Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wild Mountain Honey

Have you ever had a song that became emblematic of a trip you took? Maybe a tune you already knew.  Perhaps one first heard during your journey.  Something about it expands and embodies that place and the overall experience.  Then, forever linked in your mind to it.  It may have nothing to do, lyrically at least, with where you found yourself.

I went to Ohio late last summer, Cincinnati area, to visit relatives.  I witnessed suburban and city blocks that had a certain melancholia that was hard to describe. It was hanging over the downtown area, around Reds stadium and beyond, over the river to Kentucky.  Like years of untold numbers of residents' hardships and longings were trying to breathe out their stories.  Their words somehow etched upon and personified through old architecture and beaten landscapes.  Something more intuitive though.  I pick up on vibes with each town I visit.  Some are very favorable (Chicago, any town in California, Boston, Vancouver), and others not (New Orleans, Seattle, Miami).  Cincinnati was comforting and sad all at once.

One night we were in an upstairs bar within a restaurant.  My cousins were friends with the owner and we all chatted up a sundry of things.  The place was once a house in which the owner and his wife lived.  The very bar at which we sat had been part of their bedroom.  Good music was surrounding us the entire evening but at one point a positively hypnotic tune grabbed - through a slightly buzzed haze - my attention.  I knew the melody, had heard perhaps somewhere in my distant past.  I pointed my smartphone in the direction of the speaker and Shazam informed me that I was listening to Steve Miller's "Wild Mountain Honey" (from the album Fly Like an Eagle)

Something so seductive about it.  Not a rocker like many of Miller's songs, rather a dreamy synthesizer swirl with an Eastern feel. Nice sitar and oboe action.  The lyrics describe, something.  Something to be sought rather than the "golden machine" of material riches. A call to return to nature, possibly.  A plea for a simple life.  But whatever the intent, "Wild Mountain Honey" instantly was married to a wonderful night of great craft beer and fascinating conversations that delved into restaurant critics and adoption. The song was just the perfect accompaniment, and it continued in my head while other tracks played on.  It remained as we walked home, through a spooky, pitch black woodsy trail leading back to my cousin's house.  And how perfect - a piece of soil thus far untouched by developers.  Thinking back on that, Miller's words have far more weight.

The song came up on my phone last week and I immediately thought of that peaceful evening, but also the entire weekend in Cincy.  "Wild Mountain Honey" has a somewhat sad tenor wrapped in its hypnotic arrangement.  Truly emblematic.

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