Driving In My Car (A Musical Story)

Music, music, music. Since I was 10 or so years old — back in the days when Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel — music has given me kicks, highs and peace of mind way beyond any of my other interests. The hours I’ve spent listening to music, reading about music and thinking and yapping about music are so enormous in number I don’t know how I found the time to hold down a job, let alone get married and maintain that union. Miracles sometimes do happen.

But, you know, I’m nowhere near the music freak that I used to be. Haven’t been for the last 10 or more years. I still go to clubs and auditoriums to catch concerts, but only one fourth as often as in my youthful prime. And at home, where once I played albums and CDs to death, listening to them and radio stations with the laserlike intensity of a neurosurgeon, I now half-listen more often than not, usually not reaching even that degree of concentration.

Yup, it took nearly forever to happen, but my obsession with music, drawing inspiration from my hairline, has been receding fast. Hell, keeping up that relentless pace began to seem nutty. “There’s more to life than music,” I must have said to myself at some point. “You need to find new hobbies, pal, like giving nifty new names each week to your pet hamsters and gerbils. Or organizing the garments in your closets and drawers alphabetically by brand name.”

Yet, despite my slackened involvement chez moi and at music venues, there’s still one place where I really love to listen to tunes, lapping them up greedily, paying attention to the lyrics of those with lyrics, and grooving like a hippie in training: In my car, almost needless to say. Maybe it has something to do with the sound waves bouncing around gleefully in a small, enclosed space. Or the distraction that songs provide from the stop-and-go misery that 90% of my driving entails. Whatever, good songs in my car raise my spirits rocket-quick.

And here’s another part of the reason why: My car is equipped with SiriusXM satellite radio, which I adore. So many channels, so many musical genres. When I climb in the car I can barely wait to start tapping the radio’s touchscreen buttons. And very often my destination is channel number 30, The Loft, where anything goes, though the concentration is on singer-songwriter and rock music veins.

It’s not as though I smile and clap at everything The Loft plays, however. Hardly. Lots of times I’m not impressed, and so begin racing madly from one channel to another in search of a tune or artist that I can relate to. But often there are occasions when The Loft, or another spot on the Sirius dial, seems to be reading my mind and my inner needs, sending out songs that caress me just right.

img_1348img_1354That’s what happened on Wednesday morning of last week when out I headed on what would prove to be a slow, slow journey. As seemingly always, I got caught by the red of the first traffic light I reached when attempting to exit my neighborhood, unable to make my desired right turn because of the non-turning hunk of junk in front of me. At last the light flipped colors. I made the right and then crawled 200 feet to where all traffic was stopped due to the gates being down at the local railroad tracks. It figured. Choo choo, motherf***er! But what did I care? For I was listening to The Loft, and by the time I reached my destination, a supermarket half a mile from my house, I’d heard two songs, back to back, that sent me aloft: Elliott Smith’s I Figured You Out and Late by Ben Folds. And half an hour later, on my way back home from the store, The Loft played another fine tune, Kyle Morton’s Survivalist Fantasy. I’d hit the trifecta!

What I liked about the three songs, beyond the way they made me go all mushy inside, is that I’d never heard them before. I’m always on the prowl for new goods. I Figured You Out, which Smith wrote years ago for Mary Lou Lord, who recorded it for one of her albums, is a knowing look at a broken relationship sung from the female’s perspective. Smith, an acclaimed singer-songwriter, never included I Figured You Out on any of his own albums. What I heard on The Loft is Smith’s original demo of the song. It was unearthed and released recently. The relaxed pace, Smith’s typically hushed voice, and more than anything the chiming melody really got to me. It’s one of those songs that can get stuck in your head. Very sadly there probably isn’t much more unreleased Smith material in the vaults. The poor guy left us in 2000, likely a suicide. The coroner, though, wasn’t fully able to confirm the cause of death.

Ben Folds, like Elliott Smith a singer-songwriter, never has been one of my favorites. His voice strikes me as vanilla, and his piano playing, loaded with loud, broad chords, seems scripted. Who knows, then, why I took to Late. I liked the melody, that’s for sure, and Folds’ loud, broad piano chords rubbed me the right way for a change. And I dug the lyrics, which flowed like the sentences of a good short story. Two days later, doing a few smidgeons of research for this article, I found out that Folds and Smith had been buddies and that Late is Folds’ tribute to his friend. Leave it to The Loft’s crack curators to know about the Smith/Folds friendship and to follow an obscure Smith tune with an homage.

Batting third in the lineup is Kyle Morton. He’s one of the multitudes of musicians who entered the marketplace within the past 20 years about whom I know next to nothing. But a few days ago I learned a few things. Morton’s main claim to fame is as lead singer of the indie tock band Typhoon, and Survivalist Fantasy comes from his brand new, and first, solo album What Will Destroy You. Also, he has suffered from Lyme disease since childhood. His physical woes have colored many of the songs he writes with a dark tint. But, like just about every other songwriter, he can’t ignore love. Survivalist Fantasy is a quietly lilting and beckoning track about love in the ruins.

Parking in front of my house I hauled the grocery bags out of the car. An obvious point had been made. Namely, this is a great time to be alive when it comes to music. Most of the worthy stuff from the past is available to hear, and the avalanches of good, new material are unending. Praise the musical gods,  whose prime mission is to oversee the soothing of the savage human soul.

 

(Don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this article. Thanks.)

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35 thoughts on “Driving In My Car (A Musical Story)

  1. The Artist's Child February 8, 2017 / 1:58 am

    Really enjoy your posts. Your car radio sounds amazing. Had not heard those great songs before and it was good to learn the back stories before listening to them. Songs heard in the car can certainly have a stronger impact. I often associate songs with a particular long car trip and every time that they are played on the radio it takes me back to that time. You are right. We are living in a great time for music and need it more than ever. Kat

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 8, 2017 / 9:38 am

      Hi, Kat. Thanks for adding your thoughts.
      In a few minutes I’ll be heading once again to the supermarket that I mention in the story. Needless to say I’ll be listening to SiriusXM.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Janet February 8, 2017 / 11:41 am

    Music in the car is one of life’s greatest joys. My husband & I recently drove 14 hours across the Canadian prairies in a rental with satellite radio, and my god, it was a revelation. I sang along the *entire* way (and am somehow still married).

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 8, 2017 / 12:09 pm

      Hi, Janet.
      For certain, satellite radio is the best. I never thought I’d like it as much as I do.

      Like

  3. greenpete58 February 8, 2017 / 11:50 am

    I’ll have to check these guys out. It definitely is a good time for music, mainly because of the easy access to the old (and sometimes new) music we like. Thanks to Myspace, I discovered a guy in Montana who’s never released anything, indie or otherwise, but his home demos are brilliant. And Pandora & Spotify have helped me connect with old, English folk-rock obscurities like John Martyn and Wizz Jones, who I just listened to here at work. And the late, great Phil Ochs helped pull me through the election buildup (and aftermath). Thank heaven for good music!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 8, 2017 / 12:08 pm

      Wizz Jones . . . I’ve heard of him, but I’m not familiar with him. I’ll have to check him out!

      Like

  4. sniderjerry February 8, 2017 / 6:25 pm

    Hey there Neil, The radio in my car broke recently so I had to hire a live band to travel with me – it’s costing me a bunch but the music is worth it. ROCK ON! Jerry

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Lucie February 8, 2017 / 8:15 pm

    Hm… I never heard of these people, but I especially liked Kent Smith…too bad he’s no longer alive….Thx for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 8, 2017 / 8:34 pm

      Hi, Lucie. One thing for sure is that many thousands (probably millions) of good songs have rolled off the assembly lines over the years.
      See ya’ —

      Liked by 1 person

  6. K E Garland February 9, 2017 / 7:22 pm

    You know what? You’re a really great writer. I didn’t just figure this out, of course, but reading this particular piece really solidified it for me. It’s your voice. It’s very clear. I felt as if I was actually in the car with you and didn’t care about the train either.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. cincinnatibabyhead February 9, 2017 / 7:38 pm

    3 good cuts. Thanks. Cars and music go way back. Good piece Neil. You have my “wheels’ turning.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. andrewcferguson February 11, 2017 / 5:41 pm

    Great stuff Neil. Well written as ever, and very evocative. My younger nephew introduced me to Ben Folds, and I like his stuff, but will give the others a try too thanks to you. The older I get, the more I realise music is my salvation. It has the power to move you in so many ways: keep on listening!

    PS the only thing I miss about being able to walk to my work now is the amount of music I used to be able ti fit into my 30 minute drive to my last work place!

    PPS I like Jerry’s idea of hiring musicians to play if your radio breaks. I am available for commuter traffic…

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 11, 2017 / 6:09 pm

      Hi, Andrew. Yeah, Jerry has an inspiring idea. I think you should quit your job, move to the States, and perform in Jerry’s car. Hopefully he pays generously!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Steve Higgins February 12, 2017 / 9:36 am

    Driving in your car is my personal favourite place to listen to music. Satellite radio sounds great but I am very lo-tech. I hate adverts, I mean really hate adverts so I tend to listen to the advert free BBC radio or CDs. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 12, 2017 / 10:48 am

      Hi, Steve. Thanks a lot for your comments.
      Speaking of the BBC . . . my wife and I live in Pennsylvania. We get BBC-America on our cable TV system. They broadcast the BAFTA movie awards show. It’s on tonight, and my wife and I will be watching.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Aunt Beulah February 12, 2017 / 4:36 pm

    What a powerful, positive passion for and knowledge of music, you have, Neil. I envy it. The only similar addiction I have is to chocolate chip cookies. There’s no comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 12, 2017 / 6:04 pm

      Hi, Janet. Changing the subject slightly, but keeping it on cookies: The other day I noticed Vienna Fingers on the supermarket shelves. I hadn’t thought of them in a long time. I’m glad they are still being made. My grandmother, when I was a kid, would always have them for me when I visited her. They are delicious.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. aprilswopegreene February 13, 2017 / 3:44 pm

    Great radio—and the “crack curators” who are such a vital part of it—is one of my great loves, too. (Along with Elliott Smith.) Nice to see it get a big, thoughtful shoutout here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 13, 2017 / 5:38 pm

      Hi, April. You know, I’m pretty certain that people will be listening to Elliott Smith’s songs many years from now. Ditto for musicians recording his songs. He wrote a whole lot of good ones.

      Like

  12. America On Coffee February 14, 2017 / 8:44 pm

    So personal and delightful to ride with you and experience more of your style. Time seems to recreate our sense of enjoyment keeping us aware

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Martin February 20, 2017 / 2:23 am

    Great post, really well written.
    The car is the best place to listen to music. I had to drive to Sheffield and back the other day and listened to two Arctic Monkeys albums back to back. Bliss!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. courseofmirrors February 20, 2017 / 3:45 pm

    I enjoyed reading this vignette. ☼ And I sighed at what I’m missing, being lucky to get one channel coming through my ‘oh so very basic’ car radio in my ancient if faithful car.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 20, 2017 / 4:59 pm

      Hi. Thanks a lot for adding your thoughts.
      There’s a lot to be said for ancient but faithful cars. I have a fondness for them.

      Like

  15. Fictionophile February 23, 2017 / 9:58 am

    Great post! Music is SO intrinsically a part of our lives.
    On the off-chance, I thought I’d ask a question…
    One of my favorite tunes (both in the car and at home) is “Big Log” by Robert Plant.
    I was just wondering if you had ever heard why the song is called “Big Log”. Such a strange title. Or… am I just being dense?

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 23, 2017 / 11:37 am

      Hi. That’s a great song. Not sure if I ever heard it before. Plant has had a strong career post-Zep. He’s a very creative guy.
      I’m with you in re the title: I don’t have a clue.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. viewfromoverthehill March 7, 2017 / 8:59 pm

    Interesting about music, I’ve searched for old songs among the many files in my old brain when I haven’t wanted to obsess about something else. It diverts me. Write on, Muriel

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger March 7, 2017 / 9:37 pm

      Hi Muriel. Music definitely is one of the good things in life.
      Overall, it makes things better.

      Like

  17. myliron May 23, 2017 / 11:44 pm

    Music for me to has been a massive passion since a young age so I can totally relate and love your post💜
    We all have stories to tell if we would just take the minute to speak but also listen to others

    Liked by 1 person

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