RECORD STORE TALES #1023: “Just the pieces of the man I used to be”
You never know how it’s gonna go.
You roll out of bed feeling like a winner, and then suddenly for absolutely no reason, that completely changes and you’re struggling to break even.
Maybe it’s the pressures of modern life. The hustle and the bustle. The need to get things done, even though you’re behind and energy is in short supply.
The feeling of loneliness even though you are not alone. There’s a dark place in your heart, only inhabited by you, that no one can break into. It’s not that you can’t let them in. It’s that you don’t even know how to open that door. Of if you actually want to. If you’d prefer to be alone.
The daily monotony, the commute, the cold, the damp.
The fact that all the hours of daylight happen when you’re in an office doing your daily grind.
The pressure and drive to do something important, to be someone who matters. To make a difference. To be somebody…anybody…but who you are.
Somehow, a sad song helps. There’s something about a sad song that can pry its way into your soul. Provide sympathy. Warmth. Help you dry the tears. That tells you someone out there is feeling the exact same way you do. It’s as if someone in the world knows you, just as well as you know yourself.
You could be in a room full of happy celebrations, and feel so alone, so completely down, yet have to fake it to make it.
One of the worst winters of my younger life was the winter of ’95-96. I had just been dumped by my first real serious girlfriend. I put on a brave face and for a few days, I thought I had weathered the storm. I listened to “classic British hard blues” that week and felt super strong. The crash came later. One of the albums that helped me through that winter was Queen’s Made In Heaven. The final album with Freddie. Though there is some undeniable dark material on the album, such as “Mother Love”, and “Too Much Love Will Kill You”, I was amazed at how positive some of the other songs such as “Heaven For Everyone” were. The album was like a journey through my own convoluted feelings.
“I’m just the pieces of the man I used to be,
Too many bitter tears are raining down on me.”
Yet on the same album:
“In these days of cold affections,
You sit by me and everything’s fine.”
What will the album for the winter of 2022 be? For the last several years, I’ve been digging deep down into the albums that made me happy as a youth.
“Listen! They said I didn’t stand a chance,
I wouldn’t win no way,
But I’ve got news for you,
There’s nothing I can’t do!”
It was a different time. There was misery, but nothing can duplicate that feeling of hearing a song for the first time. A song that you know means something to you. That is destined to stick with you for your whole life. And when you put those records on again, a million things start happening in your head. You can be 12 or 13 again. A time when the real problems of life were completely unknown to you and the biggest issue you had was figuring out how to talk to the girl you liked.
Like a phantom of a dream, old songs make the memories real again. As you wipe a tear from your eye, you remember. It can help sooth the sadness.
Sometimes you just have to cry it out, whatever it is. Hell, I don’t know what it is exactly. I just know it sucks.
They say that life never hands you anything you can’t handle. I don’t know about that. History is rife with people who could not handle what life has given them. I think I can – but it’s never simple, straightforward, or obvious how to do it.
So I write.
It’s the only thing I’m really good at. The only thing people really notice about me.
I write in the hopes that someone will understand.
That someone will relate.
That someone can take what I have experienced and draw something good from it.
And that maybe I’ll get some of that goodness back.
This winter has been pretty good. My strategies are working. My support personnel are solid. But there will always be days where I can’t help it. Can’t help FEELING IT. The old familiar sting of that cold, unrelenting loneliness. The kind of loneliness that can strike even when you are in a room full of loved ones.
One of the best albums for this time of year is Catherine Wheel’s Adam & Eve record. It captures it all.
“Start the day, in a cold December way, feel what’s new, it’s December through and through.”
And on the same record:
“And we crown ourselves again,
There’s been no change since you and I were young,
When we burned ourselves again,
The spaceship days when you and I were young.”
I crave those spaceship days so hard sometimes. But you can never really go back.
Except with a song.
Come back with me. Join me in my memories, on this sad, cold winter day.