My husband collects vintage bicycles, and he had a nap dream this afternoon in which he had acquired a Journey-themed bike. All of the bike needed restoration except for the head badge and its screws. He said that the head badge was roughly as large as a beer can, and he was puzzled at determining how he’d reattach such a large badge to the bike, especially since he dropped one of the screws from this pocket while trying to fix a two story high tar paper roof. I asked him if the badge included the scarab beetle featured on many Journey album covers, and he replied that it had little detail but the band name Journey in large red letters.
I recall a dream I had almost twenty-five years ago that featured the Journey scarab beetle. It was one of those instant sort of dreams that seems to flicker to life as soon as your eyes close. I saw the scarab beetle’s progression through history, that it was merely borrowed by Journey as Gru had hired the Minions. Unlike the Minions, the scarab beetle lent itself to just one cause, the glory of Journey. As the dream progressed, the scarab beetle revealed all of its guises in a silent montage saturated with color beyond the spectrum visible in waking life. He concluded by revealing the next Journey album cover, which was not to be released due to friction within the band.
A couple years later, I heard a DJ introduce a Steve Perry solo single with the disclaimer that Neal Schon would not be indicted because he played no role in the song’s creation or recording.
I leave you with what I believe is Journey’s finest song. I imagine that the album cover shows the scarab beetle’s awakening from a dream of this song, before it was written in our reality.
Back in the year 2000, my interest in learning to backmask audio collided with “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats, and this was the result. With this recording, I began the most important journey of my life. There was a man who heard this and decided to fly 2,000 miles to meet me because he wanted to see the woman who created this recording. That man became my daughter’s father.
It all started with a silly impulse to backmask, a $7 microphone and a collection of free or cheap audio utilities. That is how I became a mother.
I think it is possible that the human mind has a finite capacity for trivia and that this mind of mine approached its data limit long ago. My memory is so littered with things I recall seeing on early MTV or hearing on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 that I am challenged in trying to commit more recent pop culture to memory. Perhaps this issue reflects a subconscious vote on quality rather than a deficit in my memory. If given the choice between learning the current Billboard charts and remembering that Prince helped write “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks, I would choose Prince and Stevie every time.
Now that I am well into my 40’s, I worry that some of songs that rotated through my list of favorites over the years could be lost to the advance of time. What if I am one of the last people left that loved a particular song? I often think that the story of each of our lives is a dying language and that each of us should preserve that language by passing on our stories. The soundtrack of each life is a dying language of sorts, too.
One song that I loved and could be lost to time is “When the Heart Rules the Mind” by GTR. I can remember being thirteen years old and watching Alan Hunter introduce the world premiere of the video. Mom was watching with me and suggested that we record the video on VHS, despite that we hadn’t heard the song before. Since there was no such thing as video on demand in households back in the mid-80’s, my mom, my sister and I were in the habit of keeping a tape queued in the VCR to capture good music videos. It was like creating a 6 hour long mix tape of song videos and concert specials. My mom took the time to catalog all of these mega mixes, which ranks among one of the many reasons I believe that God smiled upon me by choosing my mom for me. “When the Heart Rules the Mind” was the first song on one of those VHS tapes, and she and I watched that clip many times, individually and together.
While the original video is full of mullets, Miami Vice style suits in tasteful British colors and somewhat ill-advised choreography, some aspects of the music itself stand the test of time, especially Steve Howe’s guitar solos. I recall that this band was a cross between a super group and a side project, since they supplemented the marquee guitarists (Hackett and Howe) with seasoned session players. The band name GTR seems to imply that they were not a super group, for it seems that the band names of super groups are usually a collection of surnames, like Emerson Lake and Palmer, or an Americana-themed name, such as Damn Yankees or Traveling Wilburys.
Short of buying airtime to broadcast this song, I have done my part to buy it some more time in our collective pop culture consciousness. While this song may sound a bit contrived and a touch cheesy, I haven’t heard anything on Top 40 radio in decades that is on par with this tune. Back in 1986, this song reached 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Nowadays thirteen year olds would not hear anything of this quality unless they dared to venture from the mainstream, and I’d guess that journey would likely lead to oldies rather than current songs.
I have yet to infect anyone with my enthusiasm for Thin Lizzy. I suppose this affinity is like my passion for barley, something that happens spontaneously and cannot be taught. I had heard “Jailbreak” many times while growing up and found it merely tolerable. It was one of those songs that would not compel me to change the radio station to avoid it. Sometime around the two hundredth time I heard it, it suddenly captured my attention as if I were hearing it for the first time, and I was impressed enough to check out the band’s back catalog. Soon their songs became a regular sonic thunder that helped propel me through my awkward spell in retail after dropping out of college back in the 90’s.
My fascination with Thin Lizzy was no exception to my tendency to ask myself oddball questions. How many other people read the Bible story about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana and wonder whose wedding it was? With Thin Lizzy, I speculated whether “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back in Town” referred to the same people but from different points of view. Was the jailbreak successful and the second song the celebration of it?
“Cowboy Song” made me wonder how many Irish artists explored themes of the American West. Both Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott and Irish author Flann O’Brien imagined life in the Wild West in some of their work. This inquiry is one of many unanswered questions from my youth. Why would an Irish artist feel drawn to those themes? Did they find a small of measure of release from their postcolonial tensions in recreating the American frontier?
“Southbound” is the Thin Lizzy song that I enjoy most. Outside the realm of alternative music, their are few songs that embrace failure and depression that don’t mention romantic loss. In the song, the lyrics tell of a man who cuts his proverbial losses and disappears, “taking only what I need before my head explodes.” Having quit and departed many circumstances in my past, I know exactly what that feels like, and I listened to this song many, many times in my younger days because it was a relief to hear that someone else had felt that way, too. I feel that I have grown past my tendency to escape, except when I feel trapped if I spend more than an hour at time shopping. When I hear this song now, I do not feel tempted to bail out of situations, but it does inspire compassion for the quitter I once was.