Play it loud.
On May 20, 2015, Letterman’s last show ended with the Foo Fighters ripping into an extended version of “Everlong” while a montage of Letterman’s thirty-three years on television played.
And I wonder
When I sing along with you
If everything could ever be this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The guitars churn through the song, tearing as deeply into sadness and desire as can be imagined. It struck every chord with me then. Something was gone, but something was good. And loud—and it built, simple layer on simple layer.
Later that summer, I listened to the song in my car before work, before everyone arrived, and the minister for that Sunday (we had a different minister nearly every Sunday in the year of the aftermath of Jenifer Slade’s suicide) pulled into the space next to mine. When I explained the context of the song—briefly—her response was, “My son used to listen to them. I don’t like the Foo Fighters.” Several years afterwards, her name was floated as a possible minister for our church—I cringed.
I like to play music loud—scratch that, I love it loud. My rear view mirror vibrates along to the beat. I love to sing along until my voice is raspy (vocal fry be damned). Springsteen, Foo Fighters, The Pixies, Liz Phair, Aimee Mann (who doesn’t rip it up, but…), U2, Arcade Fire, David Bowie, PJ Harvey. There are others. My Bloody Valentine rang in my ears while seas chased my boat on the ocean.
This has been true for ages. When my coworkers drank their way out of a dinner shift, I got in my car and drove. Turning up the sound until my little Volkswagen caught the turns of country roads to swelling arpeggios. No DUI, just driving while loud. When I swim, I play music loud enough and vicious enough to make the pain in my arms and legs seem like an afterthought. It’s fuel, pure and simple. Fuel with a taskmaster’s beat.
Less never really captivates me. I can appreciate quiet and simplicity, but if I’m going to be transported—physically, spiritually, even mentally—I must crank it up. These days I don’t crack the sound barrier, and the music does not make me forget the limits—not the sensible ones. Still, it opens a gap, a crack in the hard stupid shell of “I don’t like…”
I was at a show for the band The Snails a couple of years ago—proto-punk silliness (they came out with trash bags full of balloons on their backs—like snails!). Everyone kept the beat, even this old man, especially this old man.
The only thing I’ll ever ask of you
Got to promise not to stop when I say “When”
Play it loud.