Reflections on Time and Music

October 11, 2023

So there I was, sitting at the Walgreens pharmacy area waiting for my 6th COVID vaccination, grooving to the Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now” on the in-store Muzak mix. I’m thinking about how I got my first COVID vaccine shots in early 2021, almost 3 years ago, and the shutdown was almost a year before that in March of 2020. The Thompson Twins at the Aragon Ballroom in 1983 was one of my first concerts (they opened for the English Beat) and I wished forever after that I’d gone to see the Cure at the same venue two weeks later instead. It strikes me that that was forty years ago. If memory serves, I wasn’t happy with the new direction the Cure was taking after their first album. How droll.

A twenty-something client told me they didn’t know who New Order was (but weirdly enough, they had claimed to like Joy Division in college, seeking hipster cool or whatever). [And if I’d known it would become a meme ten years later, I definitely wouldn’t have gotten the Unknown Pleasures album cover pulsar graph tattoo in 2002.] My immediate reaction: preposterous, they’re icons – look it up, you savage. Then it comes to me that I didn’t know from 1940s swing big bands when I was 17, which had actually been au courant less than forty years before. Postmodern musical culture means living in an eternal present where punk rock is still going strong after nearly a half century, and there are constant revivals of this and that.

But I digress. My father was trying to fill out an online travel visa application which wouldn’t let him enter his father’s birth date of 1898 (the site only allowed dates from 1900 on). My grandfather was a German citizen and World War I veteran who fortunately didn’t end up in the trenches and wrote a very sentimental/militarist diary about “a young man’s thoughts upon going to war.” Germany became a bad place for him even as an assimilated, non-observant Jew, so he fled in 1936, presumably to a soundtrack of big band swing music. [Just kidding, it would have been classical.] Retirement isn’t something my father is contemplating, despite recently turning eighty-four. But some of my friends (who are only slightly older than me) are retired.

And I do continue to digress. It’s about time I wrapped this up with an uplifting conclusion, something accepting the unstoppable flow of time something something, or something. Time is weird and disorienting. It’s incredibly slow, but blink and you’ve missed it. (I have grandchildren, but my inner seventeen-year-old has other preoccupations, such as his excellent alternative musical taste). [It wasn’t called alternative: new music, post punk, industrial, noise; the smoother stylings of Throbbing Gristle and the edgier output of Phillip Glass.] Music is a window into – what, a zeitgeist, a feeling, a moment, a chill down your spine listening to Transmission for the five hundredth time. Or as Bowie put it, “Time, in quaaludes and red wine/Demanding Billy Dolls/And other friends of mine/Take your time.” To which callow youth asks “grandpa, what are quaaludes?”

Tony May LCSW CADC: Therapist, Advisor, & Ally

Contact Tony May, LCSW

Phone: 773-330-2135

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