Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Soundtrack of My Life. (“Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand.”)


I hadn’t thought about the song in awhile. I’d heard the song, I’d listened to the song, but I hadn’t really thought about the song in years.

Primitive Radio Gods, “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand”

It pops up often on my playlist and I usually enjoy it for what it is–a bit of well-constructed philosophy-rock like waves of the Dead Sea, so dense that you cannot help but float upon it. But I forget sometimes. I forget the way this song showed up at the front gate one day and stayed for months in my head, the way it stayed in my hands. Last week the song was in my ears on a clear and breezy day, and it decided it needed my full attention again.

Save for my own voice, I don’t play any musical instruments; it’s among the top ten things about me in which I have the most disappointment. Midway through high school, encouraged by my friends Scott and Brady, I bought a black electric Squire bass, a small practice amp, and an electric tuner. I practiced sporadically at first, learning that I preferred to pluck the strings upwards rather than use a pick, trying to remember basic music theories I’d never before learned.

This song was released in 1996, after I’d spent a year in the dorms, right after Madelena had broken up with me over a semantic argument regarding the proper timing of words like “girlfriend.” The bassline was seven notes, repeatedly, in a slow rhythm underneath a calm vocal and a drumbeat like that of a tiny tin marching band. The lyrics made statements I couldn’t understand about swimming like lions through the crystal, asking drunken questions about living awake but half asleep.

I would check out the album from the library every chance I got and put this song on repeat, plug in my bass and groove along, over and over, going dizzy, every possible color of me lifting off my body and swirling onto the walls. This was the happiest I’d ever been with that bass in my hands.

I put it down the following year and told myself that it was classwork and my continued exploration of college theatre that was keeping me away, that I just didn’t have time. This was, of course, a lie. I had time, I was just re-purposing. The bass went to my brother sometime later; today he plays the guitar and bass with an effortless talent I envy.

My brother gave me back the bass, recently. As a recent college graduate and newly hired pharmacy technician, he no longer has time to do much fiddling with music. It sits in the corner of my office alongside the many, many instruments my wife knows how to play, waiting to be tuned again, plugged in again, plucked again.

And my life has become so regimented, so scheduled, so Google-calendared. But I will, I know, someday, someday soon, I will select this song from the library, put it on repeat, and I will make time to play this song again.

The song and I owe each other that much.

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This entry was posted on September 9, 2009 by in Critique, Music, Soundtrack.
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