Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Healthy Obsession

I hope that as old as I get to be, I never lose my childish infatuation and joy with listening to the mysterious tunes of a newly acquired album.

In my childhood, I took piano lessons up to a grade two level, but my true consciousness was never really kicked open until I started sliding one finger around on an electric six string guitar. There was a white Ibanez rip-off that my brother had borrowed from a friend in our basement, and for some reason, I decided to start fiddling with it when I was 13 or 14. Eventually, the finger sliding made me ask people about chording and shapes and how to make cool sounds. And I thought it would probably make girls like me, too.

One of those people who was a big part of my musical influence and makeup in my younger years was my friend Jeff. Jeff moved into town from Toronto in his junior high years, and our friendship was formed out of him inviting me over to his house in Centrepointe, on a Sunday afternoon after church, to play Nintendo. And oddly enough, that's exactly how he phrased the question on the phone: "Hi Matt - do you want to come over to my house and play Nintendo?" How could I say no to Nintendo?

Jeff is and has always been a bit of a savant musician. His ability to master an instrument has always been semi-maddening but inspiring to me. He has an understanding of theory and the beauty of notes that was always in his genetic makeup. Over the years, we have played in many bands together, and taken many road trips together - where we would play new songs for each other's ripe ears and marvel at the sounds, and distortion techniques, and solos, and compare the songs of our new bands to other old bands we already knew. I don't think anyone has seen Sloan live more than Jeff - nor does anyone in this galaxy own more b-sides by Low.

Just a few weeks back, I asked Jeff about Uncle Tupelo because my friend Chuck from Halifax mentioned their name when he was rooting around about my influences. Sure enough, Jeff is and has been a fan forever, and he assembled a 20+ song mix of his favourite UT tunes and mailed it to me. The simplicity but raw gut-power of picky, ploddy tunes like Wait Up and Black Eye have been dancing in my head for weeks like a fading, laughing pixie of youth - waving sheets around in a green meadow that is disappearing from my memory. Gorgeous and sad. March 16-20, 1992 is an album worth acquiring, and it will probably show you things about yourself.

Music is my elixir. It's my lifeblood. It lights little fires in my bones and it puts a spring in my step. I pray that never changes.

I hope everyone has a friend like Jeff - someone who can continue to open your eyes to the world around you.

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