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Full Circle

March 15, 2016

For about a year or so, my daughter has had a job, and one of the new-fangled driver’s licenses that allow you to drive, but only with a licensed person sitting next to you.  This meant that every evening that she worked, I had to go and pick her up.  Since she worked in a place that had an indeterminate time when everyone leaves (there is cleanup at the end of the day), I often sat in the parking lot waiting for a while.  Although I enjoyed taking this time to listen to music (and the car is a great place to do that), I almost always listened to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” album.  That may sound strange, but I do love to dive deep into a recording and get right into every single note until I can run the entire thing through my head in my spare time.

Paranoid certainly isn’t the first record that I’ve done this with.  The first record that I memorized every note of was the Beatles “Abbey Road”, particularly side 2, which to this day makes me happy.  (I just remembered this while thinking of recordings that I have memorized).  I would get my mother to put on Abbey Road at a really young age (young enough that I had to get my mother to do it), and I had every note committed to memory. One of the great things about it at the time was that the duelling guitar solos of John and George near the end of the side, was also being used as the music for a commercial for Buffalo Sabres hockey broadcasts that were on TV quite a bit.

Other completely memorized recordings:  Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Waters which was also played by my mother.  Boston – Debut – I would lie on the floor with a speaker on either side of my head and listen pretty much every night.  Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks (constant listening early in high school.  Devo – Are We Not Men? I listened to this record until I would actually feel nausea when it came on.   Joy Division – Closer … having mocked this record the first time I heard it, I proceeded to listen to it constantly for a really long time … heck, I’d put it in a “walkman”, and wander the streets at night listening to this record. New Order – Movement – the only New Order album I bothered with, I listened all the way through every night for at least a year, often through a guitar amp before I could afford a proper amp. PiL – Second Edition – a tough listen, but once again, heard the entire thing many many times.

Oh, and once I had a record memorized I would run through entire LPs in my head while writing exams in school.  (I remember this very clearly)  In particular, I remember writing my English exam while the entire debut album of the Cars ran through my head, pauses between songs and all.

So, Black Sabbath was a long overdue obsession, but I got there.  I’m sticking with the first three records (for now) but Paranoid is the one I come back to most frequently.  I have realized that this a great record.  Huge, chunky, great riffs, big chords with a lot layers overtones, and powerful playing.  Weirdly, I also have come to realize that Ozzy’s voice is pretty great (even if the lyrics are often pretty dumb).  And, it sounds fantastic LOUD.  So, this finally brings me to the point of this boring story.  My best friend when I was in elementary school was named Brian Sheppard, and he was a very cool dude.  His father had been a pro football player, and Brian was inhumanly strong and seemed indestructible.  He would hang from the bridge over the nearby drainage ditch for fun (just hanging there until he got bored, and then he’d pull himself back up and ride his bike down the stairs between two streets in our neighbourhood. (I should mention that his father also had a large stack of Playboy magazines just sitting in the den … yes, in those days that happened, and he once fell asleep in the rain on the roof of his house). One day, Brian seemed to feel that I required a test, and pulled out two cassettes.  One was Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, and the other was something poppy that I don’t even remember.  He’d play one and then the other  and then ask me which I preferred.  He clearly thought I should choose the poppy one, and I kept on insisting that I preferred Sabbath.  We dropped that shortly thereafter, but it struck me sitting in my car 45 years later that I was finally getting around to Sabbath and it brought back memories of Brian (who moved away shortly after that … I’m thinking that was grade 4).

So, my grade 4 self was right: Sabbath is pretty amazing, even if it took me four decades to get back to it. Something in my brain works the same as it did then.  Now, I just have to figure out if I’m going to spend a small fortune to see the band on it’s farewell tour this summer.  It seems like the right thing to do.

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