Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Year of the Cat

There are certain songs that I hear once and never forget. Sometime in the mid-90s, for instance, the dj on one of the NYC radio stations I listened to had an all-request hour (or maybe he was about to be fired, so he just went ahead and played whatever he liked) and played the Indigo Girls cover of "Uncle John's Band." From that time, until the summer of 2006, I never heard the song again. But when I bought an Ipod that summer "Uncle John's Band" was one of the first songs I put on it. I could give other examples -- the Rev. Gary Davis' survival from 1988, from a tape briefly owned by my college roomate -- but this post isn't about them. This post is about the opposite.
At work I have to listen to oldies radio. I won't go into how, why, etc or what I feel about this. I have to listen, given the situation of my desk, and truthfully it could be worse. Recently this station has been playing a lot of Al Stewart. It brought back memories of lying around listening to "Year of the Cat" or "Time Passages" on Double Q FM in Lexington, wishing they'd play something more interesting. But there was another layer of memory, too, a kind of long-lost feeling, a mental picture of a time of general aimlessness and wandering, unsettled and chaotic and yet forward-looking and adventurous. I don't romanticize the 70s much but there really seemed the loose-limbed happiness and sadness of the era captured in these tracks. I guess I just wasn't prepared to hear it when I was 14.

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