Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Staring Bleakly into the Mirror or What Happens When Stanford Hall Plays Derek & the Dominos

I had a great trip to Hawaii and by staying on my insomniac east coast schedule, I could wake up before the sunrise and explore the island in my Jeep during the early morning hours. From the North Shore to the southeastern corner from my self-guided LOST tour and sunrise hike up Diamond to finally finding Tracy Castro, I was able to see more than I thought would be possible.

Unfortunately, I received some sad news while I was there that Nick-I-Like's mom had passed away after her six month bout with cancer. For some reason, I ended up listening to a lot of U2 during my days back home, but had no motivation to write anything and really lacked any sort of desire to listen to music during the days surrounding her services. It absolutely broke my heart to watch Nick, his brother and dad suffer in their loss and I honestly don't know if I've ever cried as much in my entire life as I did that weekend--just picturing a few moments from the weekend still brings me to tears. She was a wonderful woman with a fabulously sarcastic/wicked sense of humor and a great female presence during my nightly calls with Nick-I-Like during high school. He used to get mad when I'd tell him back then that I'd call to talk to his mom or another family member, not him, but I think he knows how much his entire family meant to me.

As I returned to the office for the first time in two weeks, I still lacked musical inspiration, so I kept it on shuffle most of the day. It found me a few hours ago. The original version of Layla from Derek & the Dominos came on shuffle and I knew that this was what I need to hear. The album has just the right mix of bluesy sorrow and soaring guitars to match my current spirits.

I first really discovered Layla & Assorted Other Love Songs early in high school and certainly have to thank Daddy Lauer for raising me on the guitar gods of the 70s. After all, the man named me after an Allman Brothers song; I have to love anything involving Duane, right? This might have been the first album to make me realize the inherent sensuality of the blues.

But this album couldn't simply end there for me. It took a strange U-turn in college, as our nights in Stanford Hall could be going along fabulously until this album would come on. I'm not sure if Perry had a sort of smoker's intuition as to when he should leave the room, but it always seemed that he was conveniently gone when Bell Bottom Blues would come out of the speakers. That song always sucked Kevin into some trance, drawing him depressively towards the mirror above the sink in his room for some inner reflection, while Jody and I just looked at each other wondering what on earth we should do about it. And being the supportive friends that we are, we typically would start talking in hushed voices about The Rock and other things in The Vault. (Note to Jody: Did I tell you that we drove past The Rock's high school in Honolulu and I was the only one giggling at the visual in my head.)

(Note to my ND readers: Here's a confession. As much as I love The Vault, I might have traded some info with my favorite late-night companion in order to learn what The Word was. While he would always tell me The Word and most of whatever else I wanted to know, I swear he put me into some hypnotic state each time as I still cannot remember what The Word is and I know I gave him plenty in return for what he shared. I will be pestering him about The Word when I see him next, but he'll probably just give me that you're still quite crazy, Jessi Lauer look.)

The album always held such a mythology for me in my younger years and I'm still enthralled by all the emotions surrounding it. I was amazed during my younger years that Clapton could allow himself to fall so hard for his best friend's wife. Layla seemed like such the painful love song in those days; it's still unbelievable that he was able to win her over from George Harrison, but yet was unable to be faithful to her after the turmoil that he must have caused his best friend. I had always thought that his son Conor was Pattie Boyd's son, but I was wrong about that one. Knowing the story of Layla, Duane's impending death a year after the release, and Clapton's heavy drug use in the years to follow envelop the guitars with such emotion. My favorite songs remain I Looked Away, Bell Bottom Blues (even with the Kevin visual), Anyday and Layla.

There really isn't much from the early 70s available, but you have to love an appearance by the band on the Johnny Cash Show! In this performance, they play It's Too Late and are then joined by Carl Perkins & Cash for Matchbox. It's probably a good thing for Daddy Lauer that I wasn't growing up in the early 70s...I think I might love these musicians a little too much.

This song does such things to me. I will give Clapton a free pass for his hair-do under Jessi's Music Code 5.376 "Forgive all 90s fashion and hair mistakes, when unforgiving, look at old yearbooks or that 7th grade basketball picture for reminders why."
(Note to self: Add to various ON playlists.)

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