“tell me about a moment, a song
and what it meant to you”
Context: After 4 years of living in Los Angeles, I was in a rut. Feeling stuck, like I wasn’t moving forward, and wasn’t moving backwards. “Pale blinds drawn all day / Nothing to do, nothing to say / Blue, blue” I had just been laid off from what at the time I considered to be a dream job as an executive at a major record label. I needed something to push me forward in the direction I needed to go, but so many of my fears of failure and rejection due to the recent bout with my expendability in my career, kept me from seeing that direction. I had a friend who was an avid skydiver and had been trying to convince me to go, and me being terrified of heights(as well as everything else) laughed at her. A re-occurring nightmare of mine was me falling downwards through the sky.
One night, I was driving home from a weak interview for a job I really couldn’t get excited about, and this song came on. The beginning where it sounds like a descent and the lyrics “I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision / And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision / Drifting into my solitude, over my head” changed my decision about skydiving. In right then and there, all of a sudden I could see myself happily free falling and I got the most intense feeling of freedom. I called my friend and told her to sign me up for the following weekend. And I did it. This song was a sign, a wake up call. I was “waiting for my gift of Sound and Vision” and there it was.
Result: I did the one thing that I feared most in life, falling, I jumped out of a plane from 13,000 feet in the air but this time I landed safely. It was the most intense feeling of freedom and strength. I proved to myself that I am capable of ANYTHING. The strength that I would never open up to before, emerged. The following week I landed what is ACTUALLY my dream job at an independent record label, helping musicians make a living and get the exposure they want for their music without getting screwed by corporate label executives. I was going against every job I had once held, but I took a chance and I, as well as the label, are creatively and passionately thriving now. I face everything that comes to me, and look for chances. I’m not afraid anymore because I’ve already done what scares me most and I survived. When I hear this song now I automatically flash back to not just the dive, but the moment that I realized that I needed to do it and that instant sense of strength and freedom that I have had ever since I made that one decision because of that song.
Context: Atlanta, GA: Imagine a sunny, hot, humid, July day in in the year 1992. I was barely 16, armed with a drivers license, and the sense of freedom (both literal and metaphorical) that comes with it. I had made a deal with my parents that if they would help me out financially with getting a car that I would, in turn, cut my hair. It was on the way back from getting this haircut that I (woops) ran a red light and crashed into a brand new BMW operated by a yuppie soccer mom. America’s “A Horse With No Name” was playing on the classic rock station as my brakes locked up and I skidded through the intersection awaiting impact.
Result: I can’t hear that song without a) cringing, and b) turning it off. Anyway, America were Neil Young rip offs, and I, obviously, had no business behind the wheel of a car.
Context: Seattle 1997, 3am. Listening to community radio (KEXP) driving around in the rain. Right up the street where Kurt purchased the weapon that would end his life. That area always seemed to be surreal in itself, and that night was no exception. When the radio is turned on and all of us are immediately locked into the speakers with the opening drone “ahhh the ocean, I lost you“.
Result: We didn’t speak or move until the song let up. The DJ came on after the song and said that was a track from a great Northwest band called Jessamine. This song gave me the same sensation of what it was like to play music. I became hooked on what seemed like my own little secret band. The band has since broke up, but they will always be a personal favorite that I would like to share with anyone willing to listen.
Context: Though his last few releases have been hit or miss Ben Harper’s 1997 album ‘The Will To Live’ carries itself as a strong set, one which introduced Harper to a wider audience as it was his first ever charting release. One of the most touching and inspiring songs on the album is “Glory & Consequence;” in it Harper battles his own insecurities and confronts his fears – something that I’ve found great solace in over the years. One of the most difficult things that a person has to confront is losing love and without any reservation, I associate this song with those feelings. Mere months after graduating high school, I found myself in a new country, deep in a stranglehold of love. I look back, having recently found myself feeling those emotions again and again found reprieve in Harper’s words, “I would rather me be lonely and you have someone to hold / I’m not as scared of dying as I am of growing old.“
Result: Something deep beneath the surface of Harper’s lyrics is a sound that comforts me and that sentiment is no more truthful than with this song. “Glory and Consequence” is a song that I first heard driving around one night knowing that things were souring with my girlfriend and it consoled me, helping me understand that the feelings I had were normal and it was alright to let go. Now I find myself letting go again and the soundtrack, it seems, hasn’t changed.
Context: I met a girl a few years ago who was in a fairly dark place, having just emerged from the long, slow, tortuous demise of a five year relationship that had been finally put to death only a few weeks earlier. We met in London, although she was an Edinburgh girl, got completely plastered and ended up in bed together. Insisting that she just wanted a fling, we arranged to go out to my folks’ house in France for a long weekend (1p flights on Ryanair) in about a month’s time, but we were so excited we just couldn’t wait. A bank holiday happened to fall two weeks prior to our arranged date and, unable to restrain ourselves any more, I hopped on a train up to Edinburgh that Friday. We were both so nervous we drank ourselves silly and neither of us can really remember our first proper night together at all.
The following morning, after a long, slow, and deeply naughty few hours in bed we were sitting in the bath where we had been arguing about politics – classic first date stuff, of course. Anyhow, we both agreed on many things, but it was our mutual ability to argue our points on the things on which we disagreed and a disinclination to back down just to please the other that had us both rosy cheeked and grinning with satisfaction as the conversation quietened down. In that lull, on came Fresh Feeling with its perfectly appropriate lyrics: “Try, try to forget/ what’s in the past/ tomorrow is here./ Love, orange sky above/ lighting your way/ there’s nothing to fear” before breaking into the chorus: “Words can’t be that strong/ my heart is reeling/ this is that fresh/ that fresh feeling.” Having talked ourselves out we just sat there in the cooling bathwater unable to do anything but hold hands and grin at one another like fools.
Result: Well, maybe things could have turned out better. But buggered if I know how!
Context: In preparation for a long coach journey on a college trip to Paris, I carefully taped a couple of my ‘Ministry Of Sound’ compilations onto cassettes (Everyone seemed to be listening to that kind of music at the time). Then as an after-thought I packed a cassette my dad had made of The Beatles’ Blue Album (I guess I was wondering what all the fuss was with that Liverpool band from the 60s). Halfway through the picturesque French countryside, the coach broke down and we were all confined in our painfully small seats for nearly four hours. So I took out my cassette player, put on The Beatles and soon became lost in the magical productions and psychedelic imagery.
I distinctly remember one song on the album that I played and played during my stay in Paris (I probably almost wore the tape out) and that was ‘The Fool On The Hill’. I spent hours trying in vain to fathom the meaning of the words. Was it about a real person, a religious figure, a politician, a pop-star? I never managed to put my finger on it and perhaps I never will, but it’s fun trying to work it out.
Result: After exploring the huge Beatles catalogue I inevitably went onto Oasis, then Led Zeppelin, Manic Street Preachers, The White Stripes, Morrissey etc. Now I’m totally hooked on music and addicted to finding new and exciting artists. It’s all thanks to ‘The Fool On The Hill’ for showing me how a song can completely capture your imagination. Incidentally those ‘Ministry Of Sound’ compilations never came out of the boxes and never have since.
artwork by kathleen lolley