Gone like a cool breeze: Dying in a rock’n’roll fantasy
Updated: Jan 26
Dozed off Saturday night listening to the music of the falling rain, telling me just what a fool I’ve been.
Moments before, I’d been thinking how wondrously strange it is that at a stage in our lives in which we routinely strain to recall the names of familiar acquaintances or where we parked the frigging car, the lyrics of the songs of our youth — sometimes catchy but more often anodyne or downright silly — continue to toggle back and forth in our brains, like these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind.
Be-bop-a-Lula, I don’t mean maybe! Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom! Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp?
Usually I get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir, so that every mouth can be fed. But I woke up Sunday mornin’ with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad so I had one more for dessert.
Pulled the blinds and was greeted by seven Spanish angels at the altar of the sun. Freight yards full of old Black men and the graveyards of the rusted automobiles. Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.
Feelin’ near as faded as my jeans. And my clothes don’t fit me no more. Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.
Ride the highway west, baby. Ride the snake, ride the snake. To the lake, the ancient lake, baby.
If you like piña coladas and gettin’ caught in the rain, you’ll know just what I’m getting at. Jumbled-up, frequently misunderstood or misheard, throwaway songwriter lines are rooted irradicably, ineluctably, eternally into our brain stems. Rama-lama-ding-dong and sham-a-ling-a-ding-dang me. Dang me. Oughta take a rope and hang me. Shh-boom, shh-boom.
It was the third of September. That day I’ll always remember. Yes I will. ’Cause that was the day it was raining hard in Frisco and I needed one more fare to make my night. At the edge of the bar sat a girl named Doris, and ooh, that girl looked nice.
Something about her was familiar. I could swear I’d seen that face before. We learned about love in the back of a Dodge, but the lesson hadn’t gone too far. I saw her today at the reception. A glass of wine in her hand.
“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, though I knew she was sleeping.
With your mercury mouth in the missionary times and your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes, they said they found my high school ring clutched in your fingers tight.
Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through our open ears, inciting and inviting us to a near-universal experience because of the way our brains are hard-wired at their ribbittt, ribbittt, ribbittt, amphibian cores to respond to music, to poetry, to simple rhythm, even when all of the little grey cells in the cortex have been cooked like Christmas lights on frayed and frazzled neural circuits.
You’ve likely seen video clips of those poor old grubbers and biddies with advanced dementia, who ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when, miraculously morphing into children crying and colours flying all around the chosen ones when hooked up to headphones playing music that still stirs something deep within them.
One minute they’re lying in a burned-out basement with a full moon in their eyes. Then seemingly dead eyes pop open, slumped heads are raised, galvanized hands and feet begin to excitedly shake and tap, and sometimes even walkers are shoved to the side to allow for joyful attempts at singing and quasi-dance moves. Betty Lou got a new pair of shoes.
Hello you. Hello me. Hello people we used to be.
When the time comes for most of us aging boomers — the money-for-nothing and chips-for-free set (pass the bag that holds the bottle, feel the wheels rumbling ’neath the floor) — it won’t be The Old Rugged Cross or the Mills Brothers that will have us dancing in the sheets, changing into nine-year-old Hindu boys and getting rid of our lives.
After all, we built this city on sausage rolls! All we need is music. Sweet music. There’ll be music everywhere. There’ll be swingin’, swayin’ and records playing. There’s a bathroom on the rise.
They say you’ll never recognize yourself on Heartattack and Vine. But here we are now, going up the country. Baby, don’t you wanna go? We might even leave the U.S.A.
Entertain us. Count the head lice on the highway. Blue seal in the sky with diamonds. Give me the Beach Boys and free my soul!
And so my fellow nighthawks at this infernal Husky House diner of the 21st-century soul, as we wonder, wonder, wonder, wonder who, who just spooned us Jell-O with a glove, take a good look at my face. You’ll see my bile looks out of place.
Ain’t no angel gonna greet me. It’s just you and I, my friend. And a dog named Boo, travellin’ and livin’ off the land. We’ll have fun fun fun till Nobodaddy takes that T-bird away. That’s me in the corner. Let’s pee in the spotlight, losing our religion.
The snake is old and his skin is cold.
You probably think this song is about you. Don’t chew. Don’t chew.
The screen door slams. Mary’s dress sways like a vision. Well, now, she’s the woman who’s got that beat. She’s the woman with the flyin’ feet. As if I’d never noticed the way she brushed her hair from her forehead.
Earth angel, earth angel. Will you be mine? Why am I so shy when I’m beside you?
She just looked out the window. She said: “Sixteen Parkside Lane.”