Track 3: Workin’ Them Angels
Driving away to the east, and into the past
History recedes in my rear-view mirror
Carried away on a wave of music down a desert road
Memory humming at the heart of a factory town
All my life
I've been workin’ them angels overtime
Riding and driving and living
So close to the edge
Workin’ them angels
Riding through the Range of Light to the wounded city
Filling my spirit with the wildest wish to fly
Taking the high road to the wounded city
Memory strumming at the heart of a moving picture
Driving down the razor’s edge between the past and the future
Turn up the music and smile
Get carried away on the songs and stories of vanished times
Memory drumming at the heart of an English winter
Memories beating at the heart of an African village
Some might say it’s art or sculpture or even the written word, but for me, music is the most fervent expression of human emotion. Maybe it’s because there’s real sound involved, but nothing cries like music, nothing laughs like music, nothing rages like music, and nothing loves like music.
Don’t believe music can cry? Listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan or Mark Knopfler. Don’t believe music can laugh? Listen to Jimmy Buffett. Don’t believe music can rage? Listen to Guns n’ Roses. Don’t believe music can love? Listen to Beethoven.
Even as an avowed scrivener and scribbler, I still have to give the nod to musical expression as the penultimate form of emotive art.
In addition to playing on our emotions, music has a fascinating way of connecting itself indelibly to our memories. I remember those car trips to western Kentucky to my grandmother’s house, listening all the way to the greatest hits of Elton John and Alabama. I still can’t hear “40 Hour Week,” “Honky Cat,” or “Daniel” without thinking of those trips and the anticipation I always felt. Those were good times, and they had good music to accompany them.
Another song that has always been full of memories for me is Dire Straits’ “Your Latest Trick.” The Brothers in Arms album was one that I would frequently listen to in my fancy Sony Walkman on those long car trips to western Kentucky, and “Your Latest Trick” was one of my favorites from that album (still is). I distinctly associate that hauntingly sad song with one of the last trips we made to western Kentucky from Louisville. It was the evening of Friday, March 4, 1988, and we were heading to Muhlenberg County because my grandfather had just died. I can still remember sitting in the back seat of the car, on the right side, and staring out the window at the stars overhead while “Your Latest Trick” played in my headphones. “And we’re standing outside of this wonderland, looking so bereaved and so bereft. Like a Bowery bum when he finally understands the bottle’s empty and there’s nothing left.” It was very surreal. I think I listened to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” too, which was quite apt because I definitely said goodbye to a part of my childhood that night.
Those are sad memories, but as I indicated above, there are plenty of good memories associated with songs too. I remember playing with Lego’s in the hallway of our house in Louisville on rainy Sunday afternoons, listening to Amy Grant’s “In a Little While.” What a perfect rainy day song. And every time I think of “Christmas is for Children” or “Little Snow Girl,” I am immediately taken back to Christmas at the Christmases, icing sugar cookies on the kitchen table and getting up before dawn on Christmas morning to light the fire and prepare for a few hours of materialistic bliss.
Later, Guns n’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction album became the soundtrack to my life, helping me to escape from teenage angst and providing an outlet for my emotions. I never will forget listening to “Mr. Brownstone” in the car one day, and my sister – no doubt angry with me over something – casually telling Mom and Dad that the song was about “doing drugs,” hoping to get me in trouble. I don’t think I had even known, prior to that, what they meant when they said, “We’ve been dancing with Mr. Brownstone...”
And then there’s Jimmy Buffett. What song of his doesn’t take me back? One semester in college, I had a hammock strung up from wall to wall in front of my window, and I would lay in it in swim trunks on sunny winter days and bask in the warmth of the heat radiating through the window, listening to “Brahma Fear,” “I Have Found Me a Home,” and “Migration.” “I got a Caribbean soul I can barely control and some Texas hidden here in my heart.” And Buffett’s live album Feeding Frenzy still reminds me of a get together in 1990 when my friends Russell and Osborne came up from Louisville for the weekend and we listened to that album over, and over, and over again. Russell brought a video camera and we filmed a video to “Fins.” (As I recall, we also did what we thought was a hilarious commercial for condoms, which primarily consisted of me and Osborne humping.)
Like the song says: “Turn up the music and smile; get carried away on the songs and stories of vanished times...”