Unconditional Musical Love

Published on July 5th, 2013 in: Music |

By Paul Casey

Enniscrone Beach

We traveled a lot in the car. Ireland is a small country but we made the most of it. It was common to be inside of our diminutive Toyota Starlet for five hours at a go. Trips back and forth to Enniscrone, Sligo, were an annual event. Once we were there, we would travel to the Céide Fields or up towards Donegal on long road trips. Being the youngest member of the family, I would call the backseat home. My brother and mother up front, talking about some sight or other, I would be happy to occupy myself with Calvin & Hobbes or The Famous Five. A little bit later it was Star Wars.

Usually the car was in immediate need of repair, or all-out replacement. Fear of breakdown was high, and there were more than a few times when we had to get out and push. When it ran, though, and the window could be pulled down—only halfway in the backseat—things would get a feel to them. My father was there on the first trip, and maybe the second. His presence was an aberration. He was not meant for this place. This was a three-person operation.

My uncle was a secretive sort, at least from the lowdown perspective of a six-year-old. He lived in the garage of my grandmother’s house and hoarded all kinds of wonderful things. Seinfeld came from his collection, as did anything to do with The Beatles. We arranged a cunning switch one year, where we managed to copy all of the White Album and the entire Anthology onto 90-minute cassette tapes. That summer was full of good sound. Skewed takes on well-known songs would sit beside the genuine articles. I got used to Paul McCartney asking, “Is it rolling?”

My brother was as responsible as any for giving me a musical love. Whether it was a long discourse on the qualities of Kill ‘em All or his insistence that Dangerous might just be Michael Jackson’s best album, much of my character came from him. Anything I’ve ever been right about in a musical regard is because he taught me that it was right. During those summers, and the long stretch of nights spent on the beach, we shared a lot of music. He was one who gave me my love of music, and that is the kind of fundamental human quality that might as well be one of these damned soggy organs lodged in my chest cavity. The other was the woman who quite literally co-created me, your pal, Muggins.

My mother, in spite of infrequent confusion, had rather good taste in music. James Taylor, Don McLean, Neil Diamond, Neil Young, and Leonard Cohen were all introduced to me through her. She allowed me to love something completely and without that insecurity that plagues so many aggregator-minded souls. For Mary, the one who sneered was the dozy shithead, not the person who loved Christopher Cross with a deliberate passion.

James Taylor in particular gives me a certain kind of melancholy when I think of those journeys. In the back, fading out, listening to That’s Why I’m Here and Never Die Young. “Sun on the Moon” was my favorite song for a while. It also gave me an appreciation for the kind of 1980s production that many Classic Rock heads bemoan as the cause of the end. When I listen to these albums now, it reminds me that music is to be shared with people of a like mind. Music is meant to elevate the experiences you share.

Gruff debate is something that I have come to enjoy, mostly as a result of my inability to attract a permanent sexual partner. Regular sex does have a habit of reducing the need to diminish another human’s favorite albums. Somebody giving you naked hugs quickly diffuses any problem you had with their liking Jessie J. Musical arguments have their place as an expression of the contradictory nature of personal taste. When education and information are the primary concern, it can be something less petty. When you get low and creative, or when you get to eventually connect with some special person, the last thing on your mind is to provoke a battle over some aesthetic failing. If that is a priority, well, get diagnosed, get on medication, and get well.

Listening to Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon gets me close to realizing something important about my situation. It means more than those albums found detached and isolated. I may appreciate the work of Tom Waits and his music may have moved me on occasion but it is ultimately disconnected. It does not relate to anything essential about my character, or my history because he wasn’t there as a constant during my formation. I listen to “Highway Song” and it feels as integral as any of the other fortunate/unfortunate things which have happened to my person.

Unconditional love and support may turn out to be destructive. Standing by someone who is not worthy of devotion can spend a life. I sometimes think of the problems that my mother has had to endure as a result of her commitment to my well-being. In those early years when all security originated from her ability to spin bad things in positive ways, she was alone. To her, Michael McDonald singing “I Gotta Try” was enough support. It was what she had to keep going. It made her strong, and it gave the bad times a purpose.

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