PERMANENT RECORDS: CRY LIKE A CHILD, THOUGH THESE YEARS MAKE ME OLDER
Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all.
16. JOY DIVISION - CLOSER (1980)
Personnel: Ian Curtis, vocals; Bernard Sumner; guitar & synthesizers; Peter Hook, bass; Stephen Morris, drums
Producers: Martin Hannett & Joy Division / Label: Factory
When I was sixteen, I got a new car. I had made a deal with my father that if he bought a new car as opposed to a used one, I would go to college, the logic being that a new one would last me all the way through. At the time, it's what I thought I wanted. By the time I was eighteen and out of high school, the car had three dents in it--one from a screw-up in our expansive backyard while practicing shifting, one from a parking lot accident, the other from a time when I kicked it. I know you probably think you can't kick a dent in a car, because they are big and hard and you are small and soft, but trust me, you can. My desire to go to college had taken a couple of dents by then, too.
Writing was what I wanted to do, and I had picked up some romantic notions of what that meant. The car ironically figured into my plans to ditch out of school. I was dreaming of getting in it and driving, just going wherever the highway took me and stopping to make money where necessary. I'm not sure how I cooked up this plan, because if there was anyone who was ever more ill-suited for that kind of life than I was, I am not sure who that would be.
The car almost became the catalyst for my taking off in another way. The summer between high school and university, I went to the San Diego Comic Con (before it was international) for my fourth time. I drove myself and my friends down there. Parking in the hotel garage, I had to angle into a pretty tight spot next to a fat pole. I thought the guy in the passenger seat was watching the pole for me, which he was--he was just a little slow on pointing out that I was going to collide with it. I recall hearing the crinkling of metal a second before I heard him say, "Pole."
My car's fourth dent.
That dent haunted me the entire weekend. I kept imagining getting home, having my father see it, and hearing the lecture about how stupid it was that my car was in the shape that it was now in. I didn't want to go home. I didn't want to face it.
Sure, that sounds trivial in and of itself, but that dent became something larger. It represented all the things I didn't want to deal with, the decision I didn't want to face. Going home and taking the lecture, it meant committing once and for all to college, to locking myself away at school for several more years. If I chose to avoid facing my father's scorn, I could avoid everything else. Just run away, and leave it all behind.
I drove my friends back from the convention with this on my mind. They lived in a different town than I did, so I had to go there first, and then there would be some more driving before I would be home. There would be a further delay because I had tickets for the House of Love and Peter Murphy show at the Universal Amphitheatre that night. The plan on that Sunday was to take my friends home, go to the show, and then from there, who knew?
The show was good. An attractive girl came down to fill the empty seat next to me because her friend had gotten too drunk before the show and was too sick to come in. She was all by herself and the guys in her row were lame. She was very friendly, a kind of average Southern California girl--tan, with maybe a trace of Hispanic blood in her; long brown hair. We had a good time, but when it was all over, we just said good-bye, that was it. Why had I let her leave without getting more information? Why had I not suggested doing something else?
But then, this was indicative of my whole problem. I could see it. This indecision, this refusal to reach for something more.
I got in my car and drove out to the beach. I had a boom box with me and I took it and sat on the lifeguard station and listened to my tape of Joy Division's Closer. I don't think that it had been selected for any other reason than me being sad and looking for something to fit that. I can't recall there being any greater meaning than that, nor do I think the record's part in my decision boiled down to anything like an epiphany. I didn't hear a lyric and think, "Now I know what I must do."
Rather, I think Closer provided a momentary oasis, a place of heavy thought where I could be alone with my own heavy thoughts. It wasn't so much what Ian Curtis said, but the sound of his voice, the desolation and the loss, the loneliness. His deep tones provided the atmosphere, while the music provided the landscape. The weighty sounds of Peter Hook's fat bass lines, the smooth roll back of Bernard Sumner's guitars: these things built a safety area. There on the beach in the middle of the night, I could remove myself from the rest of the world for a while.
If I did try to point to one song, it would probably be my favorite on the album, "The Eternal."
Procession moves on, the shouting is over
Praise to the glory of loved ones now gone
Talking aloud as they sit round their tables
Scattering flowers washed down by the rain
Stood by the gate at the foot of the garden
Watching them pass like clouds in the sky
Try to cry out in the heat of the moment
Possessed by a fury that burns from inside
Cry like a child though these years make me older
With children my time is so wastefully spent
Burden to keep, though their inner communion
Accept like a curse an unlucky deal
Laid by the gate at the foot of the garden
My view stretches out from the fence to the wall
No words could explain, no actions determine
Just watching the trees and the leaves as they fall
Even if these words did not directly influence what happened, they definitely form an accurate reflection of what I was feeling at the time. I was standing in between two stages of life, feeling separate and helpless, looking at things I could not have and a dark fate that might be waiting for me. In whatever capacity, I found the comfort I needed to decide what I would do.
No surprise, I went home. I waited long enough so that I would not arrive until my dad had gone to work, so I could get some sleep before confronting the awful new dent. My reasoning for sticking to the plan was both not wanting to screw him and also realizing I probably wasn't ready to take the leap I had envisioned. Something like that, altering your trajectory in such a drastic way, is not a move one should agonize over. If it's right, you know.
As for the dent, I had blown it all out of proportion, of course. My dad saw it and just chuckled. "What's one more, I suppose?" he said. "Three or four, what does it matter?" I had gotten myself worked up over nothing. At least in that aspect of it.
That fall I would get my fifth dent, some guy named Homer Simpson (I kid you not) rear-ended me at a stop light. It didn't seem like such a big deal when it happened. I couldn't even tell you what was on the radio when the impact occurred. If it wasn't significant enough to have a marker like that, I guess it's pretty clear I had settled into my decision and was ensconced enough by that point not to be knocked out of it.
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Current Soundtrack: "Just Shoot Me"
Current Mood: relieved
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich