Friday, May 23, 2008

This is Hardly Fair

I wrote this earlier today and I thought I would share it with you on the blog.

Does Lin Brehmer know what’s going on in my life?

I took Mom and Dad and TM to O’Hare this morning. It was obviously mixed emotions, but trying to let “happy for them” win out over “sad and lonely.” I got in the car, drove out of the airport onto I-190. The song playing was the new Counting Crows, “You Can’t Count On Me.” Lin Brehmer informs me that this is 93XRT, he’s Lin Brehmer and it is great to be alive, all of which I already knew (especially on Fridays). And then I hear a line I’ve heard a million times in my life: “I am a golden god!” It is of course Russell Hammond, guitarist for Stillwater, on a rooftop of some kid’s house* in Topeka, Kansas.

For some reason, I immediately think of a story Cameron Crowe once told about watching a screening with the members of Led Zeppelin. He was understandably a little nervous, since his time observing them (and Black Sabbath, and the Allman Brothers) was fodder for creating William Miller’s adventures.

And (if I remember the story) they get to the scene where the band gets the draft version of William’s article for Rolling Stone. They are standing around outside the tour bus, the bassist sprawled on a bench, as they absorb the story. Russell shakes his head and says, “I never said ‘I am a golden god!’” And in the audience, Robert Plant blurts out: “Yeah, but I did!!”

But that anecdote didn’t have a lot of time to bounce around in my head, cause then I hear: the opening of “Tiny Dancer.” Aaargh. I’ve been through a real rollercoaster the past couple weeks. First there was Pablo’s wife. Then I found out that Sheryl Govedarica, a woman I knew from Crain’s and later at St. Alphonsus, had died of a brain aneurysm in 2006 (after I left Chicago, while I was living in NYC). And there is uncertainty at work, and watching TM get ready for her trip. And last night, making (and then listening to) a mix tape I made for her**. And taking everyone and their stuff to the airport. And saying goodbye. And driving home, and now hearing “Tiny Dancer.”

So I cranked it and listened. And as I often do, I started singing only when the bass player comes in at “handing tickets out for God.” I’ve always liked that he starts it, the quiet guy, the steady rhythm guy, starts the singing. As Russell and Jeff Bebe fight to be the leader of the band, it’s the bass player who leads them in song. Bebe shoots the bassist a sideways glance that says, “That was a great idea—I wish I’d thought of it.” (Also, I always enjoyed taking that vocal lead during our many singalongs and viewings at 3614.)

So I sing the line, and I think I hear a third voice besides me and Elton John. So I drop out and listen and on “turning back, she just laughs,” I hear more voices and I think, Holy Shit, this is the version with the “Almost Famous” lines mixed in. And sure enough, I hear the audio from the movie .... the bus whirring and shifting gears. Instead of going into the pre-chorus (“oh how it feels so real…”) the song launches into the big chorus with the whole bus. And then:

Bus: Hold me closer, tiny dancer!
William: I have to go home.
Bus: Count the headlights on the highway…
Penny (waves her hand in front of his face): You Are Home.

And the song resumes the rest of its length, with the swells of strings, and the pre-chorus (2nd time normally, first in this version) and the outro.

Lin Brehmer’s voice comes back on and tells me that was XRT’s special “Almost Famous” remix. I did not know that is what it was called. If I wasn’t so numb this morning, I probably would have gotten weepy. Even so I’m a little heavy-eyed feeling writing this now.

Gaah. This is why I love XRT. I don’t think any other radio station in the world could’ve done that for me (or to me) at that very moment.

--MPF 5/23/08, Chgo.

You can watch this cool trailer, with clips that didn't make it into the final edit.

* Aaron.
** If you have a loved one going on a trip without you, l will give you a copy. It’s good.


mpf004 said...

By the way, up until today, I always thought the line was "handing tickets out for gold." Apparently I was wrong. How many times can you listen to a lyric and learn later that you've been doing it wrong all those years??

Anonymous said...

Thanks... not only do I now have the song "Tony Danza" stuck in my head, I have the urge to see the movie again. Amy's going to kill me if I make her watch it for the umpteenth time.