Saturday, October 19, 2013

Early Morning and "Supper's Ready"

Starting in middle school, my best friend and I would steal his brother's home-made cassette of Genesis's double live album Seconds Out. We were forbidden to do this but had been pulled into the moody darkness of "The Carpet Crawlers," stunned by the drums in "Cinema Show," and seduced by the insistent Led Zeppelin rhythm and angelic voice on "Squonk." We just had to take the cassette to the basement and listen in secret.

For my friend's birthday I helped Mom pick out a double cassette set of Seconds Out so we could listen out in the open. Mom and I went to Camelot Music in the Fayetteville Mall and she bought a copy that foolishly she let me keep in my room. There I had a Teac A-650 cassette deck and headphones. I hadn't yet saved enough for an amplifier or speakers, so I left the headphones atop the deck, cranked the volume, and listened that way.

One morning, with about thirty minutes to spare before school. I had time for "Supper's Ready," a sprawling, almost twenty-five-minute suite. Knowing my mother's reaction, I opened my friend's birthday present, inserted tape II, side A and pushed play. Phil Collins said, "Supper's Ready," and the crowd roared. I kind of did too.

Every morning thereafter for weeks, I got up early enough to listen to "Supper's Ready." Afternoons I threw in the other sides of the tape. It was my desert island album. I didn't need any other. There was too much to hear in it. That bit of guitar in "Dance on a Volcano," that roaring drum fill at the end of "Afterglow," the weirdness of "Apocalypse in 9/8." I couldn't dig deeply enough.

More than thirty years later, I began drafting this to "Squonk," continued through "The Carpet Crawlers," and am considering skipping "Robbery, Assault, and Battery" the only song on the album I don't love. But there is that weird drum line Collins runs during the keyboard solo and Hackett's "ethereal" but all too short guitar solo that follows. It's five minutes to six in the morning and, rather than listening to my best friend's birthday present, my tablet is hooked to computer speakers that sound only a little better than the headphones atop the old A-650. Rather than school, I have my daughter's youth soccer game to go to. I might flip ahead to "Supper's Ready" and come back later to hear the other songs.

Things change and they don't. I'm forty-five years old but still alone in my room listening to Seconds Out. I easily slip back to the kid, the cassettes, and the memory of how no one but my friend understood that we had to hear it. The pull was so strong. If I listened often enough, closely enough, I might understand...something.

As Steve Hackett softly breaks into the iconic guitar solo in "Firth of Fifth" I hear more than the song. Maybe I hear me. I don't know, but I return again and again finding things I still can't explain no matter how I try.

So I'll just keep listening. Phil just told me that supper's ready and the crowd roared. I've got just shy of a half an hour to listen, feel, think back and forward. I'll take that time. The song is good and so is the memory, both of which push me to write on.