I’ve been learning a lot lately about Rock& Roll for someone who purports to have a blog about that nebulous subject. Most of which is in preparation for some fiction pieces soon to be completed, involving that very subject matter. If you were carefully studying my previous works (and, let’s be honest with each other, you’re not so you’d simply have to be me) you would see the obvious hand of music guiding a large amount of my fiction. There was a period of time where I had a band, and we made music influenced by a particular band, which was certainly influenced by other musicians in ways I didn’t understand at all. Influences which I’m still finding out.
There’s a keyboard sitting in my small apartment, and I think I’ve already busted one of the springs (or whatever) makes the keys weighted. Yes it is from being incompetent at the keyboard and just pounding away at times when I needed a break or something. I barely know how to play the instrument, and the comparisons to the little amount of French I retained from the mandatory lessons I had in high school keep coming at me whenever I listen to particular songs, or hear that particular accent that reminds me why I was attracted to the angular lightness of a woman speaking French, and a distorted bass, with a burning guitar competing with an erudite, nasal voice. These experiences inform my decisions and forays into art, and to languages of expression. Music is a different form of language, something that I’m very clumsy with and slowly learning to produce on my own. Someday I will record an albums worth of songs I’ll be proud of, and my wife will smile and tell me it is beautiful, and I’ll know it to be true (my kids, will fight back their rolling eyes at Dad’s barely on-key crooning, and fat fingered piano performance). Someday I’ll actually read Le Petit Prince in its native tongue, without translation.
When an influence of an artist I admire and use as inspiration is uncovered, something magical occurs: something akin to understanding “le pamplemousse” without translating it with context and English, or understanding the notes and chords that create a riff in a particular part of a song. Even more rarely, uncovering one influence will lead to the unlocking of understanding in a number of places, like stalled fiction, old albums, and assumed knowledge of the pervasion of particular rock legends. All of which leads up to one of my longest held, and least acknowledged secrets of my rock & roll experience, part of which—a very small part—I was able to begin rectifying today. This particular secret is that I’ve never listened to any Bob Dylan album (aside from singles on jukeboxes or the radio) until today.
Of course, I’m sure I share that shame with some folks, who also have had him pushed by friends and such, yet never needed to seek out the material. This afternoon, I understood for the first time how “Blonde on Blonde” anchors every song on Nada Surf’s Let Go, what problems still exist for Sean Nelson with “Problems and Bigger Ones”, and maybe an extra insight to The Long Winters’ “Scent of Lime”. Connections were made in my own fiction, allowing me to move beyond a block thanks to the latter song blossoming into a completely new object. Old songs became brand new, and things sounded different; my universe shifted. This afternoon I understood what The Big Deal Is with Bob Dylan, and took a small step towards understanding the grapefruit.