Cloister Commentary, Day 214: Big Surprises

The two best moments yesterday involved music. Big surprise, huh?

First, I finally started reading disco expert (he was there at the beginning, too) Vince Aletti’s The Disco Files, which collects pieces he wrote for Rolling Stone, Record World, The Village Voice and other publications. The main reason I’d sought it out a few years ago was that it collects his “Disco Files” columns, in which, with the sharpest DJs in NYC, he recognized the hottest dance floor tracks of the week (’73-’78)–I’m always on the lookout for great records I haven’t heard; however, the think pieces and interviews interspersed throughout are excellent as well. I even made a 75-minute mix of the songs Aletti vaunted in 1973 in the prototype piece for “Disco Files,” and, listening back to it, I was stunned by hard-hitting it was. Even the cats were impressed. Though some readers’ eyebrows might be climbing at my enthusiasm for these records, I was, as much as a southwest Missouri kid could be, an original disco club kid. That’s right! I never had more fun in high school than when my friends and I would cross over into Kansas (“Dorothy, we’re not in Missouri anymore!”) to dance and drink 3.2 beer at the discos in Galena and Columbus, Kansas. Mirror ball, colored lights, continuous mixes, sweat, soul, and kisses–almost all the pieces were in place. We first started making the trip in ’77, if memory serves, and reading Aletti’s book, I was pleased to realize our joy was contemporaneous with club kids (and adults) in NYC–and that we weren’t as reactionary as one might have exepcted, though, to be honest, gay, black, and Latino patrons were not exactly the majority at the Icehouse or The Liberty Palace Disco, which made it easier for at least some of us. I’d like to think it wouldn’t have stopped me.

Second, after a long-ass day, Nicole needed a helping of cuisine from our very favorite COVID-era restaurant, India’s House, so, too exhausted to ride along, she sent me on a mission. On the way back to the house, with rain falling in black sheets, the Drive-By Truckers CD I was listening to in the truck, The Dirty South, clicked to “Lookout Mountain.” I thought back to a conversation I had with my old colleague Brock Boland; I wasn’t a big fan of the band at that point, and Brock advised me to seek out the song, crank it up, then come tell him they didn’t move me much. It worked, and later we would rope the Hood-Cooley-Isbell version of the band (who happened to be touring The Dirty South at the time) to play at our high school. That’s a long story to be told in full later, but as I turned up the volume in the truck, I again was transported by a song that, besides being a complete artistic success (playing, writing, singing, production, always reaches directly into my consciousness and flips the “ALERT” switch. That’s not a bad thing: Patterson Hood voices…delivers a particular package of fears that haunt most of us–his singing and the guitarists’ forked-lightning bursts sell the song.

If I throw myself off Lookout Mountain
No more for my soul to keep
I wonder who will drive my car
I wonder if my Mom will weep.

If I throw myself off Lookout Mountain
No more pain my soul to bare
No more worries about paying taxes
What to eat, what to wear
Who will end up with my records?
Who will end up with my tapes?
Who will pay my credit card bills?
Who’s gonna pay for my mistakes?

If I throw myself off Lookout Mountain who will ever hear my songs?
Who’s gonna mow the cemetery when all of my family’s gone?
Who will Mom and Daddy find to continue the family name?
Who will stand there taking credit, who will lay there passing blame?

Who will lay there passing blame?

It’s actually a bit scary, but hearing it always gives me strength, simply from knowing I’m not alone in my most troubled moments.

Why am I so obsessed with listening to music? Why aren’t you?

Streaming for Survivors:

This mix has some obvious and some bogus choices, but also some unusual and wonderful ones.

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