Archive

Music

I’m going to tell you about a moment. A matter of several minutes in my life.

This moment occurred in the late June of one of my high school years, either 1989 or 1990. School was not a comfortable place for me. I was a definite nerd. While I had my small group of friends, the larger student body had no use for me. My grades were decent, but I didn’t particularly enjoy academics, preferring my own intellectual pursuits. But school was out. I was savoring the liberation of summer, and it was June: the plenty of summer—not the nervous waning days of August, but the fat of summer, the overflowing cup of summer.

This moment occurred at our family cottage in New Hampshire, on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. That locale has always been where I have felt happiest, since my first visit at the age of three weeks. My family had just arrived. It was night—the trip took a while. It was warm. We had put away our luggage. Mom was making up the beds.

The moment began when someone—I’m not sure who—snapped on the old GE portable radio kept at the cottage so we could listen to broadcast of Red Sox games. There was no Red Sox game. The radio played Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

Time changed for me.

I knew the song. VH1 had a show, hosted by Peter Noone, “My Generation,” on which I had seen a video. Not one of the emblematic songs of the Sixties, but I knew it anyway. Even at that age, I had a seeking interest in the Sixties. Heck, I once wrote an entire blog about it. The question of the Sixties grabbed me from an early age, for reasons I still don’t entirely understand.

With the opening notes of the song, time changed. I was still in the main room of the cottage, but it wasn’t the Eighties or Nineties anymore. Which isn’t to say it was the Sixties, either. I was overwhelmed with the sense that the room in which I was sitting had been there, much the same, twenty years before. Time was one. There was no distinction between that year and my own. “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is a trancey, languid song. That had something to do with it. All I knew was that as long as it played, the moment, that unified moment, continued. I was free and safe and connected. It was a variant of ecstatic experience.

Then the song ended. The sensation ended with it. I returned to the present. The rest of my family didn’t even know anything had happened.

Over a quarter-century later, I still remember the moment. A moment in most ways wholly unremarkable, yet one of the most intense moments ever given me in my entire life. Did I live in the Sixties? No, but I got to touch them for about four minutes once.

I’ve had some odd headaches lately. The doctor said “I’d like to get a look at your brain.” So she strapped me to the gurney and fired up the ol’ rotary saw.

No! Nothing of the sort! She said “We should get an MRI.” This morning, bright and early, I reported down to the Imaging Center, and entered the machine.

I went into this curious. I have some tendencies toward claustrophobia, but not much. I figured I could hack it, and I wanted to see what it was like. The radiologist offered me music through my headphones, because, she warned me, it would be noisy. I declined. I wanted to hear the forces around me.

(They tell you to keep your eyes shut through the process. You need to keep your head absolutely still, and even blinking would disrupt their scan. I have to wonder if this is actually medically necessary, or if they just tell people that to cut down on the occurrences of screaming panic. Or both.)

The sounds were found music, experimental electronic music such as on the Seastones album. At times, in the tube, I felt like I was inside a dot matrix printer, or a classic video game. The sound became 80s music, which turned into a Bach crescendo. Then it would vanish, leaving me in silence as sudden as Elijah’s, but always, underneath it all, came the distant Pacing Sound, the drummer of this band, the heartbeat of the machine.

You go into the tube, into the dark, and in the tube is only you and magnetism and God and music.