Just another day surfing the net, collecting up the ephemera, the flotsam and jetsam that gets posted and passed around, linked to and laughed over. And then, there it was, a screen-shot of an iPhone. And I had to share it. It was obviously not at all true. But you kinda wanted it to be true. There it is just there – to the right, below. A claim that someone walked into class 10 minutes late and explained away the lateness – the teacher stopping the lecture to wait for an excuse – by simply saying that Bohemian Rhapsody was on the radio and they had to listen to it…
Well I’m no great Queen fan – but I do love the News Of The World Album. It’s Queen fans that have killed Queen for me. Although you could argue that Brian May and Roger Taylor aren’t doing the band’s music and legacy much of a favour by relentlessly touring as some weakened version of Queen. More recently Queen has renamed itself Muse. And the music has gotten even worse.
Anyway, all of that is irrelevant today. You see any ill-will I might have towards Queen and its rabid Freddie Mercury-can-do-no-wrong fan-base melted when I considered the message here. It’s probably not true. Let’s face it. But I still want to believe it. And not because I think it’s cool to use Bohemian Rhapsody as an excuse for tardiness – but because I understand, instantly, the idea that it’s acceptable to be caught up in the world of a song. It happens to us all, right? Or it has done. A piece of music moves you so that you have to take it in. You cannot cut it off. In fact it stops you in your tracks. Even a favourite that you know inside out. Surely you carry it with you. But no! You need to hear it. You have to have the whole thing – right at that moment.
It seems even more valuable to think like this – to picture this sort of scenario – in a world where we ‘like’ Facebook links to YouTube clips without even listening to the song; a simple recognition that we know the tune and maybe we think we know what that Facebook friend was meaning by posting that particular clip at that particular time. The CDs sit on your shelf or in boxes now because you have it all on your iPod. The hard-drive has replaced the turntable. It’s all click-and-drag-music. It’s as much about having as it is loving.
So I liked this simple, silly story of mild defiance – I was late to class because of a song. And the real hook to it – the pay-off, the punchline – is that the teacher simply nods along. He’s been there – and wishes he was right at that point. He chose a silent nod when he might have looked to the sky and proudly shouted “Galileo!”
There are songs that you always want to hear. Beginning to end. You can’t walk out in the middle of it. You can’t just save that for later – because part of the magic of it is hearing right then and there, being reminded not only of the good time that is that particular song but all the good times, for you, that pertain to that particular song. And then there’s the good times within the song – the bridge, that guitar solo, the way the drummer switches from hi-hat to the ride, the anthemic swell, the subtle fade, whatever it is it signals a new part of the song and a new experience to relive, as well as a new experience that is happening right then, right there. So it’s the collision of the memories of music you know so well, with the visceral feeling of hearing it at that exact point in time.
I liked the idea that this could happen – that a Facebook status could boast of this happening. It was irrelevant that it was Bohemian Rhapsody. Or maybe that was very relevant – maybe that is the only song you could imagine in this situation. Depends I guess, also, if you’re the person boasting and posting or if you’re the teacher nodding along, wishing you’d had that experience.
In my fourth form art class we were allowed to play tapes. I remember playing The Best of The Doors and when Riders On The Storm came on the art teacher was wandering about humming it to himself, singing it under his breath. We thought that was cool. But at the same time we didn’t think he was cool. I mean here he was stealing this music back from us.
I’ve sat in the car to hear the end of a song after reaching my destination. Have you? I won’t do it every time – but I’ll do it every time a song that means something is mid-way through its journey; yet to completely reach its destination.
A few years back I found myself in Kim Hill’s studio at Radio NZ National and I had a choice – there were two songs left on my list of songs I’d selected for Playing Favourites. There was only time to play one. I had to pick just one. I made the choice. And I’m glad I chose the one I did. I’d pick it every time. And hearing it as it was broadcast to whoever was listening confirmed for me that this is the song I’d never walk away from; I’d always want to hear right through.
Granted it’s no Bohemian Rhapsody. But I like to think that somewhere there’d be a teacher nodding along with my choice to turn up late as a result of staying back to hear Gene Clark’s No Other in its entirety. What a song. So that’s my pick.
But what’s yours? What’s your Bohemian Rhapsody as it were? What’s your song that’s like No Other?
What’s the one song that would make you late; the one that you’d be happy to have to apologise for? What song would keep you from any other business for its duration?