The three or four people who follow these Popsicle posts might have noticed the lack of writing about music. The embarrassing truth is that I just don’t give it much attention. When I was young, I was a passionate record collector. I loved studying the album’s lyrics and artwork alone in my bedroom, but I lost interest when CD’s came along.
Live music has never played a big part of my life. I guess I was too much of a loner and felt self-conscious about waving a lighter all by myself. So for twenty years, music has mostly been background noise. But every now and then something causes me to prick up my ears.
Last week a random magazine assignment had me photographing a legendary underground musician who performs under a pseudonym. I took the assignment because I was intrigued by the mystique. But when I saw him perform, I was underwhelmed. The music only seemed to exist in service of propping up the fabricated persona.
The next morning while driving to work I turned on our local public radio music station, The Current. Despite being public radio, The Current mostly features a rotation of not-Top-40 but still widely circulated contemporary pop music. But on this morning they were featuring a ‘theft of the dial’ segment in which a musician takes over the DJ duties and so the rotation was disrupted.
In this case the DJ was another singer who works under a pseudonym, Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman. I’m not sure what to think of Tillman, but I will give him credit for introducing me (and the rest of the drive-time audience) to an incredible piece of music:
When this came on the radio, I was immediately carried away into the universe of the song. What a relief, I realized later, that none of this had to do with persona. I didn’t know that Hurley, aka Dr. Snock, recorded this at age 22, a few days after being released from the psychiatric wing of Bellevue Hospital. Nor did I know that it was recorded on the same reel-to-reel machine that taped Lead Belly’s Last Sessions.
“If Michael Hurley were just a little crazier, he’d be huge,” wrote the LA Weekly, “If he wore a funny hat like Sun Ra and was obsessed with, say, lawnmowers or parakeets, maybe more people would pay attention.”
After hearing “The Tea Song,” I realized that I should pay more attention. – not just to Hurley, but to music generally. I might just go out and buy the record.