Friday, January 12, 2007

You Don't Have To Go Home, But You Can't Sleep Here

I finally figured it out. After years of wondering what the hell was going on, I think that, in the early morning hours of one frosty December morning, an epiphany of sorts helped me towards an explanation that I can live with.

I have a tiny DJ in my head. And he's nuts.

After all the years of seeing concerts, one thing that seems to be lacking is the subtle nuance of the between acts pre-recorded music. My friends and I would listen intently as the last echoey notes of the opening act finished their pinball routine off of the cinder block walls of the Selland Arena in Fresno and the house lights came up. Along with watching the crowd, which looked like some sort of Dawn Of The Dead floor of the New York Stock Exchange, we waited to hear the first notes of whatever the soundboard guys popped on.
Usually, it was something like AC/DC's Back In Black or anything from Zeppelin IV and that was fine with most of us. Sometimes, the more drunken mooks cheered the opening chords of a cassette tape of new Judas Priest album played on the P.A. as loudly as they would another actual live band hitting the stage. This could cause confusion in the men's room or the concession line because usually a loud roar means showtime and back then, it was a sin to miss the lights, smoke, and action as the main act cartwheeled, did handsprings, or perhaps even used trampolines and jetpacks to take the air along with that all important first power chord.
Every once in a while, a really cool crew would put on something that seemed only me and my friends knew; old school Thin Lizzy, pre-Burnin' For You Blue Oyster Cult, UFO, Pat Travers Band, or maybe even something under the radar like Ronnie Montrose's underrated, post-Hagar unit, Gamma. We'd cheer from our seats and pump our fists towards the long-haired dudes that stood in the pen that looked like it was squared offed with parade fencing, otherwise known as the mixing board area. As rare as it was, the moment when some older (damn, he must be, what, 35?) rockin' roadie would nod or wave in our general direction upon hearing our hollers in appreciation of Riot's Swords and Tequila might possibly have meant more to us than seeing some feathered-haired scag flash her tits at Rob Halford.
Let's play the "What's Sadder?" game! What's sadder; three teenagers high-fiving each other because some coked-up roadie put on a cassette over an arena's P.A. that each of them own and could probably hear in the car on the way home from the show, or, a woman in her late twenties with hair bleached so often that she could change the ph balance of an Olympic sized swimming pool all by herself just by diving in, sitting on the shoulders of whatever guy she's banging that week, all the while showing the last days of her gravity-defying fatty tissue to a gay man in classic Pacino Cruising garb? Results: Teenage boys viewing roadies as musical role models--Sad. Bleach blonde trying to gain the attention of a rock singer, failing due to the misfortune of having the wrong genitalia--Sadder. Pimple-faced boys trying to gain the attention of disinterested roadies due to the misfortune of having the wrong genitalia--Saddest. Pimple-faced boys looking at roadies at the soundboard instead of looking at real, live, actual boobs--Sadder than Sad.
Along with the music piped in between acts, there was what I always found to be the fascinating post concert tracks. To me, there were two distinct schools of thought, if there was any thought put into the music at all, that is. The first being the same type of tracks used in the intermission(s); loud, heavy, and rockin'. I assumed these were used to keep the crew motivated to get the stage broken down and the trucks loaded so they could roll through the night to the next town. The second, and far more interesting to me in the sense of a social experiment, was to use music so far removed from the night's entertainer's genre as to actually drive the fans out of the venue. I think this is a brilliant technique and proves to be much more efficient than part-timers in yellow windbreakers with "Security" across the back trying to herd rockers high, drunk, and/or otherwise chemically altered out of the arena. I have actually seen stoners cover their ears and shove their way to the exits upon being assaulted with The Carpenters and polka music. Once, when the lights came up after a Soundgarden show and I shuffled along with the rest of the balcony crowd towards the stairs, I watched a long haired biker stand in defiance in the middle of the emptying theater, flipping double birds to the giant P.A. system while Ebony And Ivory wafted over us all. He stood there with a grimace scarier than any mask and roared his disapproval with something akin to, "Fuuugherrrssss!! Ghhaaaaaa!!" I think of him every time my dog barks at airplanes.
As I've mentioned before, I wake up with a song in my head every single day without fail. Sometimes, it's an old favorite I played recently or something I heard the day before on a movie soundtrack or even a commercial jingle. This does not surprise me or give me pause at all. Other times, the song is something I haven't heard in years. I might even own the record but haven't listened to it in some time. This makes me scratch my head and try to figure out why this particular song is playing on this particular day. And then there are the mornings where I think I may have lost my mind. The chilly morning when I heard what I believe to be the incidental music from the original Planet Of The Apes film was one such frightening wake up call and it was then that I decided I'd have to write down what I was hearing each day to try to find a pattern or some reasons
For two weeks, I'd roll over each morning and scribble the song title (if I knew it--I'd have look some up later after some auditions from the CD collection or some Googling) on a yellow legal pad. The following is what I woke up to over the Holiday Season:
12.20.06 Kick Out The Jams from Blue Oyster Cult's live album, Some Enchanted Evening. This is one of the first albums I ever bought with my own money, so it's no wonder why this lead-off track is embedded deep in my memory, but I haven't played the disc in at least ten years.
12.21.06 Spinning Wheel-Blood, Sweat and Tears. I have this on vinyl somewhere, but I never play it and even after thinking about it for much of the day, I have no idea of why it popped up.
12.22.06 All I Want For Christmas-Ini Kamoze. This one was thankfully easy; I'd recently heard it on Fresno State's radio station, KFSR. The lyrics are changed and the vocal stylings are hypnotic (a natural phenomenon for a reggae tune).
12.23.06 Abacab (live version)-Genesis. Another easy one; I'd been listening to this disc in the truck and the synth parts stick in my head anyway.
12.24.06 Pure And Easy-The Who. This one made sense to me because I listen to a two disc greatest hits set on my MP3 player at the gym often. What was maddening and probably "chased" me awake like the post-concert stoners running from accordion notes was that the song was stuck on a loop, playing the fade out, "There once was a note, listen", over and over and over.
12.25.06 Horsehead-The Black Crowes. A little mystery here. While I listen to a lot of Crowes stuff and this track is my favorite on By Your Side, I haven't put it on in a long time and many more BC tunes have been played since. Huh.
12.26.06 Birdland-Weather Report. A head scratcher of a morning here. I haven't put on this CD in over 12 years. I'm sure I've heard the tune in the background of a television show or a snippet here and there on a music history documentary, but I still can't fathom why it's here.
12.27.06 Vicarious-Tool. No secret to me here. Tool's latest release is in constant, heavy rotation on all my players; home, computer, truck, and MP3 player at the gym or on a run.
12.28.06 Love Is Like Oxygen-The Sweet. I just don't know anymore. I never liked this song, I don't own this song, and I'd switch the station quick if it came on in the car. The fact that it woke me up tells me that I was "chased" awake again.
12.29.06 Yakety Sax (otherwise known as the theme song to The Benny Hill Show)-Boots Randolph. I can't even begin to describe the feeling I had as I laid in bed with my hand on my forehead, wondering what the hell was going on in my head as I slumbered. I considered pulling the covers over my head for a few hours until something else took over the relentless, pulsating bleating sax, but I decided to get up and blast some Sabbath. That did it. Black Sabbath is like an unbeatable option in Rock/Paper/Scissors.
12.30.06 Aenima-Tool. More overkill, so a natural option.
12.31.06 Outback Steakhouse Holiday Season Radio Commercial Jingle-Artist Unknown. Okay, so I heard this little ditty more than a few times during the season and I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find myself humming along to it once it a while, but to hear it in my head without provocation? A truly horrific way to meet the day.
1.1.07 Ceiling Unlimited-Rush. Since reading Neil Peart's books recently, I found myself on a Rush jag, especially at the gym. This track is off of their latest release, Vapor Trails and it's a pumping tune. Great to drive to and it actually got me off to a driven start to a productive day. Made me wonder even more what possible purpose the other mornings' tunes were meant to serve.
1.2.07 Hungry For Love-Whitesnake. Some good ol' rollicking 'Snake from the days before Tawny Kitaen married David Coverdale and fucked his Jaguar. Once again, I own it, but haven't played it for years.
After two weeks of recording the songs I awoke to and taking a few moments each day to consider the possible causes that would trigger these musical memories, I came to only one conclusion. It was a troubling discovery and I don't know if there is anything medically that can be done to somehow remedy this heartbreaking condition.
It seems I have a tiny little DJ in my head. I don't know how he got there, but I'm now utterly convinced of his existence due to the latent facts that I exposed after the exhaustive process of elimination. There simply was no other explanation for these tunes. This little dude has carte blanche when it comes to my own private Library Of Congress, so even if I haven't heard something audibly in some time, he can pull the file and play it at his discretion. At the risk of stating the obvious, I have access to the "Library" during my waking hours, but the soundtracks to my dreams are apparently produced by the diminutive DJ.
I can only imagine that the tracks I wake up to are the "last call" type of songs you'd hear when you close down a bar. I envision the poor little guy spinning tunes through all of my flying dreams, violent fighting dreams, and bizarre nightmares (no doubt with Slayer blaring in the background). So by the time he's done providing the music for my nocturnal travels, I understand where a guy just wants his audience (me) to just wake up so he can get on with whatever it is he does in the netherworld. I've been shaken awake by earthquakes, by frantic women (for reasons I'll leave to the reader's imagination), and by buddies at the craps table telling me that the casino wants us to retire to our rooms. But I've never been more rattled than I was on the morning that I heard a diaper commercial echoing through my head as I rubbed my eyes and realized that the following phrase was somehow embedded in my psyche:
"I'm a big kid, look what I can do..........".
A goddamn Huggies Pull-Ups television jingle. I didn't know what that may have meant for the coming day, but I did feel around the sheets and was relieved to find that I neither wet the bed nor was I wearing polypropylene puffy grundys with Shrek or Finding Nemo logos stamped all over them. I have nothing against the good folks at Huggies or the gigantic chemical corporations that have developed the technology that allows toddlers to piss all over the beloved computer generated characters of Dreamworks and Pixar, but I thought that if I were to wake up with that infernal jingle in my head that maybe I could at least dream of pissing all over the set of American Idol or on Paris Hilton's publicist's Blackberry.
Wet night and good dreams...................