Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Musically Gifted

I was listening to the David Bowie album I got for my birthday.

Basically, Mom asked me what I wanted and then got it for me. I feel a bit cheap or greedy doing it that way, but it is better, I guess, than the time she got me a John Zorn CD, but not the one I wanted. I do like that Mom's sending me a book that I mentioned offhand and she recommended since this way it's partly her idea. But her sending me Deltron 3030 feels impersonal. I don't want to sound ungrateful -- I am really happy to have the music and even happier to have a Mom that cares enough to want to send things I like -- but when she told me a few days ago that the CD hadn't come in but was on its way, she wanted to make sure she was getting the right thing because it was rap. See?

I'm at the other end of the spectrum, which some people may think is just as bad. I don't want to give a gift at all unless some thought went into it.

So back to the Bowie album:

I would have never wanted the CD if I hadn't heard some of it online. I also heard a bits on Studio 360 or somesuch, where they mentioned that some songs were in part a reaction to Sept 11, 2001. With that context in mind, I can look back at some of the lyrics and reinterpret - Uncle Floyd is floating off over Coney Island, "Everything has changed./Nothing has changed" (from track #1), and the words to someone who has passed on, "Don't stay in the bad place/where they don't know who you are," from the track Everyone Says Hi. The two songs I like the most off the CD are Everyone Says Hi and Cactus. It wasn't until I had the CD in my hot little hands that I saw that Cactus wasn't written by Bowie. And when I looked up the name, I found it was a Pixies song.

I always liked having a music snob friend or two, but I've noticed these days that I'm my friends' music snob friend. Now, I should clarify that by saying over half my friends would effortlessly outscore me on any 80's pop music trivia quiz, and in that genre I hold no hope of ever beating this man. What I'm thinking of is some sort of sliding scale, where Matt Pinfield is 100 and HJ is 5 (if they don't play it on the oldies station, he doesn't know it) and I'm 30 or so, and desired snob friend would only have to be 45 or better. That way, I have someone whom I can say to, "I really like that Cactus song off of Bowie's release before his latest," cause we'd be talking about music regularly anyway, and music friend would say "Cactus? Like the Pixies song?" And then, after realizing it's the same song and lamenting my sad lack of knowledge and alt-rock cred, direct me towards buying the Pixies album in the first place and saving me from the runaround that led now, wanting to buy it anyway. Though with Pixies in hand, I still would have wanted the Bowie CD, too.

I thought Cactus was Bowie's. I could kinda imagine his wife Iman going into some African desert as a good-will ambassador to the country she was born in, and Bowie just getting lonely something awful for some memento of her. In retrospect, the song is quite obsessive and I do have a hard time imagining a mellower, older Bowie being that obsessive over a brief separation from his lover, but if it's one thing I've learned, you never know. Anyway, I can identify with wanting a personal memento of someone you love to assure you if they can't be there with you, and I like the way the feeling's released in the song. It's about a desire for something personal, something inimitable and real. So what if it's a bit....peculiar creepy:

and a letter in your writing doesn't mean you're not dead
run outside in the desert heat
make your dress all wet and send it to me

In summation: giving good gift is easier said than done and music snob friend equals same net result with faster turnaround time. And my sincerest apologies to any of my friends if they knew of the Pixies song and I was just too dumb not to think to bring it up in conversation with them.

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