That night, I’d finished cooking dinner early. Although I’m so often late in doing things—or maybe because I’m so often late—there’s nothing quite as reassuring for me as being ahead of schedule. So, while waiting for my wife Heather to get home from work so we could eat, my twelve-year old daughter Maggie and I started listening to some songs in the dining room as my son (her little brother) Julien played with his toy dinosaurs in the living room.
“Have you heard this one by the Clash,” I asked Maggie. “It’s one of their poppier songs, but it’s really nice.” And I pulled up “Hitsville U.K.” for her on my computer.
“Oh,” she said. “Cool. Wait, is this from London Calling?”
“No, it’s on Sandinista. The three record set they came out with after their two record set for London Calling.” For some reason I always like to bring up the concept of vinyl records with Maggie. Maybe it’s because so often I’m pulling up songs for her to listen to on the computer. I know that we could actually go over to the parlor where I have my office set up, a space that includes a stereo complete with turntable, but it’s easier to go from one song to the next with the computer.
Somehow, after listening to “Hitsville, U.K.,” the next song I thought Maggie needed to hear was “I Just Want to See His Face” by the Rolling Stones. Maybe it’s because in this town where there’s so much religion going on, the line in the song that goes, “…you don’t want to walk and talk about Jesus/ You just want to see His face” seems to give me a sense of perspective about it. What that perspective tells me, I’m not quite sure, but when I hear this song I’m a little bit less afraid of what’s out here.
Then, as is often the case when I’m feeling no fear, my mind moved on. Which I suppose is why I asked Maggie, “Oh, do you know Lou Reed’s song ‘Walk on the Wild Side’?”
“Oh yeah,” she said.
“Well, the Holly in the song. You know, ‘Holly came from Miami F.L.A./ Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A./ Plucked her eyebrows on the way/ Shaved her legs and then he was a she.’ She died just this week.”
“Oh,” Maggie said. “Was she young?”
“Oh no. She wasn’t young. She was, I don’t exactly, around seventy I think. She lived for a while. And she lived an interesting life.”
Soon, Heather was home. After we all ate dinner, Heather was in the living room playing with Julien while Maggie and I stayed in the dining room. From “Walk on the Wild Side,” I went to playing a few songs by The Bad Brains, and then the Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch ep, and then Annie Lennox’s cover of The Clash’s “Train in Vain” and on to Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain.
“Listen to that guitar,” I told her. “That’s Eddie Hazel. He was one of the great ones.”
After listening for a couple of minutes, Maggie noticed that the whole song was basically an Eddie Hazel guitar solo. “How long is this?” she asked.
“Oh, it’s about ten minutes long,” I said, and we kept on listening, then suddenly it was over.
“It’s over?” Maggie asked.
“That was ten minutes?”
“I know. It doesn’t seem like it. That’s because Eddie Hazel could destroy time with his guitar.”
“Daaaaad,” Maggie said.
“No really. Look at what just happened. We were listening to ‘Maggot Brain’ then now, all of a sudden, it’s the future.”
“OK, Dad,” Maggie said.
Since we had moved ahead, I put on some music I thought would be appropriate for this jump into the future—Sonny Sharrock’s Ask the Ages. After a minute or two Maggie asked, “Who’s playing the drums on this?”
“That’s Elvin Jones,” I said. “He was John Coltrane’s drummer for a long time.”
“Oh, I thought it had this jazzy feel I’d heard before.”
Right then I refrained from saying, “Yeah, Elvin Jones was a motherfucker on the drums.” Instead I just said, as I did for Eddie Hazel, “he was one of the great ones.”
And we kept on listening to Ask the Ages. To Sonny Sharrock on guitar, Pharoah Sanders on tenor sax, Elvin Jones on drums, and Charnett Moffett on bass.
Earlier that day, while Heather and I were up in Winchester for an eye doctor’s appointment, we stopped to pick up Maggie’s electric guitar. The sound had been going out, so we took it up to a guy in Winchester for a rewiring. He had it for a couple of weeks and called us that morning, saying it was all good now and the only interruptions in sound would be the interruptions we intended.
Pretty soon, I thought, Maggie will pick it up and plug it in, ready to fill our house with sound. Maybe, at some point, Julien will want to try it too. I think that one day they will both discover all the beautiful ways to destroy time. Through sound, through words, through form, movement, and more. Though I suspected—what with the way the days had moved ahead so swiftly—that they already had.
Photograph by Jose Padua