“Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?” —Writing 101, Day 3
I been Rolling Stoned and Beatled till I’m blind…
Beatles or Rolling Stones? That was a common question in 1965 and, right or wrong, the answer to it served as rule-of-thumb guide to who you were and what your sensibilities were all about.
Personally, I favored the Rolling Stones. The Bad Boys of the British Music Invasion struck a chord in me with their song, You Can’t Always Get What You Want (YCAGWYW). For me, there is something engaging with the combination of the organ/choir voices and Mick Jagger’s vocals.
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need
The first time that I really paid attention to this song was in the Spring of 1972. My brother-in-law, Stan, and my sister-in-law, Olivia, were making preparations to move from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles. They purchased a 1958 VW van, had a mechanic work over the engine and transmission, applied dark blue cosmic-themed contact paper to the walls and ceiling and brought the beast to our house for help installing a sound system.
Two months shy of finishing my 4-year apprenticeship, I was ready, eager and willing to take on this challenge. Stan and I installed the radio/cassette player first and hooked it up to new door speakers. That was when he inserted a cassette of The Best of the Rolling Stones.
We listened to both sides repeatedly that day and I was taken with YCAGWYW every time it came around. After a lengthy refreshment break Stan decided that he would like to put speakers high up in the rear corners of the van and so off we went in search of something appropriate.
Our first stop was Olsen Electronics and we could not get what we wanted (sound familiar?). We ended up at Radio Shack and ran into Andy Granatelli, of the Indy 500 and STP oil fame. Andy found a small tape recorder and we found our speakers. Thank you, Radio Shack—all of us got what we needed.
Stan and I made it back to my house and we fished wires and installed mounting brackets in the back of the van. Mick was still trying to get what he wanted, but we were in the home stretch. Just as dinner was ready, Stan and I completed the 4-speaker mobile sound system.
Olivia and The Lioness came out and sat in the van with the two of us and we refreshed ourselves to the strains as The Rolling Stones sang, You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
Like a Rolling Stone
My college roommate, Thorne, was the one who got me hooked on Bob Dylan. Amid the uneasiness of the present moment (…away from home—a complete unknown) and the uncertainty of the future, bad grades=Vietnam, I found a voice that expressed the emotions I had bottled up inside me.
Albums such as Blonde On Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, Subterranean Homesick Blues spoke volumes to me. The times were definitely changing and so was I, not always in a good way. Through all of the changes Dylan was there—on the radio, on the stereo and down the hall of the dormitory where someone was wailing their version of one of his tunes.
Oddly enough my favorite Dylan song, and second overall favorite song, didn’t come along until 1974. Forever Young was part of the Planet Waves album and never fails to shake me up. The song reminds me of so many of my classmates and friends who didn’t make it back from Vietnam.
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
In 1985 I was out of work and took advantage of the opportunity to travel 40 miles North to Santa Rosa and view the traveling exhibit of The Vietnam Memorial Wall. A friend of mine from Elementary school was on the wall and I had never dealt with his death in 1969.
The exhibit was a scale model of the real one in Washington D.C. but it still overwhelmed me. I found Dom’s name and childhood memories flooded my mind and tears blurred my vision.
What do you say when there’s nothing to say? Where do you go when there’s nowhere to go? What do you do when there is nothing to do?
I was doing Stock Photography at the time and so I took a lot of Black & White photos that day. On the way home I heard Dylan’s song, Forever Young, on the radio. Thank God for commute traffic because crawling along at a snail’s pace made it easier to come to grips with the emotional release that I had just experienced.
A year later I was invited to exhibit some photos in the lobby of a local bank. I put some of the ones of the Vietnam Wall in there as a tribute to my friend.
After all of these years, in my heart Dom is forever young.
My all-time favorite song is Into the Mystic by Van Morrison. It was released in 1970 and I liked it immediately. The lyrics spoke to me, even though I had no frame of reference to fog horns, or fog, in sunny funny South Florida. That changed when we moved to Northern California where fog can be a fixture for days on end.
My relationship with the fog changed even more radically when I went to work on the Golden
When that fog horn blows
You know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows
I gotta hear it, I don’t have to fear it
Gate Bridge. The Electric Shop mans the bridge 24/7/365, someone is always there making sure that tolls are being collected, the facility is in proper working condition and that the lights and aids-to-navigation are working properly.
The first time that heard Into the Mystic while at the GGB, the fog horns were operating. When the song lyrics got to “And when that fog horn blows…”, the fog horns blew on the bridge. I was startled and thought to myself, “Wow, what a coincidence.”
The second time it happened a month later it felt like less of a coincidence. Over the course of my 15 years at the GGB anytime that I heard that song, on a radio or an iPod, the lyrics always synced up with the fog horns on the bridge. Sometimes it was early in the song and other times it happened at the end—but it always happened.
This past April I left work at 11pm for the last time and the fog had just started to pour in through the Gate. It was the perfect parting gift and I rolled down my window to take in the cool wet air and hear those horns at Mid-span one last time on my final night.
The car radio was off but Van was in my head, keeping time and chiming in with the fog horns—I was coming home from work to The Lioness for the last time.
“And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will flow into the mystic
Come on girl…
Too late to stop now…“