Seems So Long Ago, Nancy

I think that the world throws up certain kinds of figures. Sometime in abundance, sometimes very rarely, and that some of these figures act as archetypes or prototypes for another generation which will manifest these characteristics a lot more easily, maybe a lot more gracefully, but not a lot more heroically. Another twenty years later she would have been just like you know, the hippest girl on the block. But twenty years before she was – there was no reference to her, so in a certain way she was doomed. – Leonard Cohen

That is a very lyrical and generous way to characterize what is, simply, the poet’s own memory of a person who struck him when he was young. And he’s right about it; the one person who lives differently, alone and unprecedented becomes the precedent for the next generation. Which is, in a small and lonely, heroic. This woman Nancy, whatever became of her, she sounds like someone I would know.

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The Seal of Seasons

Comfort-music is part of a much-needed psychological self-care arsenal, along with your tea, your macaroni-and-cheese-adjacent-substance, your responsible self-medication and your small furry animals. I think it’s very called-for in times like these, and even when times are good. So on that note we’re on quite a roll with the psychedelic folk music this week, and I’m warning you, it’s not about to end. I have a lot more coming up in a similar vein, so you might as well make it a playlist. Relax, fire up a bong or whatever it is you do to unwind, and let the #bigmood take you. Because Tyrannosaurus Rex well never not be what the kids call a ‘big mood’ for me. Marc Bolan’s voice just gives me a deep sense of comfort and well-being. Psychedelia and fantasy provides an escape from the grind of reality, takes the sharp edges off a little, makes the hours go by a little more smoothly. Reality just conspires to bring you down.

The Sea Beasts

Tyrannosaurus Rex is, apparently, not a universal taste. Later-era T. Rex is highly accessible and well known, but those pre-name change early records mostly elicit confusion. Maybe listeners are put off by Marc Bolan’s mushy mouthed delivery, or, if they can get past that, the odd subject matter. You’re just not high enough to really dig the bongos and children’s lit references, my friends. Listening to Tyrannosaurus Rex is like being absorbed in another world – you have to surrender to it and accept its weird rules.

Running Dry

I’d forgotten about this one. It takes me back to the bygone summer of 2014, when I was trying to listen to all of the Neil Young. I found out that listening to all of the Neil Young is practically impossible, because Neil Young has dozens of albums. Dozens upon dozens. Some are classics, some are just weird and bad. If you start at the beginning, with Buffalo Springfield, or even if you skip Buffalo Springfield, exhaustion starts to set in by about 1972. So you admit defeat and settle back into only listening to After the Gold Rush and Decade over and over again.

Runnin’ Blue

This is definitely one of the weirdest songs from The Doors. Of course, The Doors were a  weird band in a lot of ways anyway. But they were usually pretty consistent in their sound. They stayed on-theme, mostly. This is like two throwaway songs mashed together, neither one being regular Doors fare. It’s one half jazz-fusion, one half quasi-bluegrass (and one half tribute to Otis Redding.) The jazz inflection isn’t too far out; it’s something the band had played around with throughout their career, although it wasn’t until The Soft Parade that they went all the way with hiring a real horn section. The hillbilly breakdown is just random. Bluegrass was absolutely not a direction that the Doors ever wanted to go towards. I think it’s either an attempt to infuse a little humor, or Morrison’s way of showing disdain towards all the fancy new arrangements. Or both.

Roses in the Snow

Just in case you were feeling good about something. Let Nico bring you down. Who knows what kind of internal purgatory that woman lived in, but it’s clear from the soundscapes she composed that she wasn’t a merry spirit. She made it a point to reject anything others might consider beautiful or life-affirming. Of course, she always insisted that what she created was, to her, beautiful and comforting. She also liked to say that she would be quite happy imprisoned alone in a dark cell. She didn’t reap much reward for those sentiments while she was alive, but she’s gathered a following of people who share her aesthetic. Lots of us like solitude, cold and dark.

Romany Soup

Marc Bolan never did write a book about the adventures of Kingsley Mole and Lionel Lark. He became a famous rock star and lost interest in fairy tales and whimsical creatures. Or rather, fairy tales and whimsical creatures went out of fashion along with peace, love and idealism at the end of the 1960’s and Bolan was at the cutting edge of fashion. He was. This doesn’t sound like the composition of a man who was at the cutting edge of anything, but let  me assure you that in 1969 all of the coolest people were reading The Wind in the Willows and trying to incorporate its rustic charms into their own writings. It wasn’t a more innocent time by any means, but there was a belief that the world could become more pure and loving, somehow, and reverting to childlike whimsy was part of that mindset. Then, of course, everyone gave up on that pipe-dream and starting doing a lot of cocaine and heroin instead. But it was a wonderful, charmed time while it lasted.