The Day the Music Died

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Right now, (and to be honest, most all of this week), I’ve really, really wanted to listen to Sufjan Steven’s “Casimir Pulaski Day”, but I haven’t.

On Tuesday I went to see Richard Linklater’s epic three hour, ten-years-in-the-making, coming of age drama, Boyhood. It was pretty wonderful. One of my favourite parts of the movie was Linklater’s carefully choreographed soundtrack with every song specifically matched to the year in which it was released. It made me remember driving down the Arts Peninsula in 2000 listening to Coldplay, leaving for America with the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots on heavy rotation and so many Wilco-soundtracked roadtrips I couldn’t possibly count. I left the cinema with a burning desire to stick Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on my Ipod, but I didn’t.

This morning I was writing my way through one of the Dylan-focused sections of the new novel and I really needed to listen to “Desolation Row”, but I couldn’t.

I haven’t been able to listen to any of my music since June 5th. The last song I remember listening to was “Come On Eileen”, (I was teaching a group of first formers about the night the Ulster Hall floor caved in). After that my Ipod disappeared and with it every single piece of music I own; (for my lap top has also given up the ghost and in the two dozen or so house moves of the last ten years, I seem to have misplaced most all of my CDs). At a rough estimate I think I’ve lost around 2,000 records.

It has taken almost two months for the loss to properly sink in. The book launch and all associated business meant that I was distracted for the last wee while, and quite happy to listen to my one remaining copy of Highway 61 Revisited over and over. Now, I’m off work and focusing on writing and realising just how big a role music has played in my life. I’m recalling, and then mourning, each individual record lost: all the Belle and Sebastians (including eps and a bootleg of the very first time I heard them live), years of Wilco, Low, (how on Earth will I make it through the next rough day without Things We Lost in the Fire?) and about a gazillion Bob Dylan songs.

I am heartbroken. The only thing worse would be the desolation of my bookcase.

Walking takes much longer without music. Coffee shops are noisier and much more difficult to concentrate in. Dinner parties are going to be just a little less atmospheric and, I haven’t even started to think about what I’m going to do the next time I have kids in the Hall and I want to wax lyrical about every epic gig that’s ever taken place in our house, with music accompaniment.

Of course, the songs are still there. Like a bad Hallmark card I’m consoling myself with the fact that most all of them have been committed to heart a long time ago. Perhaps this is a metaphor for the future of all music, where nothing can actually be owned, just downloaded/youtubed/borrowed for three and a half minutes at a time and I should just get over myself and get Spotify. However, I have to say I’m still holding out for a miraculous recovery. I just want my old, faithful Ipod back.

So, if you happen to have been in the same place as me over the last few months, (when life circumstances have left me so scatty I just this morning found my house keys in the laundry basket), then I’d appreciate it if you could take a quick look round your car/down the back of your sofa/in your fridge. And, if you should find there, a brick of an 80 gig Ipod, (something similar to the dolmen stones in 2001 A Space Odyssey), containing an embarrassing amount of Del Amitri and a rather ropey recording of me singing Radiohead’s, “Fake Plastic Trees”, (this being the only song I can actually sing in tune), I’d very much appreciate you returning it to me asap. I will kiss you on the lips, regardless of gender or age, and dedicate my next published novel to you personally. I am, a woman undone, without my copy of Elliot Smith’s Either/Or.


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