Personal, Stories Told

Paul McCartney kind of saved my life once; he has no idea of course

After two recent high-profile suicides in the news, I am reminded of this piece I wrote in 2011. If you ever stand on that edge, wait, because it always gets better.

I was away at my first year of engineering school working harder than ever before — or since, for that matter. My full class load delivered six to ten hours of homework every day. To keep up, I worked each night into the wee hours. My life consisted of meals, class, homework, and too little sleep.

As my fatigue mounted, my health began to suffer. Worse, I became isolated and I lost hope. I fell into a deep funk. I began thinking a lot about how I might be better off no longer walking around on the face of the Earth.

That’s when I came across this record.

McCartneyCover

This is Paul McCartney’s first solo album after the Beatles broke up. He released it in 1970, but I first heard it 15 years later in my dorm room at the center of my despair. The music sounded spare; many mixes were rough and some songs seemed unfinished. The songs gave a strong sense of a man shut away in a room, playing alone, trying to get his head together. Indeed, Paul produced and engineered the album himself. Except for an occasional backing vocal from his wife Linda, he played and sang every note.

McCartney’s signature musical move has always been to find a bright side even when the going is rough. This song, which closed side 1, is a perfect example. It led me to consider that after the Beatles ended, he released (at that time) more than a dozen albums and had given concerts all over the world. It had been impossible to listen to the radio and not hear his music! He’d done quite all right in the intervening years. I could see that perhaps so could I, and so perhaps I should push through.

I did, and now I’m fine all the while.

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Music

Driving and Singing: Paul McCartney, “Too Much Rain”

Friday mornings of late I’ve been sharing songs I love to sing and telling stories about their place in my life. I love to sing! But as every song ends, so does this series, today. 

2005 might well have been the hardest year of my life. My wife was divorcing me, I got to see my sons only occasionally, I had white-knuckled grip on addiction recovery, and I lived in a one-room apartment in a bad neighborhood while still paying the mortgage on a house I’d never live in again.

I even lost my dog. I’d say I was living in a country song, except that I didn’t own a truck.

It’s easy to make light of it now because I’ve recovered and my life is on a good path. In every way, those days made me a much better man, and I’m grateful for that. But it really was an awful, crushing time. I sought every lifeline and clung desperately to each one.

ChaosAndCreation

One lifeline came from out of nowhere, thanks to Paul McCartney. I’ve written before of another time his music kept me from going over the edge, and a song he released that year did it again. The CD it is from, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, could well be that committed optimist’s most introspective and brooding work. And I was absolutely in an introspective and brooding place then, so it worked for me. But then there was the song “Too Much Rain,” which stood in counterpoint:

Laugh when your eyes are burning
Smile when your heart is filled with pain
Sigh as you brush away your sorrow
Make a vow, that it’s not gonna happen again

It’s not right, in one life
Too much rain

I’m not an optimist. But once again McCartney’s optimism reminded me that there’s a path out of every dark time. And so I looked for reasons to laugh, smile, and sigh, even though my life was a painful mess. It wasn’t easy. But soon I found myself on that path toward happier days.

Click Play to hear Paul McCartney sing “Too Much Rain.”

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Music, Stories Told

Driving and singing: Wings, “Daytime Nighttime Suffering”

I sing. My goodness, do I love it. It’s a cathartic pleasure that lets me vent steam. Singing is key to my mental health!

While I’ll never be a singing star, I’ve got a decent voice, I can carry a tune, and I can sing out. If you want to hear, just join me at church on Sunday morning. But I do most of my singing in the car, alone. I plug in my iPhone and sing along to my entire music library. I know the words to most of the songs, a couple thousand in the library so far. They are the soundtrack of my life, and I love them.

In the weeks to come I’m going to share with you the songs I like to sing most. I’ll tell you something about them: a story about how they came to be, or how I came to know them, or stories from my life when I discovered them, or why I like to sing them.

DNS

The first is “Daytime Nighttime Suffering,” the B-side to Paul McCartney and Wings’ 1979 disco-flamenco hit, “Goodnight Tonight.” That song was a staple of my school’s dances when it was new. I will always count it among my favorites, too.

But I didn’t know about “Daytime Nighttime Suffering” until college, when I bought my first copy of “Goodnight Tonight.” (It was actually a used copy of the 12-inch dance single!) “Daytime Nighttime Suffering” is so infectious and well constructed that it could have been a very successful hit, too. Who but Paul McCartney has such talent that he could afford to make a B side out A-side material?

When I finally did discover this song, it instantly became one of my top ten favorites from McCartney. And that’s saying something, because I’m an enormous McCartney fan and own all of his records.

But I find most of McCartney’s songs to be frustrating to sing because his vocal range and mine don’t line up. I’m forever straining to hit the highs or lows. Sometimes I just give up and switch octaves as needed to keep up with him. I’m sure that doesn’t sound all that great. But I can sing Daytime Nighttime Suffering all the way through in the same octave, and that’s satisfying!

Click Play to listen to “Daytime Nighttime Suffering:”

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Personal, Stories Told

Paul McCartney kind of saved my life once; he has no idea of course

I was away at my first year of engineering school working harder than ever before or since. My full class load was delivering six to ten hours of homework every night. I tried to keep up but it involved too many late nighters. My life consisted of meals, class, homework, and too little sleep. As my fatigue mounted I became increasingly isolated and my health began to suffer. I lost hope. I fell into a deep funk. I began thinking a lot about how I might be better off no longer walking around on the face of the Earth.

That’s when I came across this record.

McCartneyCover

This is Paul McCartney’s first solo album after the Beatles broke up. He released it in 1970, but I first heard it 15 years later in my dorm room at the center of my despair. The music sounded spare; many mixes were rough and some songs seemed unfinished. The music gave a strong sense of a man shut away in a room, playing alone, trying to get his head together. Indeed, I learned later that Paul produced and engineered the album himself, and except for an occasional backing vocal from his wife Linda he played and sang every note.

McCartney’s signature musical move has always been to find a bright side even when the going is rough. This song, which closed side 1, is a perfect example. It led me to consider that after the Beatles ended, he released (at that time) more than a dozen albums and had given concerts all over the world. It had been impossible to listen to the radio and not hear his music! He’d done quite all right in the intervening years. I could see that perhaps so could I, and so perhaps I should push through. I did, and now I’m fine all the while.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because I first posted it in 2011.

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Music, Stories Told

New Paul McCartney music is always a big event in my life

For as long as I can remember, new Paul McCartney music has been a big event for me.

It started with the Beatles music my mother played around the house when I was very small. But McCartney’s post-Beatles work really formed the soundtrack of my life. Aged four, I sat at the breakfast table waiting for Mom to bring me breakfast while one of his early post-Beatles hits played on the little transistor radio atop our refrigerator. On long trips in Dad’s Ford, my brother and I used to sing his most famous songs a cappella together. I spent much of one youthful summer swimming while a monster hit he did with Wings played constantly on the radio. I danced at the big middle-school dance to his flamenco-charged nod to disco. During my disk-jockey days, I played his new songs on the radio. I sang his new songs to my new baby as he cried with colic. I let his words soothe me when I suffered my divorce. And I never failed to share his new songs with my sons, who can sing along with me now on a huge portion of the McCartney catalog.

McCartneyNew

PaulMcCartney.com photo

And now comes his new album, New. It released yesterday. Thanks to Amazon.com I downloaded the music first thing yesterday morning and then a copy of the CD awaited me in my mailbox when I arrived home from work.

As always, I will listen to it incessantly in the car for the next several weeks. I will soak it in. I will learn the lyrics and sing along. It will come to remind me of this time in my life and the things I am experiencing now.

Paul McCartney never meant to save the world with his songs. He just wanted to craft some good, clever pop that kept our knees bobbing. He’s done it again, aged 71. Here’s the lyric video for the title track of New.

readmore2

Paul McCartney saved my life once.
He has no idea, of course. Read that story.

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Music, Stories Told

Rock shows

I’m going to a rock concert tonight, my first in five years. I’m going to see heavy-metal patriarchs Iron Maiden, who are still rocking hard even though the band members are all in their 50s. Their music has evolved from straight-ahead metal to progressive rock, which means it’s grown up just as I have. So I’ve never stopped being a fan. I haven’t seen Maiden play live in twenty-four years, meaning I’m way, way overdue.

A long time ago I wrote this post about all the concerts I’ve been to. It seems appropriate to rerun it today.

Dokken must have had wicked hairspray bills.

Who have you seen in concert? Something the disk jockey said on the radio this morning started me thinking about the concerts I’ve been to. I was surprised that I couldn’t remember them all! It’s not like I’ve seen that many shows, and I certainly wasn’t smoking any dope at them to fog my memory. I wrote down what I could remember and Googled to fill in some blanks. You would not believe the detailed tour information people have cataloged on the Internet! I was shocked to learn that I’ve seen Dokken. Good Lord, shoot me now.

My first show was Al Stewart at the Westport Playhouse in St. Louis. You know, “Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages.” My second show was Iron Maiden at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. You know, “The Number of the Beast.” Talk about a change of pace! The Iron Maiden show was so loud that my ears rang for three days. I’ll never forget the newspaper review the next morning: “About as subtle as a baseball bat to the forehead. But to these kids, all zonked to the rafters on Clearasil and beer, it was probably poetry.” It was.

The best performance I’ve seen was Eric Clapton on his 1994 blues tour. His guitar work was as skilled as you’d expect, but it was also unexpectedly emotional. The best show I’ve seen is, believe it or not, Ozzy Osbourne. He may have only three functioning brain cells, but he sure knows how to work his audience. It’s hard to call the worst show I’ve seen, but Ringo Starr and Van Halen totally phoned in their performances, and Metallica was badly off their game when I saw them play in the rain in 1994.

I’ve seen Iron Maiden, Rush, and Eric Clapton twice; Metallica and Heart four times. I’ve seen Paul McCartney, my favorite, just once and wish I could have seen him again and again. But last time he toured, tickets were outrageously expensive and I just wouldn’t pay it.

Here’s the list I’ve pieced together, in chronological order. Headliners are listed first. You’ll see that I gravitated toward heavy-metal shows, and then gave up on concerts altogether for nine years while I was busy with my young family.

1986: Al Stewart

1987: Iron Maiden, Waysted | Eric Clapton, The Robert Cray Band | Heart, Mr. Mister

1988: Iron Maiden, Anthrax | Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica, Kingdom Come | Metallica, The Cult | Grim Reaper, Armored Saint

1989: Helloween and two bands I forget

1990: Motley Crue, Whitesnake | Paul McCartney | Rush, Mr. Big

1992: Ozzy Osbourne, Slaughter

1993: Heart | Aerosmith, Jackyl

1994: Rush, Primus | Metallica | Ringo Starr | Eric Clapton

1995: Megadeth, Korn, Flotsam and Jetsam, Fear Factory

1997: Metallica

2006: Heart

2007: Heart, Head East

I’m sure I’m still overlooking a band or two. But now tell me who you’ve seen! Leave a comment, or blog about it and link back here.

I got to meet the members of Heart once.
Read that story.

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