Every Friday for a while I’ll be sharing songs I love to sing and telling stories about their place in my life. Singing is cathartic for me. I can’t imagine not singing. I do most of my singing while driving, listening to my favorite songs on my car stereo.
I dated Alison the summer I turned 19. She was small and lovely and smart and gentle, and I was happy to keep her company.
And that’s all I really wanted: her companionship. I was such a late bloomer. I think she was interested in more. I’m sure I frustrated her.
At least we had old TV shows and music in common. Many of our evenings were spent snuggled on the couch in her parents’ family room in front of the TV. The Monkees was being rerun on MTV and we watched episode after episode. I made her cassette tapes of the six or seven Monkees albums my brother owned. I made her a mixtape of some of my favorite songs.
And then Alison made me a mixtape of her music, too. She favored singer-songwriters with something to say, their spare arrangements cradling words of love or pain. I don’t know what became of that tape, but I remember it leaned heavily on Carole King, Carly Simon, James Taylor, and Bob Dylan.
I found one Dylan song especially hard to access, a delicate tune called “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.” It spoke of a love experienced as a refuge, a love in which he found identity — words that wanted to fill me with smoldering joy but for Dylan’s brooding guitar and voice, a sharp counterpoint that I couldn’t reconcile. If he had found that kind of love, then why did he sound like he wanted to put a bullet in his brain?
I sought new music voraciously then. I had joined my college’s radio station as a disk jockey, and regularly borrowed short stacks of records from our vast collection — about 5,000 LPs — of rock, pop, and jazz reaching back 25 years. The songs I discovered then still heavily influence my personal playlist. One of those short stacks included Rod Stewart’s 1971 album Every Picture Tells a Story. I wasn’t a big Rod Stewart fan, but I remembered hearing “Maggie May” on the radio as a boy and wanted to hear the rest of the album that song came from. On it was a cover of Dylan’s love song. Where Dylan broods, Stewart soars, bringing out joy found in this love. He also makes the song more melodic and therefore a real joy to sing.
If Alison knew me at all, she would understand. But if I knew her at all, I’m sure she would tried to convince me of the strengths in Dylan’s recording.
Click Play to listen to “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.”