Monday, August 28, 2006

with the ocean washing over...

I was floudering in the stress of VCE in high school when I discovered Jeff Buckley. My father had just died and I was quietly having a little nervous breakdown my corner before emerging each morning for roll call. Good times. That year the album Grace quickly became one of the most played discs in my collection. Perhaps there was something noteworthy in the heartbreak and sadness in Jeff Buckley's voice that was so relevant at the time for me as well. I'd just listen splayed out on my bedroom floor with my eyes closed willing everything else to melt away. Of course the album always comes to an end and there you are blinking into the oncoming high beams that is the stark reality of life. But Grace helped somehow. I love it when you come across an album that is magnificent from the first chord to the very last fading note. Consequently I think Grace is an album I think everyone should have in their collection. If you don't, you need to go and get it.

My best friend at the time S was also into Jeff Buckley. Our musical tastes are actually quite different (still) so it was interesting that we both were caught in the Jeff Buckley web. We decided together that we were going to go see him in concert the next year, even though it was an over 18 event and we were both still going to be 17.

There was a slight anxiety about doing this. Neither of us had fake ID and a year earlier we had been thrown out of a pub for being underage. Okay, perhaps we could have planned it better than just walking past and deciding to 'give it a go'. In our doc martins and casuals we stuck out like sore thumbs. It also happened to be biker night that night at the pub which didn't do us any favours - 40 or 50 leather clad men with bushy mos and tattoos of snakes up their arms. Together we must have given the bouncers a real laugh as we looked for the "drink menus". I distinctly remember turning to S and saying um, how do they expect us to know what we want??!. She answered with a shrug uh, I dunno!. It was about then that a biker came over to us smiling (not so sweetly) and saying "hey supergirl" to S (who was wearing a superman T) and winking at me and before we could blush a hand came down on both our shoulders and we were told to get our arses out of there. Denied! We walked home laughing so hard we almost peed in our jeans.

It turns out our fears over being carded at the concert were exaggerated. We took our spots in the hall and waited for Jeff to come out. That concert that night was one of the best I have ever seen. I remember thinking to myself that I must have died because the experience was just that good. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe - just breathe while Jeff on stage stood caught with a halo of light shining around his head, and a voice like a hypnotic dream vibrating out into the crowd. Magic, really.

A year later Jeff Buckley drowned. A good friend and JB fan who took a creative writing class at uni with me hadn't yet heard. I whispered the news to her and she started crying and we hugged. Our lecturer, a rather underwealming published author, was unimpressed with our emotional outburst in the middle of one of his dreary monologues and told us to leave. We stood in the hallway for a bit feeling sad.

I hadn't really listened to Grace in a while until a couple of years ago. The whole album is so melancholy and stictly only for those willing and able to go on the mind trip it takes to get there and then to bring yourself back. It takes a gifted musician who is able to do that to his audience.

I think almost all the songs on the album have been my "favourites" at some point or another - from the hopeful sounds of the title track Grace to the gut wrenching Leonard Cohen cover of Hallelujah. All have got me at some point and tugged at my thoughts or soul or whatever it is that music touches so ...rightly.

The song I pick today is a relatively new favourite - I discovered it's beauty quite late - (probably about 2 years into listening the album). Sometimes songs get you only when you're ready for them. I hope you are - it's really a lovely one.

Dream Brother - Jeff Buckley

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