The digital age of music has been a boon to me. I love music. Love it more than most people could know. I love music so much that I wish I could have my own soundtrack and score to my life.
I mean that, too. I watch movies and get jealous that the characters in movies get to have music accompany their every move. It doesn’t matter if they’re restoring an old psychiatric hospital to make a fake school, or papering the town with fliers to help Demi Moore save her uncle’s house, or simply walking through the streets of New York in an opening credits scene while a kid plays some homemade drums, they get music and it enlivens their life. They are living in color, sonically speaking, while for the most part we have to go through our days in black-and-white, with simple conversation and footsteps and people dropping the jar of jelly and whatnot.
Or maybe the difference is between 2-D and 3-D. Most of our lives are lives in 2-D, a blur of images and colors and lines, and when we (or at least I) put music on, it resolves itself into a spaceship or ostrich and we smile in appreciation for the new depths we have found.
I’m writing this while I listen to music right now, in fact. I’m sitting at our kitchen table while Sweetie gets A ready for bed, while Middle Daughter works on World War II worksheets and The Boy struggles with math, and because the kids are not supposed to have music playing while they study – they got iPods for Christmas and were allowed to use them while studying, with the results being that grades took a precipitous fall—so bad that it’s unlikely we’ll have to deal with Ivy League tuitions; we may not even have to deal with any tuitions – and so we remedied that by banning music during homework. But while I have to be at the kitchen table to be ready to answer questions (I’ve fielded, tonight, assistance with what D-Day was, helping point out that it differed significantly from Pearl Harbor, and also a series of vocabulary words that I didn’t do too badly on. I was even right on bivouac), while I have to be ready to answer questions, I also can work on my writing, like this, only I need music (enjoyed via headphones, right now) to really set the mood (right now, it’s “The Fish That Played The Ponies,” by King Missile, a song that I got on the CD that Sweetie gave me for Christmas the year we got married, a CD she located solely for the purpose of getting me the song “Cheesecake Truck,” which I’d heard a snippet of five years before when I played the District Attorney in the play “Brother Truckers.”)
There, see that? See what music does? It evokes a string of emotions and memories. From this one song, I got a bit of reminiscing that took me all the way back to that summer when I got bored and decided to take up acting, memorized a Shakespeare soliloquy, went on auditions, and appeared in an actual live play that ran four nights before live audiences at a real theater, all in the span of two months. (And the fact that I did that on the spur of the moment, much as I decided to go to Washington, live in Morocco, sing lead in a band, and go to law school, should show you just what an interesting person I am. If I wasn’t me, I’d kill just to get to know me.)
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, music setting the mood. The right song helps set a mood and can sink in and fix a moment in your mind.
And the right song can also cement a person in your mind as the greatest female singer ever. I’m talking about Fiona Apple.
Sweetie thinks that I like Fiona Apple because she thinks I think Fiona Apple is pretty. That is only partially true; Fiona Apple is, in fact, pretty. She’s also pretty interesting, but that’s beside the point. I like Fiona Apple because of her voice. And I got to know Fiona Apple’s voice through the song “Like A Drug.”
The song was on a mix tape that a friend who was a college DJ gave me years and years back. She didn’t label the singer of the song on the card that came with mix tapes. (Remember mix tapes? I have a zillion mix tapes. I’ve had some for so long and listened to them so much that certain songs, to me, will always make me wait for the song I expect to come next, because that’s the way they were on the tape. Like how I expect to hear “Don’t Ask Me Why” by Billy Joel right after “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd.)(I had pretty eclectic mix tapes.)
The song wasn’t labeled, and it was right at the end of the tape. I was listening to it the next day while I cleaned up my little L-shaped studio apartment, and it was getting dark, and I was getting tired. And that song came on. I stopped what I was doing and I just listened.
I was transported by the singing. People say, in old Jane Austen novels mostly, that they were “transported” but they don’t really know what they’re talking about until it’s happened. In this case, the singing was so strong and so pure and so on-key and yet had the tiniest little quaver, the smallest hesitation, like there was just a little part that was being held back and as you listened, you didn’t want the singer to hold back but you understood why she did and the fact that she did that made you ache for her.
That’s being transported.
I’ve since lost that tape, or it got eaten by a tape player, or someone stole it from me. All those things used to happen to mix tapes. But I never lost my love for Fiona Apple’s voice, and have gone on to enjoy other albums of hers and always because of her singing. If Fiona Apple were to chant the local phone book, I’d probably buy that.
And all because of that song.
And now you’ll be glad you read to the end, because it turns out that song was probably not sung by Fiona Apple at all. When I sat down to write this, I decided to once again search for that song to see if I could download it, since I could find plenty of websites that listed the lyrics and the title of the song, but could not find it on iTunes and could not find the album it was on to purchase it, and tonight I went to try again – I’ve been searching for that song, off and on, for years—but when I went to search tonight, to see if someone could point me in the direction of the album or where to download (legally! Back off, RIAA!) that song, I found, instead, a listing for the CD that the song may or may not appear on, and I say “may or may not” because I found, also, another site that claims that the version I heard was by that band but was a demo version – so I might never ever get that version back again?
So this, I guess, marks a first: The first ever nomination for The Best that was, in fact, based on a mistaken (or potentially mistaken) assumption. And yet, even being founded on a mistake does not make my opinion any less right. So let’s just agree that the song was beautiful, Fiona Apple has a phenomenal voice, and I’m always right.
And let’s go out listening to her sing:
Oh, and if you know the answer to who really sang the mostly a cappella version that I heard, and where I can get it, please let me know.