Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Most Beautiful Music in the World

The first time I heard the Cocteau Twins’ rapturous, exultant "Heaven or Las Vegas," cruel circumstances had compelled me (yet again!) to take a word processing job. Thank God for my Walkman, I would think as the hours crawled past, never to be retrieved. On the afternoon in question, I was tuned to a local radio station. I was hooked from the first four bars. When it got to the chorus, that glorious, exultant chorus, I very nearly swooned. At song’s end, I just sat there, happily dazed, until a fellow temp asked if I were all right. I couldn’t have been more all right. I think "Heaven or Las Vegas" might be the most beautiful music in the world.

With some time on my hands the other day, I headed over to my beloved West Hollywood Public Library to see what I could find out about how this glorious work came to be. I was surprised to see in the David Geffen Reading Room none other than its namesake, looking unusually good for his age because gay men exercise more diligently than their breeder brothers, and scrupulously moisturize. David — it’s hard, after what we’ve been through together, for me to think of him as Mr. Geffen — wasn’t looking only muscular and moist, though, but also a little predatory. One of the librarians confirmed that David has come to regard the room that bears his name as a prime pickup spot. It is not my place to demur. You will notice that no reading rooms are named after me.

I have been to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and have with my own eyes witnessed the endless pairs of almost indistinguishably butch lesbians swaggering down its main street in such a way as to demand either, “Wanna make something of it?” or “What are you looking at?| I can’t understand why one would seek a lover who is a mirror image of himself, but there is much in life I don’t understand, and it isn’t as though Mick Jagger and Eddie Van Halen didn’t marry themselves, is it? But our greater concern in this paragraph is the woefully undersupervised children of the beggars who stand outside the WeHo library begging patrons for spare change.

The other afternoon, a stylishly dressed, meticulously coiffed woman who’d no doubt driven over in
a Lexus casually handed her half-finished cigarette to a little ragamuffin with dreadlocks and a distended belly before entering the library, in which smoking is of course forbidden. One thing led to another, and in a moment or two, one of the ragamuffin’s little comrades had managed somehow to set himself afire. One of the beggar mothers instinctively flung herself on him. While it’s true that she managed to put out the fire, she also suffocated him, a result about which I can’t imagine anyone being entirely pleased. If there’s any consolation, it might be that the child won’t grow up a member of America’s inescapable (except by boxing, basketball, or drug-dealing, and the latter can get you locked up) underclass.

I think this whole thing speaks to the unreliability of dreams. I woke up this morning fairly busting to get over here to my typewriter after dreaming with rare vividness of David Geffen, children on fire, and income inequality. The result, plainly, has been an essay that only my most ardent fan could enjoy. At this rate, I will have no readers left, and will die alone, and will have none but myself to blame.

I was serious, though, about “Heaven or Las Vegas.” And you know something else that's quire wonderful about it? It serves as an eloquent refutation of the importance of technique. I suspect that a person of normal manual dexterity and average musicality could be taught to play the guitar part in a couple of hours. You might say the same of Mazzy Star's inexpressibly gorgeous "Fade Into You." You don't need to be Yngwie Malmsteen or Al di Meola to make magical music. 

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