Friday, July 18, 2014

...apart from the world, of spending the rest of my existence in a space-faring sphere in which I would never again want or need anything worldly to subsist. It would have been simple -- and it would have been enough.
That summer played host to a state of mind that could only have existed in the person I was then. I frequently both engaged and tried to esape from it with soaring music in my ears on long evening walks that many times stretched into the wee hours. My parents, especially my father, never seemed to understand that need. He would often point out to me the dichotomy of my going out just as the rest of the world was going to sleep. I suppose he thought those post-sunset strolls was just me being willfully unusual and contrary. They were born of a simple unspoken hunger for peace, of mind and soul both. I can only assume most people never experience that -- or somehow find other means of satisfying their balancing needs.

But I was always a nocturnal person -- night-time is delight time -- and the music gave wings to my imagination and painted across my mind's eye the vista of finding myself alone on a pier (sometimes I recall the image as an empty beach) with nothing ahead of me but ocean. There I would stand, the only person in the world, sheltered by the calmness of my solitude and the atmosphere of twilight slowly burning black. I would see myself overcome by an aura, defeating the darkness around me and inside of me, shifting the sea into respectful tranquility. A living alien bubble would slowly descend upon me, selecting me to inhabit and navigate it without communication, only feeling, and making me a subject it could teach, one with a heart easy to reach.
Such a heart was mine, never worn on my sleeve so much as hovering above me like a balloon, always sharing with the world, willing or not, my every mood, emotion, and desire. And perhaps more vulnerable than most to pin-pricks. More than once, it had loved profoundly -- and borne the abyssal pain of the deep affection only experienced by the young and the foolish. The higher it had climbed, the deeper it had tumbled.
And the heart of seventeen that once inhabited this pearl-less shell had risen and fallen seemingly without end, too fragile to carry the pain, but always too strong not to brave the unsafe once more.
The many I wanted to embrace had kept me outside, never allowing me to be part of the quilt because the patch I offered them was not cut from their cloth. My thinking roamed to places they did not recognize, my feelings lived in valleys beyond their reach, and my perceptions never encompassed the untold boundaries they would never cross.
I was alien to them because I did not inevitably conform to unspoken rules of which I had little instinctive need or conception. It was never stubborn defiance. It was only that I did not know. Yet it gave them license to deny me their compassion and affection and to pour mockery over the pure self I tried to safeguard, just as I began to gain awareness of the world. It has never been easy to bask in it since.
So, with the certitude only a seventeen-year-old seems to have, I wanted no part of them anymore.
Whether anyone would miss me scraped the edge of my consciousness, but only for a moment. Even as the thought hit me, I could see that self-pity was not my answer, strangely appealing as it could be. There was never a question of going where there was no return. I only wanted so much to disappear, to have no more sorrow discolouring my life, even if it meant I would never again share my space with another human being.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Journey Well, Davy Jones

I have rarely been given to overmuch sorrow when someone in the worlds of music or film -- worlds I dearly love -- passes away. I remember hearing about the killing of John Lennon when I was seven years old, but I was too young to comprehend the emotional depth of the event. At the news of the passing of George Harrison and The Who's John Entwistle -- when I was nearing 30 and was, one hopes, in possession of far more perspective and emotional awareness -- I was saddened and to this day wish they could have lived and brought more music to the world, but I couldn't say that there was personal grief.

It affected me more when Freddie Mercury died a little over 20 years ago, because I had over the year leading up to his departure immersed myself in the music of Queen and the amazing talent and drive I felt he especially possessed. At that time, though still relatively young at 18, I felt something a bit closer to private anguish, but not to the extent that it lived in my heart much beyond the initial days following.

But then there was Davy Jones. When a Facebook friend posted a link on Wednesday and said, "Bye, bye, Davy... and thank you," it took me a while to understand what it meant. I clicked on the link and was taken to a Fox News report, still not properly comprehending -- or, perhaps more subconsciously truthfully, not wanting comprehension to get a hold on me -- but with that terrible, slowly debilitating feeling of dread gathering.

Suddenly, I found meaning in a phrase like "It's unreal" that, for me, had never been there before. I simply could not be seeing what I saw. For an instant, my mind illogically grasped at the chance that it might be the work of someone with a life so insufficient in meaning as to find satisfaction in creating and perpetuating apocryphal reports of decease. But my eyes, struggling to stay in one place as I watched, listened to, and read every piece of confirmation that passed before me, could not sustain my need for it to be a deception.

Finally, I settled uneasily into the reality. He's gone. Inexplicably, needlessly, wrongly.

Now, I'm an emotional man. I've always been one to weep at a particularly beautiful piece of music or an especially affecting scene in a film or TV production of the co-existence of human frailty and strength, when I lose a loved one, and when a love affair comes to an end. But this is the first time I can remember tears welling up for someone I didn't know, had never met, nor even seen from afar in concert.

And though I'd never considered what I might feel at a time like this and was not in the least prepared, the response that came felt somehow perfectly natural to me. Unexpected, but natural.

I realize this seems intensely personal given what I've just said, but it's nonetheless how I feel.

My mind, which I often say has a mind of its own, began rushing backward, brushing over all the memories I have as a Monkees fan. I recalled how, before August of 1987, I was barely cognizant of the phenomenon that had come into being some years before I was born. Then, sometime that month, the reruns of THE MONKEES finally reached that infinitesimal spot of the cosmos that I inhabit. My initial perception -- based on the TV spots heralding their arrival -- was actually not all that favourable, as I found them on that first glance to be uninterestingly goofy. Whatever prompted that reaction is a mystery to me now, for it took but an episode to reel me in and leave me flopping on the deck of that Monkees hydrofoil.

Years followed of very happy collecting of vinyl albums, singles, extended plays, compact discs, and videos, branching out into any solo efforts that I came across, including Davy's 1971 album, which I clearly remember my father bringing home to me on November 6, 1988, having picked it and many other Monkees items up at a used record fair in Sweden. It wasn't a hit, but I think the album contained one of his most attractive performances -- that of David Gates's "Look at Me," which Bread had also recorded for their eponymous debut album. I highly recommend it.

In a sense, I grew up with the Monkees, even if my being born 20-odd years too late meant it had to be during the 1980s revival -- and even then, they never felt to me like has-been oldsters. I was just happy that they were around. Because they were my band, you see. Dad, who was never a Monkees enthusiast, had his Beatles, his Shadows, and his Cliff Richard. I liked all of those three acts, too, but the Monkees were my own discovery, mine to enjoy, and for me to share with others.

But, as it turned out, they were really much more than that.

Through the TV series, with their many great moments of madness, and the music to which they added such charisma and fervor, they became my friends. I admit I was always especially drawn to Michael, but I remember, even at 14, noticing what a good actor Davy was. It was, however, learning what a good heart he had -- as shown, for one, by the many tales of his presence and caring for his fans -- that made him so admirable to me. You could see his warmth on his website and even his posts on Twitter, however short, were no less sweet. I simply did not need to know him to see that his heart made him as tall as any man could need to be. It makes me wish I had somehow touched base with him, even just to let him know I thought he was great. All I can say now is that the sorrow I feel at his passing will reside in my heart and mind for a long time.

I want to close on a part of Davy that will always be here -- his music.

I believe there were some who considered him to be just a cute heartthrob singer with a limited aptitude for musicianship -- but give a listen to "Dream World" from 'The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees' and "You and I" from 'Instant Replay' and you will find a great deal more musical breadth than would seem to meet the eye (or ear, I should probably say).

For me, Davy's real musical treasures are the wealth of songs he wrote -- frequently with Steve Pitts and Bill Chadwick -- and recorded that were never originally released. I'm grateful that we finally did get to hear them. When I got the 'Missing Links' album in early 1989, I instantly liked all of Davy's tunes and I still feel they place high among his best work. I don't share the passion he had for music hall, but I think "If You Have the Time" managed to meld it with pop very well and I still love to sing it from time to time. I loved "Party" and played it incessantly for months. I admired "War Games" for its social commentary, which I can tell you was an unusual occurrence for this then-15-year-old.

The final song on the album is the reflective "Time and Time Again," which to me is the loveliest work he did in his lifetime:

Time and time again
naughty girls get me in trouble
When I fly too high
something's bound to burst the bubble

You say this is love
Wonder if you're feeling lonely
Tell me, if you please
Is this for this evening only?

Or will it be for a long, long time
or just a passing fancy?
Will it be for a long, long time?
I feel as though it can't be

I'll just wait and see
what tomorrow has to bring me
A love that is oh, so true
or another girl that's free and easy

Time and time again... and again... and again... and again

Spotify: The Monkees – Time And Time Again ('Missing Links')

If there is one consolation, I think he was happy when he left us. He seemed to be doing what he loved and loving what he did -- right until the end.

Thank you, Davy, for being who you were and always will be. May wherever you are now be but the next "Dream World."

Rik Bakke