Don’t give up on the boom box…

Got to work early today. It was nice. I was proud. Last week was a roughie…except for Friday.

For some reason, Friday decided to be its own personal rendition of my favorite song by Elvis Costello, Indoor Fireworks, with all of the heat and passion and sensual amazingness that he describes in that song and none of the sadness. And not in any explicit X-rated manner, it was just an evening that was full of Sky Flowers, in a very Land of the Dead manner (provided you’ve seen that film. If not, just ask…I’ll explain further). In other words, Friday ROCKED.

So the glow was still there, and lemme tell you- it’s been a while since I was a-glow. But I digress.

Flipped on the computer, put the internet radio on, feelin’ great, started my work. Then it came on.

In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail

It was “Don’t Give Up,” by Peter Gabriel, with guest vocals by Kate Bush. My god, I love this song.

No fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
Ive changed my face, Ive changed my name
But no one wants you when you lose

Used to listen to this song OVER and OVER and OVER on fucking VINYL in college. Which, mind you, is no easy task. Sure, putting a track on repeat is simple on a CD, but you have to really want to hear something a great deal to keep getting up and down and moving that needle back and forth and all that madness. And, boy oh boy, did I. But hey- I was younger, overemotional, and it was Speaking To Me!  I mean, c’mon, things were rough, man! I was in my late teens/early 20’s, also known as your second adolescence only…this time you gotta pay RENT.  And social things? Boys? Fuggetaboutit. So when Kate Bush’s gorgeous voice came in and reminded Gabriel

Dont give up
cos you have friends
Dont give up
Youre not beaten yet
Dont give up
I know you can make it good

It meant the world to me. This morning I realized that it still does, just in an entirely different way. I continued to listen, and reinterpret it, because, after all, it was My Song and it was still Speaking To Me.  Gabriel talks about moving, things changing, trying to be steadfast against it.

Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we’d be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Drove the night toward my home
The place that I was born, on the lakeside
As daylight broke, I saw the earth
The trees had burned down to the ground

He is clearly heartbroken. But Kate is there, once again, to remind him of the important things, and that there are important things.

Dont give up
You still have us
Dont give up
We dont need much of anything
Dont give up
cause somewhere there’s a place
Where we belong

Rest your head
You worry too much
Its going to be alright
When times get rough
You can fall back on us
Dont give up
Please dont give up

And then… happens. The turnaround. It happens musically, it happens narratively, it happens vocally, and it happens to me physically every single time I listen to this song. My heart does this strange twisty-tight-soaring thing. It’s very difficult to explain. And the only thing that causes that physiological reaction in my body is certain songs. It’s the sheer brilliance of music. It’s why it pains me to no end when I hear that people will only let their children experience certain musics, or that certain cultures deny music in total to their inhabitants. If I didn’t have music as part of my existence, I would not exist period.

And Gabriel sings

got to walk out of here
I cant take anymore
Going to stand on that bridge
Keep my eyes down below
Whatever may come
And whatever may go
That rivers flowing
That rivers flowing

It is as much an affirmation as it is a throwing off of shackles. It meant something completely different to me this morning at 30 years old in Los Angeles than it did when I sat listening to it at 20 years old in Santa Cruz. And I couldn’t be more ecstatic about that fact. There’s more to the song, but that is the meat of it.

See, it was a really funny experience, y’know, listening to this song…HAPPY. I was so used to listening to this song abjectly miserable and imagining that there was some amorphous “them” out there, being there for me, telling me not to give up, voiced by the incomparable Ms. Bush, that I’m not sure if I was ever able to conceive of Gabriel’s quiet pain, realizations, eventual synthesis and resolve.

Life is funny like that. See songs are kinda funny things. They share a surreal mirror-like quality with books, films and other media objects. You will never truly experience the object in the same way twice. Especially not years and experiences apart. Every experience you have, every country you visit, every person you meet, every person who hurts you, every sickness you endure, every rebirth you enact…they create a new self-reflection in that mirror that will, in turn, allow you to re-experience your chosen media object.

So go ahead- reread that book you haven’t read for a few years- see what you think!

That album that you used to adore, but you thought you had to shut away because it reminded you “too much” of your ex? There’s a reason you had that album in the first place. You liked it. Sometimes there’s a certain joy and sweetness in the tender memories of former pain. I’m not saying rip open newly healed flesh, by any means, use your best judgement. But these things touch you for a reason. And they should continue to.

I guess, to a certain extent, what I’m saying is…don’t give up.

Peter Gabriel = music to perservere by

Peter Gabriel = music to persevere by

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