Back-Catalogue Shopping #2: So How’s That Celibacy Coming?


Last month, I launched my new Music Column on VoiceOfRuss and for February’s edition, I decided to combine my thoughts on music with another article I wrote in December of 2011.  Here goes…

 

So, it’s nearly been two months since I took a vow of celibacy.  Inspired by the “Manbattical” taken by comedian, Claire Brousseau, I decided that taking one full year to clear the decks, and my head, would give me some clarity in moving forward with relationships that might come up in the years ahead.

So, this “Female Furlough,” if you will is an interval to reflect and make some decisions free from wanton desire, conflicted feelings or outside influence.

Now, one of the reasons I wanted to put together this particular Back-Catalogue Shopping article was to share a revelation of mine about a collateral effect of the break-up.

This revelation is a terrible thing, I warn you.  I believe it to be worse than the actual break-up.  It’s not something you notice in the heat of the disintegration.

You notice it later.  You don’t like it.  But it’s a fact.

 

You have not only lost a girlfriend/wife/FWB.

 

You have lost a band.

 

No longer will that certain song or that certain group come on the radio or show up in the shuffle on your iPod without associating the song with her.  The song may remain the same, but you aren’t.

Michael Stipe once told a story about being a teenager and dating a girl in his high school who was madly in love with.  However, they broke up and while he was listening to the radio, a song came on that reminded him of her and he collapsed into a fit of tears.  Just as he recovered from that, another song on the radio evoked her memory and another bout of tears ensued.  He was very nearly wept out when after the fifth song the radio offered, he thought, “Hey, I’m being manipulated here.”  And young Michael learns his first lesson in mass-market radio.

So, for the good of your mental health, I advise, nay encourage you to let it go.  Songs with an association to past loves only stir up an ugliness that will make you less-than-fetching for the next wonderful one who most certainly will be perfect for you and not like the others.  At all.

If it helps – and indeed I would not be where I am today without an intense sense of public service – allow me to present, and perhaps excise, my own …

 

Top 5 Songs Lost To Love.

Seals & Crofts - Greatest Hits

Seals & Crofts - Greatest Hits

Number 5  
Diamond GirlSeals & Crofts

Jim Seals and Dash Crofts paved a road of soft tarmacadam through the 1970’s. Hits like Closer To You and Summer Breeze proliferated AM radio charts and for awhile their toe-tapping, middle-of-the-road-yet-never-struck-by-any-of-the-traffic-that-must-have-been-whizzing-past-them-at-surely-breakneck-speeds was a staple office pop.

Me personally, I never had much regard for Seals & Crofts other than knowing their names and hearing their choruses show up in Time-Life compilation commercials.  I was always an England Dan & John Ford Coley man, myself.

Sindee Lew was born at the tail of their musical stardom yet became an aficionado of their non-offensive pleasant melodies. So when we started dating, her love of their Diamond Girl album certainly raised no offense in me.

No, I think it was more her assertion that 6 million Jews killed in the Second World War “weren’t all Jews. They just had Jewish names.”  When I first heard her offer this to history, I thought about asking if the Gays killed had “gay names” or if the mentally handicapped had “mentally handicapped names” but I quickly remembered that the Nazis were, to be fair, ruthlessly efficient at chronicling their atrosity.

So, the fact that Sindee Lew thought the holocaust was a bit of a clerical error, well, I’m sure you can understand how I can’t listen to Diamond Girl anymore. It’s not their fault. But I still prefer It’s Sad To Belong by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

 

Duran Duran - Come Undone (single)

Duran Duran - Come Undone (single)

Number 4
Come UndoneDuran Duran

I went through an unfortunate period in my life when I had a tremendous distaste for “Self-Help-Wellness Coaches.”  It was mostly fuelled by one coach in particular who was extracting $4000 from my girlfriend Emily in exchange for offering her home truths and common sense parables designed for Emily to help herself.

As the sessions proceeded, Emily’s helpful advice involved an instruction to not date anyone.  So, I was looking not long for this relationship and I reacted with some level of alarm.  I tried several approaches to undermine the philosophical quackery I saw being repeated verbatim from across our couch.

After four months, the twice-weekly sessions ended with a giant group hug to an extended 10-minute play of Duran Duran’s Come Undone.  At it’s original runtime of 4 minutes and 30 seconds the song seemed well long but now this version prolonged my agony not dissimilar from my prolonged showing of the door.

In retrospect, I was extremely tapered in my thinking on all this.  I should have asked more questions. Emily told me about what she learned about expectations, for herself and of others.  When someone acts in a way that we don’t like, is that their problem or is it our problem for expecting certain things?  Well, it’s a broad question and one not answered here.  But Emily did teach me this.  I spent too many years thinking I was a Knight in Shining Armour coming to a rescue.  It was humbling to be revealed as an idiot in tinfoil.

 

The Waifs - London Still (single)

The Waifs - London Still (single)

Number 3
London StillThe Waifs

I barely had this song introduced to me before I found myself loathing its existence.  My time with Famke was a flare of tremendous brilliance yet breviloquent term.  I loved her taste in music because it was so differently scoped from mine and she introduced me to sounds, rhythms and styles I probably would not have discovered through my own preferences.

Before a business trip that would take me out of town for a week, she surprised me with a mix-CD of tracks she heard me comment upon and other things she thought I would assimilate to my appreciation.

The first track on the disc was London Still by the Waifs.  It’s lyric, “I hope you’re gonna wanna hang at my place on Sunday” became our shorthand reference for those week-end mornings.  “I think of songs I’ve never heard” was another line from the song that served as her theme for the track selection.  Made in a hurry though, she didn’t include a track listing with the disc so as I listened to the songs, I didn’t know any of the titles or artists but still became immersed in the aural fixation.

When I got home from this trip, Famke didn’t meet me at the airport. I would later learn that a relationship has slid into a particular type of unfeeling when your “loved” one doesn’t meet you at an airport.

When I got back to my apartment, I called to no answer.  Later in the evening, she called to say she was leaving.  Moving to another province. To be with someone else.  I wish I could say I saw clues, but I didn’t.  I was hurt, devastated, then angry.  Angry not at her leaving, but at her for allowing me to spend money funding her solo trips to Prague and Toronto.

Then I was rightfully angry at myself.  Maybe I lavished that money as proof of how much I cared for her. Maybe that’s why she left.  I may never know. But maybe I do.

 

Alan Parsons Project - Stereotomy

The Alan Parsons Project - Stereotomy

Number 2
StereotomyThe Alan Parsons Project

Easily the most obscure track on this list, but I didn’t say this was a Time-Life Collection now, did I?

For the intellectually flirtatious among you, stereotomy appeared a word in Edgar Allen Poe‘s Murder at the Rue Morgue and is defined as the science (or indeed, art) of cutting solids into certain figures. For example, forming stone into an arch, and the like. Stonecutting being the most prolific of its practice. In the case of this volume of 7 songs offered on cassette and vinyl in 1985, the Alan Parsons Project chose to take the solid foundation of standard R&B and shape with tools like Art Rock and Classical notions to form a bent concept album about the pressures of fame shaping the artist.

In 1985, I hoped to shape a relationship with Bonnie. We met in Grade 10 and by Grade 12, I was smitten with her when I found out she shared my musical interest in The Alan Parsons Project and Supertramp.  In the Fall of 1985, the APP issued what would be their penultimate recording of largely radio un-friendly songs that were mainly of appeal to those of us who found the band at their best when they weren’t being all Eye in the Sky about it. Bonnie and I would talk about what we liked about the record and we both agreed that having Procol Harum‘s Gary Brooker guest on the record to sing Limelight was a great move. He certainly was the most high-profile vocalist entreated by the band since Colin Blunstone (ex of The Zombies, Time of the Season).

Yes it was all going so well and I thought that the time had come to finally screw my courage to the sticking point. Why there is anyone’s guess as I was certainly in need of it to ask Emily out.  I had never asked anyone out before and really had no sense of the right words to make such a thing come to pass in a way beneficial to both our desires, but as you might have noticed it was early days and I would venture to boast that I’ve progressed somewhat since that hapless time.

Anyway, long story short, my vacillating over the gaining the nerve to ask to a dance gave my classmate, Tobin, enough time to ask her out ahead of me.  The ship had sailed and I missed it.  I can listen still, you may be dismayed to know, to the Alan Parson Project and much of their vast catalogue however Stereotomy is an album I prefer to skip.

 

Eric Clapton - Wonderful Tonight

Eric Clapton - "Wonderfuld"?!? Tonight

Number 1
Wonderful Tonight Eric Clapton

This was a staple of FM radio through the late 1970’s and 80’s falling into that category of music, “Classic Rock.”  According to Wikipedia, it was written as ode to Pattie Boyd (a muse who previously inspired Something for George Harrison), as Clapton composed the lyrics after watching her get ready for a party at Paul McCartney‘s house in 1976.  In June of 2005, the song was re-imagined by long-time Ricky Gervais foil, Karl Pilkington.  On their London-based Xfm radio show, Pilkington played Wonderful Tonight and over top of the song explained to Ricky that to him, the song was about a man in a wheelchair who needed help getting around a party.

My own association extends back to my very first girlfriend.  She wasn’t the first person I had a date with – there were 2 (count ’em – TWO) girls before that – however she was the first serious relationship I had.  Florence was a meteoric presence in my life, rapidly entering and engulfing me with the wonders of womanhood, to be polite about it.

And like Slow Hand, I too, had a night when I found myself enraptured by the site of Florence transforming herself from her daily “This is good enough for work” make-up routine to her “We’re going out so I want to look good” regimen.  I found Florence pretty regardless of what she did for gussying-up purposes as she had a wonderful quirky charm about her.  I guess I must have heard the song on the radio one night as we were heading out the door because the song stuck with me and that memory for almost the entire time we dated.

However, when we broke up a five days before Feb 14 because she told me she’d been sleeping with my best friend at the time, well, you can see how the shine would come off a tune in that way.

 

REPRISE

So as to not leave things in a state of despair or sad-sackedness, let me tell you about the positives that I’ve taken with me from these lost loves (and songs).

5.  Sindee Lew taught me about facing down a phobia I have over trying new foods.  She helped me find “Courage through fear,” as I called it, and it’s opened up an ability to try new things and not be so reticent.

4.  Emily taught me about expectations, about myself and for others.  I’ve tried to be realistic most days, and it hasn’t always worked out. But I try.

3.  Famke brought me out of a small-town shell to make me see that I can go out into the world.  A lesson 10 years later in learning than would have been best.  However, for a short time, she held my hand once and it seemed like I was capable and the possible was within reach.

2. “Fortune favours the bold,” as Kevin Smith once quoted and although that’s not always true, it’s better than what became my usual tact.

1.  You never forget your first.  Nor should you.

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