Excess

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

William Blake

The intense pleasures of youth – sex and drugs and rock’n’roll – take a heavier toll on my body, my mind, and my spirit with every passing year.

One of life’s easiest traps is to repeat actions that once brought pleasure even after their effects have turned to pain.

One path to the wisdom that is attributed to age leads to fields of subtle pleasures that are easily lost in the clamor of earlier, louder years.

Older pleasures do not explode or blind or burn or throb. Until you reach a level of stillness impossible in younger times, they are imperceptible. Too dim to be seen. Too soft to be heard.

It takes an almost unbearable sacrifice to perceive these new pleasures but if you can bear it, you will find they are more profound than any other, and deep enough to transcend physical sensation.

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You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough

William Blake

Pressure


There are three proven ways to relieve pressure:
Sex
Drugs
Rock’n’Roll
And when the other two go to shit you can always count on the savage-breast-soothing charms of music.
I don’t have a lot of soft spots left but I’ve got one for The Kinks. This song, from their 1981 collection Low Budget, packs just enough of a punch to fight off the pressure that builds and breeds these days like swarms of biblical locusts.
Kicking off with a riff that is unmistakably Chuck Berry’s, and following up with lyrics that are just as characteristic of Ray Davies, parceled out in equal measures of frustration and empathy, this is another in a long line of Kinks songs that hits that soft spot just right.
Pressure pressure I got pressure,
oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
Pressure pressure I got pressure
I don’t really want to give it to you
Because it’s really contagious
You can pick it up anywhere
And it can be quite dangerous
You can spread it mouth to mouth
You can even get it when you’re alone
But I can always live with it
Whenever I am close to you
Pressure pressure I got pressure, 
oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
Pressure pressure I got pressure
I get it driving in my motor car
I get it when I’m drinking in a bar
I get it riding on the subway
I get it regular every day
And anyone who never had it yet
And doesn’t know what I’m going through
But I forget the pressure
Whenever I am close to you
Pressure pressure I got pressure
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
Pressure pressure feel the pressure
You got the pressure and that’s a fact
I can tell by the way you act
And I can tell that you’re pressurized
By the look that’s in your eyes
I know the pressure ’cause I’ve got it too
So I know what you’re going through
But I forget the pressure
Whenever I am close to you

I Know It’s Only Rock’n’Roll

I’m not stupid. Not all the time. So I know it’s only rock’n’roll. But the very thought of it makes my heart beat faster.

Every art form is unique. What sets writing apart from its sister arts
comes from its solitary nature. Great writing reveals the audience to itself. The inspired reaction is recognition: You feel that, too? I thought I was the only one.

Songwriting – lyrics and their vocal interpretation – straddles the space between writing and music. It’s trying to reveal its audience to themselves while it makes them dance. It reveals broader traits than other forms of writing. Like poetry, it’s concerned with flow and tempo but, again, it’s looking for broad, simple, recognizable traits – make it easy to follow a melody or a beat.

Writing music – composition and arrangement – is the only art that physically moves its audience. No other art inspires the reaction: I can’t sit still. Music making is at its best when it’s a collaboration. Like great lovemaking, it’s a communication of trust, encouragement, experimentation and excitement without using words. Listen to Tchaikovsky or Chuck Berry; Earth, Wind & Fire, B.B. King, Taylor Swift, Kanye, Madonna or Johnny Cash – whatever moves you. For me it starts with Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, through Motown, the British Invasion, the folkies and the psychadelics, right up to punk and the edges of heavy metal. That’s the sweet spot for me. It doesn’t have to be especially great art for me to love it. And there were days when it was the only thing that got my through. I know, it’s only rock’n’roll.

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If I could stick my pen in my heart
And spill it all over the stage
Would it satisfy you, would it slide on by you?
Would you think the boy is strange? Ain’t he strange?

If I could win you, if I could sing you
A love song so divine
Would it be enough for your cheating heart
If I broke down and cried? If I cried?

I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do
I like it, I like it, I like it
Can’t you see that this old boy has been lonely?

If I could stick a knife in my heart
Suicide right on stage
Would it be enough for your teenage lust
Would it help to ease the pain? Ease your brain?

If I could dig down deep in my heart
Feelings would flood on the page
Would it satisfy you, would it slide on by you
Would you think the boy’s insane? He’s insane

I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I know it’s only rock’n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do
I like it, I like it, I like it
Can’t you see that this old boy has been lonely?

Do you think that you’re the only girl around?
I bet you think that you’re the only woman in town

Baby, I’m Falling Apart

Is it time for another self-pitying song already? Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Loudon Wainwright the third is one of my favorite songwriters and one who knows a thing or two about self-pity. If you don’t know the man’s work, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Here’s a snippet from his newest collection:

I’m just a leaky supertanker
With a lot of oil to spill
I’m feeling sorry for myself
But if I don’t, who will?

It’s one of the inspirations for this song, which I wrote last week:

It started out so promising
We both had so much fun
If this is just a game
Can’t we say you’ve won?
You’re so put together

Baby, I’m falling apart

I know it wasn’t your intention
To go and break my heart
I don’t need to mention
I was stupid, you were smart
You’re so put together

Baby, I’m falling apart

All my friends are asking me
Why I can’t think straight
Why can’t I figure out
If I’m early, if I’m late?
Maybe it doesn’t matter

Baby, I’m falling apart