Loose Change

The golden oldies are bet­ter left to a ra­dio sta­tion than an MP3

Cape Breton Post - - WEEKEND - Mike Fini­gan Mike Fini­gan, a na­tive of Glace Bay, is a free­lance writer and a for­mer teacher, taxi driver, and rail­roader now liv­ing in Syd­ney River. His col­umn ap­pears monthly in the Cape Bre­ton Post. He can be con­tacted at cbloosechange@gmail.com.

Colum­nist Mike Fini­gan says the golden oldies are bet­ter left to a ra­dio sta­tion than an MP3 player.

I was just think­ing of a happy tune that used to be played with “Tourist Top­ics” on TV when I was a kid. I don’t know the name of the piece and that’s prob­a­bly a good thing, be­cause I’ll never get the chance to down­load it and play it un­til I hate it.

My favourite sum­mer song though used to be “Crys­tal Blue Per­sua­sion” by Tommy James and the Shon­dells. Hear­ing it on the ra­dio I’d go back to a mo­ment in 1969 when my grand­fa­ther Hu­bert and I were driv­ing home from Morien sand­bar in our old turquoise VW Bee­tle.

It high­lighted the day, the sum­mer, my youth, my dreams and as­pi­ra­tions, my sun­burn ... I can see the tall beach grass, the lonely clouds wan­der­ing by in the blue sky; I can hear the seag­ulls keen­ing in the air over the wa­ter at low tide. The wind­ing, nar­row road lead­ing away.

But 40 years later I down­loaded the song and played it to death.

Wrung ev­ery redo­lent note from its corpse and tossed it into the vir­tual trash.

The Bea­tles, The Stones, Led Zep­pelin, The Boss, The Ea­gles ... down­loaded them all, and now lis­ten­ing to them is like be­ing caught be­hind the barn smok­ing when you’re a kid and your old man makes you smoke a whole pack­age on the spot while he watches.

“There. You want another one?” You shake your head and stag­ger to the house, gasp­ing, your eyes bug­ging out, smoke lin­ger­ing in your hair, trail­ing matches and butts be­hind you like Hansel and Gre­tel.

It’s get­ting to the point where all my vivid mem­o­ries are los­ing their nos­tal­gic essence be­cause the mu­sic that went with them has moved on to more re­cent and less sig­nif­i­cant mo­ments. The golden oldies are bet­ter left to a ra­dio sta­tion than an MP3.

Ex­cept for when it comes to Hank Wil­liams. I never tire of Hank and I never will, I guess. Hank’s a sim­ple three-chord, mem­ory-maker — ex­cept with “Lovesick Blues,” a tune which ap­proached the Mozartian strato­sphere when it came to notes, and which Hank threw into his reper­tory just to keep him­self on his toes.

My car is strewn with CDs that I swore I’d love un­til my dy­ing day. You sit on ‘em, walk on ‘em, find ‘ em over the sun vi­sor, un­der the seat when you’re look­ing for a bag of chips or a pizza crust ... cof­fee money maybe. But de­spite my best in­ten­tions to­ward all my dar­lings, I play only two of those discs. Hank Wil­liams I and Hank Wil­liams II.

What is it about Hank then? I guess Hank ap­peals to my lone­some side. It’s a uni­ver­sal ap­peal re­ally be­cause I fig­ure there’s not a soul on the planet that’s not lone­some pe­ri­od­i­cally. And why, we can’t al­ways tell. Even cat peo­ple, for in­stance, whose cat might or might not be called Big Harold, feel pangs when said cat some­times stays out all of a sum­mer night and ven­tures home in the morn­ing full of con­fetti, for break­fast.

We yearn for some­thing. Home. Youth. God. Yesterday.

In such mo­ments you can go ahead and be lone­some with a Hank song. Dial up “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Lost High­way,” “Honky Tonk Blues;” nod to those sig­na­ture steel guitar strains of Don Helm, Hank’s right-hand man.

Hank died young, on the road, in the back­seat of his Cadil­lac, a man who had ev­ery­thing and noth­ing. The epit­ome of lone­some­ness.

You can’t sing Hank with­out be­ing Hank for a minute. And any­one can sing him, and any­one can play him and any­one can re­late. Bone-tired, lone­some and yet smil­ing at life. Hank the toe-tap­per and soul-stir­rer. A man out of time, like the great sto­ries, like Shake­speare, like the gospels.

Al­ways rel­e­vant.


Mu­sic brings back many mem­o­ries es­pe­cially of Hank Wil­liams.

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