I was feeding my daughter this morning. We sat in our living room, me with a little spoon and bowl, she in a bib and a spoon in her hand. She’s only 10 months so her spoon’s for play. I stir her food, blow on it and bring bits to her mouth. She takes a bite. She makes it messy.
I play music when we do this. I go to an artist station on Spotify and we listen and eat. Yesterday was Bach, the day before Orchestra Baobab, the day before that Toots & the Maytals. My musical choices reflect how groggy I am. It’s part of a quiet two hour ritual we have when my wife’s still asleep. It includes playing with blocks and crawling about the floor.
This morning’s radio station was based on Sea and Cake. I haven’t listened to them in a long time but fifteen years ago I listened to them a lot. They make good morning music.
A song came on. It sounded like a slow jam version of Joy Division’s Ceremony.1 A few moments passed, we had another breakfast spoonful and I realized it was a slow jam cover of Ceremony. The playing sounded familiar but I couldn’t place it. After a few more bites my curiosity peaked and I got up to check the tablet to see who was covering the song. Galaxie 500.
Serendipity. I’ve long had a soft spot for the band. I first listened to them in the late eighties as an angsty teenager living outside Boston. They were my introduction to shoe-gazey dream pop. More important, they were an accidental find of mine in the Tower Record music bins on Newbury Street. I really don’t remember how I came across them but they were unlike any of the bands my friends were listening to. I liked this. It made them my secret.
My high school friends were mostly Deadheads. They collected bootlegs and had bong-laden debates over this song from this concert in 1976 versus the same song from that concert in 1981. Long afternoon’s were spent this way. It was tough to keep up and I didn’t really care to. All of which made me happy to discover this decidedly different band when I did. They felt like mine and I didn’t have to share it, debate it or compare it to anything. I’d just pop On Fire into my car stereo when I was alone and feel like I had something special to myself.2 Besides, in the song Blue Thunder they sang about driving on Route 128. I was always driving on Route 128. To school, from school, to get into and around Boston where most of my friends lived, to get back to my family’s house in the country.
I hadn’t thought of any of this until this morning while feeding my daughter. I also haven’t listened to Galaxie 500 since way back when but, as I said, serendipity, they’ve been on my mind somewhat the last year or so ever since I heard a fantastic podcast the band’s drummer Damon Krukowski made called Ways of Hearing which explores how we hear and listen in the digital world.3
So, serendipity, I listen to Galaxie 500 as I write this. It’s now part of a musical trip I’ve been on the last month or two since I came across a Twitter post asking what our favorite album was in each decade since the 1970s. I thought about it some when I saw the post. I kind of thought I could rattle off a few quick ones until I thought about it some more. Then I realized I couldn’t do it. It couldn’t be done. There are, were and have been just too many moods and moments accompanied by deeply ingrained soundtracks along the way.
But it’s become a really interesting way to play through memories; to think of why I adored the Beatles when I was eight, and Jane’s Addiction and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan when I was twenty; how Miles Davis and John Coltrane blew my mind; how a Prince concert in Barcelona changed what I liked about music.
I’ve started going decade by decade writing about the music and albums that affected me. It’s brought about moments long forgotten and moments neatly re-remembered. This musing on Galaxie 500 is a neat detour. As mentioned, the band was out of mind for years but for a few months circa 1990 when I first listened to them, they were a breath of something fresh and new in the soundscape that was becoming my teenage self.
Here’s the song that prompted the memory.
- I actually thought New Order wrote it but Wikipedia tells me differently. Evidently, Ian Curtis wrote the lyrics just before his suicide. When Joy Division became New Order, they released it as one of their first singles. (Spotify | YouTube) back
- Released in 1989 (Spotify | YouTube) back
- The podcast is great and definitely recommended. He also has a book by the same name. I haven’t read it yet but it’s on my unmanageably long reading list. back