Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm a Man

Song: I’m a Man
Artist: The Yardbirds
Album: Having a Rave Up!

If I had to own up to it, I would say that my love of music has a lot to do with familiarity. For me, the enjoyment I get out of music can be a drunken (or driving in the car, sober of course) sing-a-long, an excellently executed dance move because I know when a particular squirrely beat hits, or just the immediate joy when I hear the first few bars of a song I know. This particular quirk in my personality is probably at the root of why I can take or leave seeing music live. A lot of the time I don’t know the words (I can’t sing along!), especially if it’s a band I am unfamiliar with. This also happens sometimes when I listen to new music by artists I know and love. There are the expectations, the unfamiliarity… and sometimes it’s just a bit challenging and I’m not up for it. Bands like 10,000 Maniacs and Radiohead come to mind with this… as initially I might scratch my head (‘O.K. Computer’ & ‘In Rainbows’) only to end up loving them. And in the Maniacs instance… I literally disliked every record of theirs I heard until the fifth listen. But then I was sold. I don’t know.

Despite this silly way my mind works, what I want to talk about is when this DOESN’T happen… when something grabs you just because. I remember when I got “Automatic for The People” the day it came out, sat down to listen to it, and when I heard “Everybody Hurts” for the first time I cried. No other context but that song itself. It was before it was a single… it just had that impact. On the other hand, but the same… when I first heard Madonna’s singles “Music” and “Hung Up” for the first time I flipped. “Get me to the dancefloor now” I thought… “I need to tear this shit up.” (this may or may not have something to do with being gay.) But what I am trying to say is that a response to music can (and really should be) completely visceral. An immediate reaction.

Since my parents were semi-hippies, I grew up listening to a LOT of 60’s music, psychedelia, guitar rock, the Beatles, the Dead, whatever… so I knew of the Yardbirds in a sort of osmosis way. Familial Osmosis? I don’t know. It has only been recently though that I discovered the rocking “I’m a Man” a Bo Diddley cover that the band recorded live in 1964. At the time the band, who was English, saw their music heavily influenced by Delta-soaked Chicago blues. They are probably best known for their hit “For Your Love,” which sounds much more English than “I’m a Man.”

So the reason that I write this lengthy intro is that the very first time I heard this song (the specifics escape me) I had such a reaction to it… its groove was so all encompassing, the harmonica so entrancing, that it took me someplace… and specifically someplace I had never been. It’s just a song right? To me now the song means something specific to me and to a group of male friends I have. It will now always remind me of those times… as music often does.

Being a visual guy a lot of times a song will paint a picture to me, like a scene in a movie that doesn’t exist but because of the mood, vibe, and feeling of the song it becomes created. When I think of “I’m a Man” I imagine a smoke filled pool hall, or an old bar, stained in every crevasse, with a million spilled drinks and stories told. I see men who have seen it all and are there to tell the tale, I see a man… hopelessly cool walk into a room grabbing everyone’s attention, moving slow but purposeful…

If you’re lucky enough to have this tune as your theme song… you’re one bad motherfucker. ‘Nuff said.


“I’m a Man”

“For Your Love”

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