Bet you thought I forgot about this. Didn’t ya? (Didn’tcha? Dincha? Dinya? Dimsum? What the fuck is happening?)
Well, I didn’t. Whether or not you cared, whether or not you even remembered about whether or not I was going to forget, I did NOT forget, and here I am to rub. It. In. Your. FACE.
Today’s entry is a sub-two-minute slice of New Age, Windham Hill treacle called (with appropriate hippiefied, leftist solemnity) “Pacific.” It’s Yanni and John Tesh banging out a soundtrack for a National Geographic special on whales. It lacks irony or hipster quotient; just listening to this will turn you into a sexless old person.
Having completed the undersell, I will move on to the story. I had a wife at one time, and she was a sweetheart, but it was not meant to be. We had our good times though, and she left me with a lot of pleasant memories. One of the frontrunners in that pack is this one: her brother-in-law, the amiable goofball who loved to eat pizza with me, drink MGD near me (I stuck to IBC), and help me record music on my 4-track tape recorder. Ed was a stand-up guy who I talked to for some years after my marriage fell to bits, and one of the things we always talked about was our stint as Social Animals.
Social Animals – precious, right? SOCIAL ANIMALS IS PEOPLE! This project was a way for me to exercise the calmer parts of my creativity. It was also a way to meet Ed halfway, or maybe two-thirds of the way; y’see, Ed was really into Pink Floyd. When a guy’s primary influence is David Gilmore’s glacial, somewhat bluesy solos, you have to tamp down on those punk and grindcore urges. There was no way I was going to get Ed to blast out 150 BPM riffs on songs with titles like “Our Mothers Tried to Abort Us.” So instead we fired up a lava lamp (really), busted out the keyboard and congos (really), and acted like we were too high to care about things like vocals or song structures – even though neither of us was exactly Snoop Dogg or Matthew McConaughey. In the few years Julie & I were together, and a few years after that, Social Animals cranked out five tapes full of aural wallpaper – to borrow a Brian Eno-ism. It would be hipping it up too much to say we approached the ambient excursions of Aphex Twin, though that was in fact an influence on me; closer to the truth is that we put Aphex, Floyd, and various New Age “sound of the rainforest” CDs in a blender and came up with a palatable, if often bland, fruit smoothie of music.
But it’s still far and away the most relaxing shit I’ve ever put my imprimatur on.
This “Pacific” is from the very last Social Animals tape, so it follows my split with Julie and stands in the middle of the fading end of my relationship with Ed. (Nothing bad went down there; I think things simply went their natural course and we eventually just stopped talking. I imagine if I ran into him today though, we’d still share a hearty handshake and a lot of fond reminiscing, and might end up recording another one of these things.) The song concept was simple and pretentious, which marks it as prime Social Animals crap: I recorded a very stripped down keyboard track of a synth pad playing two New Age-y chords over & over; then Ed and I each took a run at a guitar solo for it. His version became “Atlantic” and mine, “Pacific.” And it’s going to sound egotistical of me, but I think mine won. This is one of the best bits of guitar playing I ever did. Technical proficiency is absent – as it basically always is, when I play – but I tapped into my inner Mark Knopfler and found some deep well of lyricism (or something) that made two boring chords sound kind of lovely. It’s strange to say this about a piece of music that I played and wrote entirely on my own, but this reminds me of Ed more than anything he was actually involved in. It reminds me of a whole time in my life that he was a huge part of. It makes me a little sad and wistful. It makes me hungry for deep dish from Giordano’s and a frosty bottle of root beer.
Postscript: “Pacific” was used by some local filmmakers for the closing scene of a short movie they made about a hitman (or something). It was not a great movie, but it was neat to see someone just trying to do something like that, and it was nice that they saw something in this song and decided to use it. I never did get a copy of that movie, but I’m satisfied with my memory of it, I think.