18 June 2009


After a beautiful sunny day of 79°F. and 50% humidity, it is raining heavily again tonight with lightening and thunder.

Something only indirectly related to México. . . . . . . . . .

The slowing of the pace of life has so many unexpected consequences, small but delightful consequences. One of those consequences for me is the true enjoyment for the first time of two quite old, popular music albums. After thinking about it for a time, what I initially thought a small consequence is not so small after all.

My mornings currently are leisurely affairs. The first task upon awaking is to make a pot of coffee and drink a cup. Then I have a little fruit. I wash the dirty dishes and pots from the previous evening's meal. I have another cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal and contemplate my wardrobe. I might write a little bit for the blog at some point in there while having another cup of coffee or some juice. I then shower up, brush my teeth, and ponder the wardrobe even more seriously. After getting some clean clothes on, I usually sit in the sun while my hair dries and listen to music on the iPod. That is precisely what has brought about this phenomenon I am writing about now.

Blonde on Blonde was a big, big album for Bob Dylan back in the mid-sixties. I am writing this without a connection to the internet. My recollection is that I was either a senior in high school or a freshman in college when this album came out. In any event, I purchased it immediately upon its first appearance. Many, many times over the succeeding years, I had heard songs from that album. It was not until just a couple of days ago sitting out there in my folding chair in the Mexican sun that I first really listened to that album in its entirety. It was a fascinating experience.

After listening to the first three or four tunes on Blonde on Blonde--you will recall that the first one is Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35, an anthem that I have almost by heart—I was electrified. I use that word realizing that I am at risk of sounding overly dramatic. There are great, great tunes on this album that I had literally never really heard before, even though the damned album has been a part of my life for over forty years.

I listened to the whole album straight through, which is a lot of music given that this is a double album. I got a bit burned, as a matter of fact. It became apparent to me that I had not heard these other songs from this album before because either I had not had enough time truly to listen or I could not listen attentively because I was distracted by other things—you know—life in the fast lane. Drinking took up a lot of time, too.

I did always appreciate that Blonde on Blonde is a classic pop record album. I have now had a chance to listen to this classic pop record album.

There is a second old pop record album in a different category in my own experience. It is Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. This is an album nearly as old as Blonde on Blonde. I believe that it came out about four years later. I had never owned this album, however, until earlier this year. During one marriage or another I have owned every other early Van Morrison album.

When I look at the cover of Astral Weeks I am transported back to my undergraduate days. Back then it seemed as if everyone I knew had this album in their stack. I have this picture of it sitting around in various friends' apartments in Iowa City. But the thing is, nobody ever listened to it back then. It was an indispensable part of many folks' record collections, but it was certainly not an indispensable album to listen to apparently.

I myself had never heard the thing until I purchased it this year, I swear. Now, and as with Blonde on Blonde, I have had a chance to listen to this album without being rushed and without being distracted. It is a masterpiece. I had been missing a wonderful musical experience that was sitting there under my nose but that I had been ignoring for decades.

I would still be missing the true experience of these two bodies of music were it not for my mornings in Mexico now. Perhaps my newfound delight with these two pop record albums does not alone totally justify my leisurely mornings in Mexico, but from my point of view it comes very close.


Anonymous said...

Steve, I just discovered Astral Weeks in the last few weeks thanks to satellite radio, and Morrison doing a 40th anniversary performance of it or somesuch in L.A.

You're right. Masterpiece.

Keep writing.


Sheila said...

Another Van the Man fan here.

Yes certain albums do transport you back to certain eras and points, places, people inyour life. A big one for me is Bowie's Alladin Sane and Ziggy Stardust albums. University days, seeing the Ziggy tour - wow! Aaaah memories!

Barb said...

I still very clearly remember walking into a record shop my freshman year in college, hearing Bringing It All Back Home and being utterly mesmerized. I had no record player in my dorm yet, so I played it in the big lobby area where everyone sat with their families and boyfriends. This was at very conservative Purdue University. After that, of course, I had to find a record player and moved on to Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. I listened to them until I wore them out. Life intervened, not much listening to Dylan, until my son was in high school and discovered him. Then, we drove along in the car singing Dylan songs together and I became famous as the mother who knew all the words to Subterranean Blues. We still talk about each new Dylan cd that comes out. But, nothing quite equals those 3 folk rock albums.

Señor Steve said...

Mike, it was after reading an article somewhere about the anniversary of the release of Astral Weeks that I sprung for it.

Sheila, the David Bowie thing was just a bit past my prime, although I know many people younger than I like you who are very sentimentally attached to that guy.

Purdue University, Barb? Why didn't I know that? That is very interesting.

If you know the words to Subterranean Homesick Blues, I will be very impressed. I cannot get by "Johnny's in the basement mixin' up the medicine; I'm on the pavement thinking 'bout the government." I'm warning you. The next time I see you, I am going to test you on this.

It would be fun to watch that old Bob Dylan movie again. I need to look into that.