Sunday, March 26, 2006

Like a Window in Your Heart*

In 1986, the following things happened to me in very short order:
  • My job changed from working outside as a self-directed entity, to a primarily inside part of a team
  • My girlfriend broke up with me, stating 'there's no one else; we've just drifted apart'
  • One of my best friends moved in with my ex-girlfriend
  • My ex-girlfriend was hired as my boss
Within a year, I had met someone new** and changed jobs, but suffice it to say that my mind was not in the happy place in 1986.

When you're an angst-ridden teenager angry at the world for making you a part of it, you can turn to groups like The Ramones, The Smiths, or even Weezer, depending on your generation.

When you're an emotionally beat-up twentysomething, teen angst rock doesn't cut it. But Paul Simon's Graceland did.

I keep writing this part over and over, trying to put into a few words the impact this album had on me. Musically, it was completely unlike anything I had ever listened to. On the first song, four measures of droning, almost arrhythmic accordion, then the solitary, defiant slams of tribal drums setting the measures, followed by dollops of fretless bass, Simon told me musically that this was an entirely new world.****

Simon's lyrics to Boy in the Bubble informed this new world. A smaller, dangerous world, rapidly changing, and showing no signs of stopping for him, or anyone else. Simon's wispy tenor dispassionately set the boundaries of a world of bombs in baby carraiges. His alliterative lyrics reflected the staccato signals of constant information of which he sang:

Medicine is magical and magical is art:
think of the boy in the bubble and the baby with the baboon heart.

So our world is not the one we thought we were inheriting.

Not outside the house, and not inside your heart:

She comes back to tell me she's gone.
As if I didn't know that. As if I didn't know my own bed.

This is the reflection of a man who felt the same pain I did. Here was a man, like me, searching for a land where we can all find some grace.

Although not a 'story' album like Quadrophenia or American Idiot, Graceland does have the overarching theme of finding our way in an unfamiliar world. Sometimes with humor (Gumboots, You Can Call Me Al), sometimes with surrender (Crazy Love VolII), but always with the realization that there are angels in the architecture of our lives.

Amen and Halleluiah.


*A recollection of important music in my life, inspired by posts by Rowena and Mallory.
**Turns out she was my future STBEW, but at the time it was an improvement.
***Remember that 1986 was the height of the anti-apartheid movement. There was no 'world music' to speak of. At least not in my corner of the world. Simon took a lot of heat for hiring South African musicians for this album. As if recording with Ladysmith Black Mombazo and The Boyoyo Boys was somehow supporting the Botha government.


Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

Sometimes it's hard to express the impact of music. So many songs, (sometimes regardless of their lyrics or intended meaning), bring back very strong, specific memories and feelings. It's like going back in time. Music has a special power that way. I guess that's what makes it so great!

4:39 PM  
Blogger mal said...

Graceland was an awesome piece of work. Simon really is one of the contemporary greats

8:53 PM  
Blogger mal said...

BTW....we saw S&G on tour in 04,,the music still works and the concert was incredible

8:57 PM  
Blogger James said...

I followed your comment from Mallory's site and was surprised to see such a great post on one of my personal favorites:Graceland. Just the other night I was listening to it and talking with my wife about how it's hands-down one of the top ten of the '80s or possibly ever. More synchronicity, I guess.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Rowena said...

Excellent post BP. I am not a huge fan of Paul Simon myself, but I am certainly a huge fan of the impact music can have on one. I don't think I could have got through life without it. And that's no exaggeration.

7:23 AM  

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