s just say it was clever (surprisingly), mean (less surprising) and openly hostile in a way that was not deserved. I tapped into my angry nerd/inner labrador, and fired off a brief message I simply would never be able to recreate with planning and forethought. I do recall referencing D&D with my signoff…May the Sun always shine on your +5 Longsword of Mirth. Seriously, I don’t know.
He quit, immediately, via email.
My bandmates laughed at the email, and likely commented on my being a jerk.
Fast forward to 2007, when I went to see Dickinson play at a club in Scottsdale. Our band was opening with an acoustic set, so drums weren’t needed. Early on, I see our old bandmate with another old friend and approach to say hello. I’ve not seen him since before the ridiculous email months? years? before. When I approach, he turns and yells “Where’s your tambourine?!?” Realizing my mistake I simply turn and go back the way I came, hearing him yell again at my back the question meant to illuminate the fact that I was not worthy as a musician or person, so was relegated to the bar. Not the stage. Maybe he was right.
How is this important? Why so much emotion around what seems a long dead and decidedly silly ordeal?
You see, I thought I was defending my band – protecting what was most sacred – and, so justified in my meanness. I thought this was clear – being self-absorbed – I was a champion for those dedicated to making music instead of watching football.
Nope. I was just a dick.
The incident represents this period in my life accurately, and I am reminded of those people who are no longer a part of it. Sad. Though, I did laugh recalling the email – being honest.
At it’s best – like people – music can show us how good we can be. Revealing a glimpse of a potential otherwise not on offer….this is what it is for me. Then, I wanted desperately to represent that ideal. Wanted to be like my friends, whom I adored and revered in my own failing way. I am grateful. For music. And for everyone who was there when it started. I never showed them what they meant to me. That’s what listening to ‘Heal’ feels like.
It’s just a song from a long dead band, right?