Bruce Springsteen once said something along the lines of music being the most ridiculous thing in the world and the most important. To me this rings very true. Nothing is more absurd than grown men arguing about a tambourine part in the studio. At the same time music has kept me sane. It is the closest thing I have to an organized religion.
There are so many things in the music business that are completely absurd and utterly ridiculous. First of all there are many musicians whose egos have them acting like they are the pharaoh of Egypt. You are just a guitar player dude! I recently heard about a musician who fired anyone in his band that was better looking than him.
One of my favorite drinking albums of all time is Highwayman 2. This is the band that featured Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. There is a song on it called American Remains where they sing about being heroes of the homeland. While drinking one night a friend of mine declared that, “They are acting like American heroes, but they are really just a bunch of old stoners!”
There is the absurdity of the experiences associated with the music business too. Many musicians can tell you stories about playing sold out clubs only to be eating a gas station burrito by yourself an hour later. I remember one time Shinyribs played Threadgill’s. There were roughly about 300 people in the audience at this particular show. I wanted to have a late night party at my house to celebrate. However, by the time I was done loading out the crowd had dispersed. My late night party consisted of me drunk eating a block of cheese like a candy bar while watching Doctor Who!
There is also the absurdity of perception. I can’t tell you how many times a lawyer or a doctor, or someone else that has a beautiful home, a loving wife, and a successful career, has told me they would give anything to do what I do. I always think, “Do you know what I make a year? Because if you did, I would highly fucking doubt it!” That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate such sentiments, I actually genuinely do, but I also am able to keep in mind the absurdity between the reality and the perception. When you come to a show in a place like New York City you see the party, the fun. You didn’t see me hanging out in the van for six hours because we didn’t want to lose our parking space.
Then there are just the little moments of ridiculousness that crop up here and there, but remain constants. I mentioned grown men arguing about the minutia of a tambourine part. I’ve done it and seen it done. There are so many times when little things that are of no importance to the real world, that are fought over like the border between East and West during the Cold War. If you brought a camera into every recording studio, there would definitely times of tedium, but there would also be a comic documentary to be made. I recently watched a documentary on the making of a Stevie Nicks album and it played like a Christopher Guest movie, but for real.
But music is also important. To me it is my job, and my hobby, and my passion. I listen to music every waking hour that I can. It has allowed me to connect with people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met. All those people that said that they would give anything to do what I do, I wouldn’t have even met if not for music. It has allowed me to bond and have fun with love ones and friends. Certain concerts are among some of the best memories of my life. It is the fuel that keeps me going when I need it.
It has also lifted my spirit when I was down. Often if I am depressed I will go on a walk with my headphones. Often the comic opera of someone like Morrissey, or the dark humor of Lou Reed can have me smiling in no time. I remember one particular walk listening to Damien Dempsey’s You’re Not on Your Own Tonight and coming to the realization that in suffering we are not alone. Everyone suffers at times and it allows us to empathize with one another. “If you feel real bad then you’re not on your own tonight.”
Music has also allowed me to see mystery and wonder in the world. I remember traveling to Vienna with my family when I was at a young impressionable age. The entire trip I walked around with U2’s Achtung Baby on my headphones. That soundtrack combined with the images in front of me made the world seem mystical. Music, at the right time and place, can enhance the human experience and take us out of the daily suffering of our lives. It can reach the level of the spiritual.
I think to keep your ego in check it is absolutely key to keep part of your mind aware of the ridiculousness and absurdity that is going on around you. That really goes for any profession. But, at least speaking for myself and I imagine others, one must realize the transcendent power that music and art has in life. Sometimes I wonder if I could bare this world without it.