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tuning fork

a present for your friends to open

So this morning I realized that I have a "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" story—not a personal anecdote that resembles or reflects in any way the lyrics of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", but rather a personal anecdote about the song and what I guess I'd call my "relationship" to it—and it occurred to me that I wanted to tell it. I heard the song this morning on the radio—Nicole had used the car last and she had left it on the classic rock station and, when I started the car, I heard literally the last few words of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and then the lovely opening chords of "Goodbye [etc]" and my first thought was, predictably, ah, the morning DJ is having a little thematic fun and it reminded me all in an instant—does this happen to you? the thing where you have a memory that spans a snapshot-unfriendly stretch of time and space sort of flood your head all at once, as though you could compress a two-hour film into a single silent photograph and look at it and still have it carry every bit of nuance and impact?—of how years ago, I made mix CDs for the morning staff at the public library to listen to before we opened: everyone nominated "their" song and I downloaded them off of, god, it must have been Morpheus or Kazaa, and tried to make a mix that flowed nicely, but sometimes it was impossible so I just bumped songs together that had some sort of semantic commonality (and now I cannot remember the specific songs; I only remember that someone noticed this, which was gratifying in a tiny way).

Then I thought I'll make this song "my jam"—I use that relatively new online thing called "This Is My Jam" which is ostensibly a way to share music with people, only no one I know who uses the thing actually listens to other people's "jams"; they just use it to broadcast whatever song they're digging at the moment (I include myself in this), which is relatively pointless, but it's ultimately a social toy, and they're all inherently pointless, aren't they? But then I thought that "Goodbye [etc]" is, well, a pretty middle-of-the-road sort of song: my tastes are generally pretty eclectic and, frankly, I thought I might take some shit—even if it went unuttered—for genuinely liking a song that—ghasp!—your or my parents or grandparents or their dentists might have liked; it is a good—no, great—song and it makes complete and utter sense that it would appeal to all sorts of people, regardless of where they sit on the cultural spectrum, and it speaks to my essential insecurity that I'd even consider such a thing, much less consider it a deterrent to sharing my enthusiasm for the song.

But then I realized that my attachment to the song is—well, I hesitate to use the word "interesting"—something of a psychic snapshot I'd like to preserve beyond the confines of a 140-character blurt on Twitter or a simple reposting of the song on Tumblr or whatever, whatever. So I thought about writing it here—I debated it, actually; I sort of went over the whole "continued viability/purpose of LiveJournal" thing in my head, as I do whenever I think about writing here (so many posts have died before they were born!)—and now I'm at work and relatively unencumbered and so here we are, and here it is:

Of course I'd been exposed to the song before that particular summer—my parents listened to nothing, apart from the occasional soundtrack cassette (I believe I covered this here, albeit ages ago), in the car but the classic rock station, and I can't not have heard it—but that summer was when I really dug into it, like burrowed into it like a tiny hungry worm and found comfort and nourishment in it. We had just moved, and I was in mourning—I wouldn't have called it that at the time, but that's exactly what it was—for the friends I'd left behind and felt I'd more or less lost forever. And so I spent day after day in one of the rooms upstairs (a two-story house! practically a palace!) sitting in front of our gigantic, utterly beige IBM PS/2, writing letters to and stories about (seriously! what a dumb kid) my friends that were never meant to be read by anyone. And in this room was my parents' gigantic and, even then, antique (it had only a turntable and an FM receiver) stereo, and from their very limited stash of records I plucked an Elton John "greatest hits" album and wore the fucking grooves off it.

My parents' "stash" (why use that word, when their tastes were not at all secret or subversive?—because they kept their records in a dingy little cabinet under a sink, that's why; they could not be any more literally stashed away) of records was pretty pitiful, honestly. They didn't even have Whipped Cream and Other Delights and I thought that record just appeared by magic if you owned even one piece of vinyl; there were a few of Creedence's not-so-great albums, some soundtracks (two copies of the original Star Wars double soundtrack album), a couple of those "your favorite hits as performed by much more affordable musicians" albums, and that was pretty much it—I was lucky to find the Elton John, still in its record-store shrinkwrap (!).

The stereo was on the other side of the room from the computer desk, and I was lazy, so I'd only go over there to flip the disc, which meant even though I would have liked nothing more than to have listened to "Goodbye [etc]" and maybe "Rocket Man" over and over and over, I couldn't and didn't (plus I hated the imprecision of the needle drop; I loved the organic fade-in of a new track), so there was a real sense of anticipation involved when listening to this album, writing my dumb pre-teenage shit, and playing creaky MS-DOS games.

It wasn't a particularly happy time, but it's a memory I'm happy to have, if that makes sense. It does not necessarily feel good to long for something, especially if that something is thought to be, essentially, lost forever, but it can and does feel good to rub the texture of the memory of that longing, even if the person who did that longing, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists.