J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Playlists, podcasts and music from WQFS Greensboro's J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Notes From Underground - #45
Singled Out

Maybe I was a sensitive child.

But I pin it all on "California Dreamin'" - the song that showed me that music didn't have to just be happy or sad, black or white. It's a song of melancholy and hope, desire and frustration, longing and self-deprecation. Though for me, it wasn't the lyrics, but the harmonies that seered themselves into my brain. The way the chorus would refuse to resolve itself in major chords, but preferred to traffic in minor ones, leaving the listener unsettled and unsure, was undoubtedly what made me fascinated with the song.

I hold the Mamas and the Papas responsible for my sincere love of music. "California Dreamin'" is the song I remember most consciously, most early in my life. There were songs I would sing along with on the radio, but none that made me feel like it did. I still don't know that I fully understand it.

The lyrics are troublesome. "I walked into a church / I passed along the way / and I got down on my knees / and I pretend to pray." Why does he pretend? Why does he bother? Is he there simply to hide from the cold, or is there something larger drawing him in? The preacher "likes the cold." Because it drives wayfaring strangers through his doors? Because it reminds him of just how far away from hell, or even from God, that he is? It's a song about compromise ("If I didn't tell her / I could leave today") and self-doubt. About questioning and bargaining. It's a song about being inherently human and young and fragile and frightened.

I know what the things are that drew me in about the song - both initially and now that I understand it a lot more. I forget how young I actually was when my mom bought me that cassette of songs that included "California Dreamin'," but I do know the song had a strange charm over me that hasn't abated over the years.

What did it for you? What pushed you into the open arms of music and never let you back out? What song, album, artist, vision, moment, etc. culled you from the crowd as one of music's select band? Most all people like music, but only some eat, sleep, breathe and devote great chunks of their waking hours to it, in one form or another. And odds are, if you're reading music blogs, you're one of those folks. So where did it start for you?

The Mamas and the Papas - "California Dreamin'"
(from If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears ; MCA ; 1966)

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  • At 8:19 AM, June 01, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well J, I'm a bit older than you, and here is my list. Starting in the late 60's - Beatles/Beach Boys, then CCR, then serious collection of Three Dog Night, then on to BTO, then my top dogs, LED ZEPPELIN (My first concert, in 1977 MSG in NYC).
    Chuck W from Albuquerque, NM

  • At 8:02 AM, June 09, 2008, Blogger aunt sassy said…

    1994 was the one year in particular when I came into my own, exploring and developing a musical tradition. I was 14 and had just moved in with my mom, who, unlike my dad, gave me the freedom to listen to my own music, even driving me to the record store in Tampa practically every month for collection expansion expeditions. Tampa was (and still is) also the home of WMNF 88.5, which I listened to religiously. I owe a lot of musical epiphanies to radio - one instance in particular comes to mind. My mom and I were in the car listening to the Sonic Detour show one afternoon, when "Undertow" from Lush's Split came on. I had no idea who they were, had never heard them before. But that heavy dolour, somehow flowing over so easily, counterbalanced by the lift of Miki Berenyi's angelic voice was just so mesmerizing. Who can say why or how, some things just bring your blood up to the surface. I guess I got addicted to having those serendipitous connections, those heartstopping moments, always spontaneous and unexpectedly captivating.


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