February 8, 2011

See, that’s what I love about music. You can be going about your daily business, not giving a tinker’s cuss about anything except the mundane activity at hand, lost in your own private Idaho, and then – WHAM! – a freakin’ song comes on and you’re transported back in time to an entirely different time, place and feel. Y’all know what I’m talking about, so don’t give The Great White Shank no jive.

That’s what happened Sunday night: Tracey was mindlessly flipping through the channels while I’m cleaning the kitchen and gearing myself up for the official transition from weekend to work mode and my upcoming call to chastise the India team for not responding to client e-mails in a timely enough manner when she comes across the movie “Goodfellas” (one of the all-time greats, BTW…). It was one of the early scenes, introduced by The Chantels’ marvelous “Look In My Eyes”, and all of a sudden, my mind is transported to being a young kid sitting in the backseat of my parents’ car as we’re driving through Chelsea or East Boston or Somerville – one of the cities just outside Boston. I can see my parents as they were then, sitting up front. I can see my brothers all dressed up properly and fidgeting, and I’m looking out the window at the houses and businesses passing before my eyes.

What does it mean, I wonder? Why that song and why that particular memory? Could it have been our car radio playing that song at a moment in time I remember? It came out in 1961, so I would have been six years old. Perhaps, more likely, the song just triggers some composite of memories all tied together through the transcendent quality of music. Whatever, it sure had a powerful impact on me, to the point where the best I could do was just give India the benefit of the doubt – like that great scene in “Life of Brian” where the centurion says to Brian after he’s been forced to paint “Romans Go Home” one hundred times on the side of a building, “Now don’t do it again!” I mean, thanks to The Chantels I was practically jelly.

Sure, some might chalk it up to pure sentimentality and/or just getting old and remembering only the good times, but dammit, I’m glad I was born when I was and grew up in the times I did and where I did. I’d make a rotten kid today – sure, I could listen to Katy Perry and probably tolerate Lady Gaga, but 95.4% of the music today is spelled N-O-I-S-E and sung (if you want to use that phrase) by no-talent bums who, were it not for the magic of technology, would be selling pencils on street corners or doing twenty to life in Sing Sing. It’s awful. It’s coarse, jarring, primarily negative, and hard the ears. It sucks.

I mean, I’m no monument to objectivity, but listen to the sound of “Look In My Eyes”: The Chantels are not the greatest vocalists in the world, but the song oozes passion and romance and joy and love (not sex). We’re not talking about jumping someone’s bones in the back seat of a car. Maybe somewhere down the line, for sure, but for right now, we’re talking love, romance, commitment, and trust. Listen to the opening, the strings playing their descending lines positively drenched in echo. Listen to the vibraphone accenting every down beat. Listen to how each of The Chantels take a word when they sing “darling, I’ll be gone gone gone gone” as the strings climb up the same line they descended down from. Finally, listen to fade-out where the strings are followed by cellos playing the same descending line. It’s beautiful, really. But more than that, it oozes what long-time and long-departed Boston radio personality Bill Marlowe used to call “taste, class, and appreciation”.

Will people one hundred years from now remember The Chantels? I doubt it. But while I’m living and breathing on this earth, and as I’m settling easily into my wicker patio chair on a cool, clear, and quiet Arizona evening to sip a Johnny Walker Red nitecap and stare at that streetlight on the next street over, I do as I’m transported back in time to a time and place where this kid felt both loved and secure in his surroundings. I wonder how many kids these days will be able to say that forty years down the line?

S**t, am I lucky.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:59 | Comments Off on Transcendence
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