The Crooked Course
Funny how we sometimes find the things we’re looking for. The spring I turned 18 I felt it was time for some changes. I would be leaving high school and my hometown of Providence in a few months, and many of my old habits were no longer serving me. Like many teenagers, my life required a soundtrack. For two years, that soundtrack had been provided primarily by the band Pink Floyd (see my recent entry: The Wall). What I had once found profound I now experienced as maudlin and melodramatic. I needed something both brighter and deeper. Blaming the world for all your troubles simply wouldn’t do. I needed new music.
I don’t remember how I landed on the song “The Court of the Crimson King,” by the band King Crimson. I can’t even be sure I’d ever listened to it. Yet, all the same, I found myself ducking into Goldie Records with the sole purpose of buying an album that contained that song. I didn’t ask for help, though I could have. Goldie Records was run by the sort of goatee-wearing audiophiles that love to point you to obscure albums. No need, I would find it myself.
By going straight to the B’s. Remember the song was “The Court of the Crimson King” by the band King Crimson. You will not find one B anywhere in the song or band name. Yet some part of me was thinking, “It’s here somewhere.” Soon I came upon the album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” by David Bowie. I liked the cover of the album very much. It was a kind of doctored color photograph of Bowie on a street corner in full glam-rock regalia. I didn’t check the song list; I didn’t look for the words “Crimson” or “King” or “Court”; instead I thought, “Yes, this must be it.” I couldn’t wait to get home and listen at last to “The Court of the Crimson King.”
Unfortunately, when I got home I discovered that “Ziggy Stardust” did not in fact include the song I had been looking for. I felt strangely duped. I felt like I was always making these sorts of bizarre and easily avoidable mistakes. But I still liked the cover, so I decided to give it a listen.
You must understand the importance music played in my life at that time. I would clamp headphones over my ears and project myself into the emotional world of the songs. It was as if I was teaching myself how I wanted to live through the music’s reality. If I listened and listened and listened to it, maybe I could carry that feeling with me into the real world and live as if I were still in the songs.
So when the song “Five Years,” the album’s first track, began, and when I heard it’s lovely piano, and Bowie’s distinct voice, and the particular poetry of the lyrics, I leaned close to the speakers, and for the first and only time in my life, said aloud to whatever was listening, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
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