Monday, September 24, 2012

The Theraputic Powers of Side Four of Tusk

The changing of the seasons and certain music put together can conjure forth powerful memories.  I had such a moment today as I walked home from the train station in the cool autumn breeze with Fleetwood Mac's Tusk playing on my iPod.  That combination of weather and sound brought me back to the fall of 2010 when I was still living in Texas and increasingly desperate to get out of a rapidly deteriorating situation.  I spent a weekend escape with some musically-inclined friends in the Austin area, and finally had my defenses broken down regarding Fleetwood Mac.  I drove back to East Texas with a burned CD of Tusk, which led me to track down an immaculate vinyl copy at a local Goodwill for the princely sum of two bucks,

In the period between November of 2010 and May of 2011 I lived in a state of constant fear and anxiety, due to both my dysfunctional workplace and lack of prospects on the job market.  I've always used music as medicine, but it meant a lot more to me during those harrowing months than it's ever had.  When I woke up in the morning, I would often throw on record and play a single side while eating my breakfast.  With the radio full of news of the Tea Party ascendancy, my jangled nerves could no longer handle NPR.

Side four of Tusk was an old standby on these mornings; it never failed to soothe me.  Other sides of this famous double album might indeed be better, but this one still washes over me like warm water.  It starts with the disposable "Honey Hi," a typically jaunty Christine McVeigh number that sets a relaxing mood.  Perhaps it's there to put the listener in a good mood before the extreme downer of Stevie Nicks' "Beautiful Child," a lament for lost love that sounds like the thoughts that go through your mind at 3AM when you can't sleep. 

Tusk is full of avant-garde Lindsay Buckingham songs that provide sharp counterpoints to the more pop-oriented Nicks and McVeigh songs.  "Walk a Thin Line" might be the most subdued of Buckingham's tracks on this album, fitting well with side four's quiet, spooky vibe.  That spookiness gets downright surreal on the next track, "Tusk," one of the strangest songs ever to hit the upper range of the Top 40.  The USC marching band, penis references, and a lack of any discernable verse-chorus-verse structure set it apart from just about anything else on the record.  Listening to it over my morning coffee and oatmeal, it helped rouse me from my morning torpor and the inevitable dread about facing my workplace.  Side four (and the album) end on an optimistic note with "Never Forget," just the right attitude I needed to confront the day ahead.  

These days I'm a lot happier, thankfully.  I get to hug my babies before leaving on a journey to Manhattan's invigorating bustle to do a job I love.  As much as I still love Tusk, it won't ever mean as much to me as it once did, but that's probably a good thing.

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