Loud Minded: Glowing through the speakers
Music columnist William Schmitt on The Beatles, synesthesia and youthful expression
So far I’ve written about a lot of hip-hop — because I love hip-hop — in addition to a smattering that includes classic soul, neo-soul and some electronic. If my columns were a line of Nike Air Williams, they would all be high-tops and feature two colors, light or dark. If they fit your tastes, great, but I would imagine that few people would truly want to own them.
I’ve talked about my musical tastes enough that I can spare a week discussing the tastes of my first musical influence. My father was kind enough to expose me to The Beatles from a very early age. In fact, my first memory of using a stereo is removing Disc One of The White Album and inserting Disc Two. Some other bands that played recursive roles in my life are Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Phish, and I promise I’ll get to them presently.
The Beatles may be the most popular group in the world and have been referred to by many outlets as the “best,” “greatest,” or “most influential” rock band in the history of the genre. I look at the track list of The White Album, and I am overcome with a pleasant blend of nostalgia. I get the same feeling when I see a dogwood tree or eat Skittles — a slight bitterness from the irretrievability of these bygone times with a hazy golden vision that is the opposite of bloodlust.
I suppose it is because of the remaining traces of this filter that I never felt the urge to fight until recently. Think of a color gel used to transform a powerful spotlight that mostly burns away with time, and you will have an image of my aggression. Of course, with time, my vision became clearer even though my eyesight deteriorated, and I began to understand the concepts of songs like “Rocky Raccoon” and “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.”
It wasn’t until I was older that I started to groove with songs like “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” and “Sexy Sadie.” Don’t get it twisted, fools, I still like “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” It wasn’t until I reached the age of seven or eight that I realized that The Beatles were so popular. Imagine that, thinking that they were some obscure band known only to my father, my own self and a small group of associates. Maybe that’s why I spent so much of my rebelliously unfocused teenage energy searching out rappers nobody cared about. Maybe listening to the Beatles and feeling like I owned that golden glow was what inspired me to spend years peering through a dusty monitor to try and recapture that glow, one that I could call my own until it shined bright enough for others to notice.
I like this glow thing I’m working with, because something about the relationships between different colors and luminosities fascinates my imagination. It’s as if my brain is a music visualizer that responds to my mood and my soundtrack. Each band brings its own speed of life into the fold, and the visualizer reflects a corresponding glow until I create a playlist and life itself beams from the center of my forehead. My collection of music is my true pineal gland.
The Beatles are gold with whitish trails, and I will play their music at my wedding. Led Zeppelin is gray, crimson and aquamarine, and I will play their music at my wedding. Perhaps I’ll save “Ten Years Gone” for anniversary gatherings. Phish — glowing midnight blue, lime green and orange (orange as the mane on the Denver Broncos logo) — will be playing at the wedding reception.
You may know that Grateful Dead was started by a man named Jerry Garcia. You probably don’t know that Garcia made an album of children’s music with folk musician David Grisman, and I would be shocked if anyone has heard “There Ain’t No Bugs On Me,” a light-hearted ode to an insect-free appearance.
This song is muddy creek brown, caterpillar green and autumn red. In comparison to the white dwarf of the Beatles, “Bugs” is a faint and persistent twinkle. I want to share this glow with you. You may not like the song as I do, for when I hear the twang I can picture myself gamboling around my house, following the oval of a rug and laughing like a fool caught in the rain.
In the interest of sharing glows and caring for those to whom I have turned up my nose in the past, I hope you will give this song a spin or two. It makes me feel like a little kid with a massive tub of LEGOs at my disposal, like I’m so engulfed in happiness that I am unaware of my own euphoria.
I wanted this to be about my dad, and it is to a degree. But I realize that I cannot write about his music because it has also become my music. He shared it with me and now I carry it everywhere I go. My ego shone brightly throughout this piece, as you can tell by counting the "I"s, but this article is made possible because of my dad. It’s comforting to know that when I’m writing about this music or listening to this music, I’m writing about or listening to him.