Song Of The Day 3/4/2017: Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians – “Ride”

The Final 26

He Knows Not What It Means

The first time I heard Nirvana’s Nevermind I thought they sounded like the Pixies. I guess that’s kind of what they were going for. Watching their popular ascent from the Bay Area was like seeing validation of everything we’d been talking about in hushed whispers for the previous ten years—the indecipherable lyrics on the first pressings of R.E.M.’s Murmur, the knuckleball emotions of Hüsker Dü, the Replacements struggling to stand up straight in concert. It was heartening to see mass response to the kind of music that we’d had faith in for a long time.

But of course there was the flip side, that commercial popularity was no barometer for much of anything besides revenue. The soundtrack to The Bodyguard was about to be huge too, although I’m thankful it made Nick Lowe rich. Still, there was some sort of cultural shift apparent after Nevermind had happily introduced a wide cross-section of teenies to the joys of cynicism.

I’d been aware of something happening in Seattle for a few months, mainly through indoctrinating myself with the Posies’ Dear 23 album. That just sounded like everything I’d ever wanted to hear from pop music shoved onto one disc.

My other big album during this time was Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians’ Perspex Island. I’d bought their album Fegmania! roughly around the time it came out. I also acquired Globe of Frogs at some point, and really loved the solo acoustic Eye. But Perspex Island—which is probably not one of his uppermost acclaimed albums, or maybe it is and I just haven't seen it—was the one that flipped me over, sort of the way the non-masterpiece Punch the Clock represented the point where I was never turning back on Elvis Costello.

Perspex Island was one of the very few albums that felt like they were put in my hands for a very important personal reason, like someone was sending an urgent telegram. In fact there are only two other albums that ever felt that way to me: Rufus Wainwright’s Want One and the Divine Comedy’s Absent Friends. The first time I listened to it, Perspex Island seemed to answer every question I was asking myself, and a few that I didn’t know I had to ask. I’m sure that’s what A&M Records were going for.

This was also about the time I was paying closer attention to hip hop. I’d probably only bought a handful of rap records at that point, the first of which was Run-D.M.C.’s debut. But there hadn’t been one that I’d played incessantly, and around this time there were two: Ice T’s O.G. Original Gangsta and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising. Rick introduced me to Ice’s Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say, and that was kind of the breakthrough. But O.G. was the one I devoured. As for De La, again, it felt like everything I’d want to hear from a rap album placed on one tape, with skits. And De La Soul is Dead was the perfect followup-slash-antidote for 3 Feet High. For a long time it was my favorite hip hop album ever, until Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came out.

Disclaimer!

Sheesh… I’m gonna have to tread carefully in the next couple of days, because I never intended this series to be a tell-all. Unfortunately there are some plot points that are going to require my mentioning a former liaison. I’ll strive to get out of the discussion quickly because it’s a matter of personal embarrassment to me that the arrangement ever happened in the first place. And it has no bearing on my current existence, except in the form of sporadic LinkedIn requests over the years that I keep deleting.

You Will Be My Father Figure

I was defiantly unsettled for about and year and a half in San Francisco. I kept muttering something about never wanting to be vulnerable again, which of course is a great way to start being vulnerable. Actually it’s a good tactic for becoming exactly what you don’t want to be: Typify and mention exactly what it is. Or mention that you already are something, and then you’ll immediately stop being it. This is a theory based partially on T Bone Burnett’s song “Trap Door”: “It's a funny thing about humility/As soon as you know you're being humble/You're no longer humble.” (I got an idea: Hey guys, I’m dirt poor!)

The problem in being raised to blindly accept the words of men who in turn were saying they spoke the words of God is that once you realize those men are con artists (or have no idea what they’re talking about), unless you’re of a terrifically strong constitution, you go looking for someone else to speak the words of God.

Or short of that, just accept someone who displays an authoritative personality. Even if they’re crazy. People will gladly overlook the crazy if there’s a degree of certitude in the tone of voice. Looking certain trumps looking crazy every time (pun absolutely fucking intended).

Anyway. The point being, the ramifications of craving an authority figure are twofold. Number One, the cravee might subtly devalue perfectly nice, accepting, warm people because they’re not wielding power in an obvious way. I’ve let a lot of people slip away because of that—sometimes I found out years after the fact—and it’s stupid.

Number Two, it undercuts your own authority in certain matters, or at least your confidence in whatever acumen you have. This is something I’ve dealt with every day and continue to deal with. It’s annoying. It stops you from trying things. It’s fatalistic. It gives you an excuse to stop working. You have to push through this. It’s absolutely imperative for you to do so.

You don’t have to go in the other direction and act authoritative when you don’t know shit. But there should be a level of self-acceptance that you can happily abide by. I’ve never been able to get there. I always assume everybody else in the room knows way much more than me about almost everything.

This is why I haven’t ruled out hypnotherapy.

The point being, I thought I was ready to take things easier and get grounded. Which may have been true, but I looked in the wrong place.

So Long, Suckers!

Another thing that came up was that I was ready to leave California. I’m sure a lot of people (at least those who aren’t nationalists) have love-hate relationships with their places of origin, and I wasn’t an exception. I don’t know if it was other people’s perceptions of California that I was buying into, if I believed there was an outside view of Californians as shallow or uninformed. Or that the sun always shined there. (When it snowed one day in Ohio my roommate Brad joked about how new it must have looked to me: “Hey—frozen waves, dude!”)

My immediate feeling was that I’d wasted my time in San Francisco. I don’t think that’s true anymore, but I certainly feel like I missed some opportunities. But in the end I was right in that it wasn’t the place I really belonged.

Certainly not now. It took some twists and turns and a lot of stalled plans, but I belong where I am now in the Pacific Northwest. We could argue what part of the Northwest and I’m sure we will, but that’s where I was being called.

So I left San Francisco after five years and came to Seattle. Me and someone else. I went away from nearly everyone and everything I’d ever known to a place I’d only visited once, but that had provided me with a good share of the espresso I was drinking. When we crossed the state line from Oregon into Washington I was floored to see espresso drinks being sold in a convenience store. Which was fine; it was time for me to give up Big Gulps anyway.

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