May 22, 2012

They All Disappear From View

A few days ago, I had minor surgery to remove a fatty lump—in doctorese, a lipoma—from my left shoulder. The procedure went well, and I am rapidly recovering. As these things go, this has to be considered a small speed bump on the road to older age. I'm also leaving my current job and starting a new job in a couple of weeks. As if all this wasn't enough, I have a birthday coming up soon.

Time was when all these changes would prompt hours of soulful introspection, usually along the lines of "Is that all there is?" I don't bother much with that any more. I already know the answer: this is all there is. Still, I find myself looking backwards with increasing frequency. Lately, that backward gaze has led me to revisit the simple pleasures of rock and roll in the 1950s.

Several new and old musical traditions--jazz, boogie-woogie, the big band sound, folk, the blues, rock 'n roll--all vied for air time, each form still able to produce a hit or two. Somewhere in the oceanic acidification of the 1960s, we lost touch with many of these forms on the mainstream radio, only to rediscover them all over again. Nowadays, groups of that era tour just as often as they did in their heyday.

This was an era when musicians actually got together to record songs. The singers and back-up musicians were given one three-hour session of studio time. The best cut was the one that was pressed into vinyl. Listening to a song such as 'I Only Have Eyes for You,' by the Flamingos, I can't help but be transported back to a time when life seemed to be simpler, even if it wasn't. Fifty years can be a long time or they may all disappear from view as the eternal harmonies reach across space and time.


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