23 August 2013

Music Day (Or, A Probably-Pointless Trip Down Memory Lane)

Last fall and early winter, this was my driving-to-tap-class album. The dance studio is far enough away from our house that I can listen to an entire album on the way there, and another on the way back. Tap was on Monday nights and while the album on the way back would vary, on the way there it was always Don't Wait For The Movie.

The first couple songs were me setting the speed, getting to the highway. By the time I got to the first city lights (I skirt two cities on the way in and enter the third), Fly Eagle Fly would be starting.

Here the magic began. Not so much the song (it's actually kind of a really cheesy song), but the visual... velvet black nightscape dotted with oncoming headlights and the streetlights of the city up ahead. And as I took the ramp onto the main highway, Convertibles would always start to play.

Let The Children Play and King George would mark my time on that highway, following the streetlights for part of the way, and then as I approached the second city and got onto the exit for the ring road I would get to listen to No Apology, and then Maybe Today would always just start as I went under the first overpass on the ring road and into the beginning of the curve. It was always a glorious sort of moment, not in that it was a big dramatic thing, but because the tinkling intro and the quietly-soaring keyboard backing Mark Gersmehl's brooding vocal seemed to be so, so perfect with the glittering streetlights in the endless Alberta night sky. I think this moment was the reason I always, always chose this album on that drive.

As I got to the halfway point on my trip on the ring road, Dr Jekyll And Mr Christian would start, and it would always just be ending as I was coming up across from the second city's skyline. (About halfway through the tap session I noticed that and holy crap I almost had a heart attack the first time I saw it... It was all lit up and so so beautiful -- red and green and blue and purple and streetlight off-white. I hadn't realised you could see the skyline from that road.)

And then I would exit off into the third city (well, not technically a city, though it's big enough to be one) during this, the final song on the album, to kind of calm me down and gently lead me into the dance school's little parking lot. Often I would pull into the parking lot with one chorus left to go, and if I wasn't running terribly late I would stay out in the rattletrap and let the song finish.

Title: How Many Times (Seventy Times Seven)
Artist: White Heart
Album: Don't Wait For The Movie
Year: 1986
Label: Sparrow Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

This album so quickly became my soundtrack for winter night city driving, following the string of streetlights along the highways, stars against a black sky. Several times it was snowing during the drive and I seem to remember one time where it was raining. Once the fog was just so that it caught the streetlights and scattered the light everywhere, lighting up the entire road and the sky above it. It was almost -- though not quite -- like driving in the daytime, so spread around was the light. There was one section on the ring road that randomly didn't have streetlights (still can't figure out why not), and driving through there that night was almost terrifying... the rattletrap isn't exactly known for its great headlights (actually, it's not really known for its great anything, but I digress), and without the light to scatter around, the fog pressed in and blocked the streetlights ahead and the streetlights behind almost completely from view. It was almost completely dark there for about a minute.

Oh, the song? Well -- Rick Florian. That should tell you everything you need to know. It's a good lyric too:
How many times
Have You wept from the anguish of all my shame
How many times
Have I nailed You up on that cross of pain...

It starts out with the concept of protagonist trying to come to terms with the concept of forgiving someone who's wronged him -- knowing it's what Christ has commanded, but struggling to lay aside his pride in order to do so.

But then after the interlude (a lovely simple keyboard bit that capitalises very well on the 'quiet struggle' mood of the song), the protagonist's point of view shifts to his precious Christ on the cross -- did Christ not forgive me of things far more grievous? Who then am I to withhold the grace that shouldn't have even been mine?

The ending is gorgeous. Protagonist is still wrestling with his desire to not forgive and is halfheartedly trying to convince God that 'no really, this is unforgiveable' when he knows better. And to each one of his arguments, a soft voice comes back to him: Seventy times seven.

And finally he is silent in the face of the reminder of simple, powerful love.

Seventy times seven.

(For those wondering what 'seventy times seven' has to do with anything... once, Jesus' disciple Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive somebody who's wronged him. Peter asks, "Is seven times enough?" Jesus (God in the flesh) says, "No, not only seven times, but seventy times seven." The term 'seventy times seven' has since come to be, for better or worse, a 'sacred buzzword' of sorts, a code phrase within the church meaning 'forgiving.' You can read the account of Peter's question and Jesus' answer in Matthew chapter 18, starting at verse 21.)

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