Saturday, July 25, 2009

the 80s: dave and another green world

I first met my buddy Dave on the bus to a cross country meet in Ft. Morgan.

The coach chartered one of those big comfy buses and we all had rows of seats to ourselves. Dave happened to be sitting in seats across the aisle from me.

Like me, he had his Walkman out and tapes laying on the seat next to me.

He asked me what music I was into. I rattled off a bunch of new wave acts and a couple of punk bands. He really laughed at the name The Circle Jerks.

Then he told me what he liked. It was all 70s Prague rock. Yes. Emerson Lake and Palmer. Crap that I couldn't stand.

But then he looked through my tapes and found one that he recognized: Brian Eno's Another Green World. He had that in his collection, too, at home.

So we had one album in common.

Truth be told, I didn't much like Dave at first.

Maybe it was because he really liked me. At a cross-country meet a couple of weeks later he was following me around, bugging the hell out of me. I won the meet and I was all high on myself. But on my way home, my mom kind of made me feel guilty. "That Dave kid wants to be your friend," she said.

I'm not sure how we got past my snobbiness. He must've said something I thought was cool. I can't remember. At any rate, we became best friends and remained so throughout high school and for the first couple of years after.

We went through a lot of changes, most of which revolved around music. First punk. Then a sort of post-punk, a la the Meat Puppets and Husker Du. Then acid rock and the Grateful Dead. And then, I guess, anything and everything, so long as it was interesting and unpopular.

But through all the different phases, Another Green World seemed to fit in our record collections. It's the only album I know of that remained a favorite throughout. Even when we were all hard-core-punk, it was our guilty mellow pleasure.

We drifted apart when I was in college. Our paths crossed a couple of times, mostly at his initiative, but I was off doing my own thing, uninterested, more than a little snobby.

I hadn't seen him for months, maybe even more than a year, when a mutual friend got in touch with me to say he'd died of a drug overdose. He was 25.

After the funeral his mom asked me and another friend to meet her at Dave's apartment. She had to deal with his estate, such that it was, and I think we were the only two she could think of to call. I'm sure she remembered me from our teen years, when Dave and I were inseparable, and that's why she asked me.

She didn't want to throw anything away, of course, so I wound up going home with a van full of stuff, feeling more than a little guilty. Truth be told, I'd actually been sort of a judgmental jerk to him the last few times I saw him.

But among the things I got that day was his copy of Another Green World. That night I popped it in my CD player, sat on the floor and listened to it straight through..

The album came out in 1975, but I feel alright including it in this 80s retrospective because that was when I was really into it, and because it paved the way for the kind of 80s music I liked. It's heavy with synthesizers and traditional rock instruments that are distorted to sound otherworldly, with simple melodies that aren't quite pop and aren't quite not. And in some parts it's just plain weird, like on the breezy ballad "I'll Come Running to Tie Your Shoe."

The music takes an ethereal turn toward the end, with a handful of spacey instrumentals and a softly sung, sad reminiscence of life called "Everything Merges with the Night." And it was during "Becalmed," that I really felt the full weight of Dave's death.

The song starts with the sound of breeze. A light piano melody fades in, slowly building and then is topped by an organ that sounds kind of like one you'd find at a funeral parlor in a distant galaxy.

Listening to it, I couldn't help but imagine the moment of Dave's death, when he slid past the point of being high and off into whatever is out there. In my little fantasy, or whatever you want to call it, I surmised that he knew he'd made a mistake and that he regretted it. As he drifted away he wanted to come back.

But perhaps it was just me wishing that he could have. Maybe he liked what he saw on the other side and just took the plunge. Who colud blame me for wishing? He died before I could do right by him, and I was left to deal with my, I don't know, shame? Guilt? Unfinished business? Loss? Yep. All that.

And I wanted him to keep going on this green world, to see where life might take him.

For a long time after his death I'd hear new music and think, What a shame Dave isn't around to hear it.

A long time indeed. Because I still do.

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