Wednesday, January 7, 2009

radio empathy

"I'm failing in school, losing my friends
making my family lose their minds.
I don't want to eat, I don't want to sleep,
I only want Lena one more time..."

A friend posted a few funny lines about Billy Joel and things that please the masses -- he remarked on the recent realization that somewhere back in the eighties he'd memorized all of the "Glass Houses" album. I have to laugh. That was the year I got my first record player, one all my own instead of the glass-fronted albatross that my mother never wanted me to touch. For Christmas she bought me "Glass Houses," plus a few other gems like "Toto IV" (remember "Rosanna"?) and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." Lordy. I wound up with a substantial vinyl collection before high school ended, which is congealing in an unplayable mass up in Mom's inaccessible attic I suppose. A travesty really, but Mom won't let me go up there -- it's like mounting the expedition to Everest, stuff has completely filled my old bedroom and now she just piles it on the stairs.

Anyway -- the title of my friend's post is "stop kidding myself, wasting my time," a line from a sad and hard-to-endure single of Joel's called "All For Lena" about obsessive love and getting used. Which in turn reminds me of the darker side of being young and glued to the stereo -- the way youthful ignorance always leads to blind love and its cousin, mislabeled lust -- "Why must I be a teenager in love?" Every heartbreak has a song that particularly captures the agony of the moment, and these songs always turn a buck; so it's easy to amplify hormonally-augmented disappointment into crushing despair, listening to the same song over and over, brutalizing oneself and one's roommates. Thank God they don't "right 'em like that anymore" -- I've only heard a few songs in the past ten years that have that power over me.

One of them is "Thinking About Tomorrow" by Beth Orton, which I had posted here for a couple weeks on the dumb playlist. Another is "Not Over Yet" by Grace, which has been remixed into something sort of rave-like but still has a little edge. I have to think -- these are songs I have deliberately prohibited myself from playing for long periods, to avoid reliving the sinking pleasure of doomed romance. What else? "Wonderful" by Annie Lennox. And I remember playing that whole terrible album by Nine Inch Nails over and over again after being screwed for the umpteenth time by one particular ex-boyfriend. A seriously non-musical record, but lots of angry angsty lyrics: "Head like a hole, black as your soul, I'd rather die, than give you control." Yummy.

"All For Lena" reminds me of the summer I was 16 -- could that be right? I'm 40 now, I should look up the release date -- anyway, 16 and prone to fixations on unattainable guys. I was cute enough, looking back, but a loner; something guys don't to tend to find alluring though the reverse has always been true. To be fair, I knew how to pick 'em. I always wanted guys who had been dating the same girl forever, who had never given me the time of day. And in high school I of course branched out in my pursuit of the unattainable to include one or two of my teachers. I was "Don't Stand So Close To Me" in the flesh, my senior year. The fact that I have in my time hooked two or three of these unattainables has never been cause for celebration -- it took some time to figure out that generally, people you can't have are out of reach for a reason. It's because they are NO GOOD for you. Getting what you want -- the reward is also the punishment.

Ah. Reminiscing.

1 comment:

scrivener said...

Every time I think of that NiN album (which I always hated) I think of the first transcendently strange thing I encountered on the internet, - sadly, it is slowly going defunct from benign neglect (though its creator still publishes music occasionally) but it used to have this multimedia photo collage (about a woman, natch) set to Something I Can Never Have. Actually one of the more mundane things on the site.