Have you ever been down?
Sweet Jesus that song, that song. That sound, that sample, that lyric. Every time I hear The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” every single solitary time I hear the opening refrain of the song I sigh, droop my shoulders, and hear the hairs stand up on end all over my frame. I can remember Australian streets, college hallways, the smell of freshly cut grass on a warm January day. I can hear it all in those few seconds. I can taste the air. I cam remember the passions and the pains of being 23 and an abject failure.
As I write this I look down at my hands, illuminated by the computer monitor. I see wrinkles, thinning skin, veins rising as the flesh thins. They are the hands of my parents not my own anymore. I lived with Urban Hymns as my soundtrack for six weeks. I listened to the album like taking vitamins. Every day it started my day. Every evening it ended it. Many a time I awoke to my walkman on the floor, batteries expired, the tape paused midway through. The walkman, the trusty yellow walkman with auto-reverse, ensuring a never-ending continuous play.
I remember the sounds of the street and the sights of the city soundtracked by this LP for hours at once. I remember listening to the closing song, headphones on, stereo speakers having moved out with the roommate, listening, high volume, sitting on the floor, singing along howling along screaming along, pounding the floor, pouring out frustration and anguish and anger and loneliness and insanity. I remember finding the promo copy of the LP, shaped like a prayer book next to the store stereo and feeling my pulse rise. I remember writing a pretty clunky, cliché ridden review for Michigan State University’s State News (some things never go out of style). I remember buying a ticket to the concert at the Palace and I remember telling a co-worker that she didn’t want to go to the concert with me ’cause she didn’t want to get pregnant again.
I remember, years later, finding the LP that the sample of the song came from and feeling those waves in a different fashion. I remember watching a record label promotional video reel loop and seeing dark hair and black leather walking down a street in an unmoving line, impervious to everything around him, a trait one wishes was available to everyone. I remember hearing the direct, pure “fuck you” in the closing track, a declaration of intent, of anger, of challenge, of everything people tried to get rock music banned for in the 60s. I feel youth slipping away, opportunity slipping away, life slipping through fingers like strands. I would give anything to feel it again.
Mike Vincent is a teacher, dreamer, grouch, and runner. He lives in northern Michigan and his favorite Beatle is George Harrison.