Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gene Clark/Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

Oct 2009: Gene Clark has been one of my best friends, ever since that first mixed tape Nic made me in 1997. A flatmate, Cassie, reported at the time, “Lucy listens to that tape over and over, even though it seems to make her sad.” ‘THROUGH THE MORNING, THROUGH THE NIGHT’ is an obvious stand-out…but although it stood out in those first hearings, its magic has never faded, not one bit. When I played the song over and over in ’97, I would have been thinking about Justin, who had left me in the middle of the year to go to Alaska. I started going out with Nic. Nic and I broke up for a month or so. Justin returned to Sydney. Nic and I got back together. “To know that another man’s holding you tight/ Hurts me, little darling, through the morning, through the night.”

Last month, on the day of the dust storm, I went up north to visit Justin. He made me a copy of the recent Alison Krauss and Robert Plant album, plus a bonus track at the end – his song of the moment, by an unknown band he saw at an open-mic night. “It’s a very melancholy song,” I said. “Do you think?” said Just, “I could listen to it all night.”

A week later, I was further north, and all the way over on the other side of Australia. Fred Eaglesmith’s album, ‘Tinderbox’, which I’d bought in Brisbane, was rejected by Clint’s CD-player, so I listened to my other CD, Alison and Robert, over and over. Their version of ‘THROUGH THE MORNING, THROUGH THE NIGHT’ is incredibly beautiful – Alison’s glassy voice, Robert’s yearning harmonies, and the gentle waltz underneath it. Of course, my guitar was travelling with me, and I learnt the song, hoping I wasn’t waking any shift-workers as Alison’s high register took me out of my bedroom voice and into my paddock voice. I was still singing ‘TTM, TTN’ when I finally returned to Sydney. The upside of being home is that now I can also play the song on the piano (having wiped the film of red dust off it).

When our heart is aching, why don’t we cheer ourselves up by listening to happy songs? Most of us don’t work like that – it’s one of the mysteries of human nature. Instead we seek out songs that chime with what’s going on inside us, as though – with like attracting like - the songs draw the poison out of the wound. “I dreamed, just last night, you were there by my side,/ With your sweet love and tenderness easing my pride,/ But then I awoke and I found you’re not there,/ It was just my old memories of how much you cared.”

This song returning to me; one man reminding me of another; and vice versa; magic that won’t fade: all this makes me feel, quite eerily, that I’ve come to the point - the seamline - where the pattern of my life starts to repeat itself. No one is ever supposed to see this seamline! We’re supposed to believe that life’s capacity for invention is infinite. The tape has ended, the player has whirred, clunked, and now automatically starts up again.