Music, Stories Told

Another day

Has a song ever powerfully restored a lost memory for you?

One has for me. In college, I was collecting Paul McCartney on vinyl – everything he recorded after he left the Beatles. It was the mid 1980s; everybody was selling their records to buy CDs and discarded albums could be had for a buck or two a pop. One day a record-collecting buddy took me to a little store that sold the singles that had come out of juke boxes. The store was full of boxes of used-up 45-RPM records, thousands and thousands of the things for a quarter each. I bought at least a dozen McCartney singles that day. I grew up during a time when it was impossible to avoid hearing McCartney songs on the radio, so I was very surprised that I didn’t recognize one of the singles: “Another Day.”

When we got back to our dorm, I played “Another Day” first. And suddenly I was three years old, eating my breakfast cereal at the kitchen table. This song was playing on the radio. It was brand new then, and I remember having looked forward to hearing it, and being happy when it played. I didn’t know who Paul McCartney was then, but I was clearly already a fan. The radio sat atop the refrigerator; I could see its white plastic top and round chrome dial. The refrigerator was white and square-shouldered and slathered with chrome. It stood on the brown tile floor right next to the kitchen table, with its steel legs and brown laminate top. Mom would have been behind me at the counter making a lunch to send with my father to work. We still lived in the tiny house on Rabbit Hill then. Those were happy days. I became dizzy as the forgotten memory flooded my mind. I was so struck that I’m sure my mouth hung open.

Of course I remembered the song, I just hadn’t heard it in years. I listened to “Another Day” over and over again that afternoon so I could linger in the kitchen on Rabbit Hill.

And then there was the time Paul McCartney saved my life. He has no idea, of course. Read that story

Music, 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.

This is the cover of Paul McCartney’s first solo album after the Beatles broke up. He released the album in 1970; 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.

And now I’m fine all the while.

McCartney also wrote a song about the joy of trials, but he disguised it in a song about rain. Or at least that’s how I interpret it. Read about it here.

Stories Told

Rock shows

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.

Dokken must have had wicked hairspray bills.

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.

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

1988: Heart, Mr. Mister | 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.

Faith, Music


As a slobbering Paul McCartney fan I bought his most recent CD, Memory Almost Fullthe day of its release last year. I even ponied up extra for the two-disc special edition with bonus songs and commentary, in which Paul said he often writes songs around a lick and a phrase with no particular meaning in mind. He said it delights him when people explain to him what his songs mean when he doesn’t even know himself!

My young sons dig the Band on the Run CD. When I play it in the car, before long all three of us are singing along. I first heard the album through in the mid 1980s and took a fancy to “Mamunia,” the first song on side two. I played it on my college radio shows often enough that I got to know every scratchy noise on the station’s well-used record. But only recently did this song have a meaning for me. To me, the song is about what James said: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

The rain comes falling from the sky,
To fill the stream that fills the sea
And that’s where life began for you and me

Rain brings life.

So the next time you see rain it ain’t bad,
Don’t complain it rains for you,
The next time you see L.A. rainclouds,
Don’t complain it rains for you and me.

Life will rain on you sometimes. Accept the rain; it’s meant for you!

It might have been a bright blue day
But rainclouds had to come this way
They’re watering everything that they can see.

You never know when it will rain on you.

A seed is waiting in the earth
For rain to come and give him birth
It’s all he really needs to set him free,
So the next time you see L.A. rainclouds
Don’t complain, it rains for you.

Without rain – the challenges and difficulties you face – you can’t break free and grow to maturity.

So lay down your umbrellas
Strip off your plastic macs.
You’ve never felt the rain my friend,
Till you’ve felt it running down your back.

Have you ever played in the rain and enjoyed letting it soak you? When difficulties come your way, put down your defenses and face them with joy!

So the next time you see rain, it ain’t bad
Don’t complain, it rains for you.
The next time you see L.A. rainclouds
Don’t complain it rains for you and me.

And in this way, rain brings life! What joy there is in growth!

Let it rain!