A Rage Against Monotony

I was grounded, which was a worse proposition than it sounded in my house. I was 14. It was 1965. My father's decree, he knew not to what he was consigning me. A summer in the countryside of Illinois; idyllic and humid, far more mosquitoes here than in Chicago where we had been living a month ago. No air conditioning, a few fans -- all in my mother's room. No color television, of course (we were rarely allowed to watch the black and white Zenith). It mostly depended on my mother and which stage of her (legally prescribed) Dexedrine and or Nembutal high she was engaged in at the moment. Most things in the household depended on this.

My crime was arriving home at 4 a.m. after seeing Albert King and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the Aragon Ballroom in the city. My father had been waiting for me in the darkened living room. The only light was the glowing ember in the bowl of the pipe clenched between his teeth.

I was sentenced to six weeks of confinement from mid-July to the end of August. During that time I read The Catcher in the Rye at least twice, I think more. I forget the brand name of the portable turntable I had, but I was allowed to listen to what records I had and the ones that would be smuggled to me by my friend and neighbor, Rick. During those six weeks I listened to the Temptations and Supremes, the Animals, the Kinks, the Beatles and Paul Butterfield. (Was the first Butterfield album out then? In my mind it was.) I also had the McCoys and the Troggs (I was 14) and Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. The Beatles albums were Beatles '65 and Rubber Soul. (Was Rubber Soul out in the summer or winter? In my soul it doesn't matter.)

I reach back to that time because of loneliness and I figure a desert island would be lonely. To be isolated on one with a single album and theoretically something to play it on would be a formula for madness soon enough and pretty much any CD or album would get smashed to bits in a rage against monotony. But there was music for me that summer that helped me get through that isolation. Of course I had more than one album and several 45s. These recordings were the soundtrack to my loneliness, resentment, alienation, resignation, and, I should not forget, puberty.

As unlikely as it is that I will ever again be anywhere near a desert island, I will entertain the idea that I am the lone survivor of a shipwreck in which I manage to salvage a CD player and CD.

Harkening back to that summer, possibly I can isolate a single album that was most useful in preserving some semblance of sanity.

I keep thinking back to the Animals albums, Animal Tracks and Animalization. There was something so tough in Eric Burdon's voice that those studio performances helped me get through much. His voice seemed to say, "Do your worst, world. Fuck you, I'm still standing." Like a punch-drunk prizefighter, Burdon seemed (and actually still does) to be indestructible. Songs like "Inside Lookin' Out," "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (the way he did it, not Nina Simone), "I'm Mad," That's Another Side of this Life," (produced by Frank Zappa), and "All Night Long" (those are not on any single album, alas) helped ameliorate feelings of abandonment, condemnation, hopelessness. If it's not against the rules, I would burn my own CD of this single artist, maybe two CDs, because I know many contributors to this piece are going to go for Blonde on Blonde or The White Album, both two-record sets.

The End of the Innocence by Don Henley helped get me through a bad time at the end of a soured love affair. But as much affection as I had for that record at the time, on a desert isle, with that alone, I would turn into Mojo Nixon in a week, screaming, "Don Henley must die!"

December 11, 2003, Rolling Stone put out an issue of "500 Greatest Albums of All Time." The list begins with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, unsurprisingly. They called it, "...the most important rock and roll album ever made." They went on to place Elvis Presley's The Sun Sessions at number 11. The first would never have existed without the 11th. Other strokes of wrong-headedness on this list has Band on the Run at 418, which is okay, but ahead of 443, Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square...?!?!?

And so I ignore the list, the issue, though my heart hovers at RS's number five, Rubber Soul. If I can't have my own burned, double CD of The Animals and Eric Burdon: A Brizzolara Compilation, then give me Rubber Soul. I might survive on the magic and beauty in those grooves.

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