Friday, February 6, 2009

george winston sucks

I grew up listening to a lot of george winston. don't worry, I listened to cool music too. my first album purchase ever was paula abdul's "forever your girl", which I think I got in 1988, when I was 9 years old. I rode with my brothers to the mall and got the tape. back in the car on the way home mike made fun of me, and danny told mike to shut up as he put the tape in and we rode home. "opposites attract" and "coldhearted" started to play, and I'll never forget how it felt, hearing my new record blasting through the speakers of my brother's '79 monte carlo. I sat in the back seat, not saying a word.

as a small item of personal redemption, I'll mention that my next album I remember purchasing was sting's "ten summoner's tales" which I still listen to this day.

but along the way, with my elton john, U2, vertical horizon, michael jackson, indigo girls, pink floyd, ccr, paul simon, fleetwood mac records, I listened to george winston. to be honest, growing up I listened to so much music its hard to really remember. I remember devouring whatever was new (I'm still kind of like this today) so as a result, so much of what I loved at any point is now tiresome to me. and I remember making repeated attempts at jazz (I have over a hundred jazz records that I never listen to) but it never worked. jazz never moved me. it never has. and I have too much baggage with it to be able to really hear it.

the home I grew up in was an eerily silent home, so as soon as I could drive, I was working as much as I could (mostly just to be free from the house), and I was spending literally all of my extra money on music.

but one person I do remember from high school was george winston. of course I always loved playing piano. and winston's music always resonated with me. long, flowing lyrical pieces and melodies buried in seemingly complex piano arrangements. I remember as a teenager picking apart what he did and realizing his playing was surprisingly simple and repetitive. I dug that. and for better or worse (probably worse), the music of george winston has been a huge influence on my playing. I have spent the past 8 or 9 years trying to deconstruct that, but still, in the quiet moments when I'm pretty sure no one is listening to me play, my music sounds a lot like his. it just sort of feels like the music I have in me.

so on wednesday night, when winston was playing at the carver theatre, on the north side of birmingham, I was looking forward to it. I imagined his music, which I like much less than I used to, taking me away and reminding me what he offered me 10, 15 years ago. the room was half full, and the old dingy theatre felt almost like a coffin. a relic of a city that is way past it's prime. winston is half bald, with a thick beard. he wears old, baggy jeans pulled up to his ribs. he doesn't wear shoes. his glasses are out of style. the piano is just a little out of tune. and winston gives off a vibe like he'd rather be anywhere else. drunk, perhaps, at home, alone. he takes deep breaths while he plays. and he plays stiffly, apparently unmoved by the music his fingers and locked wrists are producing.

he plays the piano and the room falls quiet. and I immediately notice that the music is not there. it's somewhere else. it's like I'm watching someone else play, like he is watching himself in the mirror, in a dream. he missed countless notes. the kind of mistakes that I make at home and scream out "AHH!" out of frustration that my hands can't keep up with my mind, and then I stop, play it slower, get it right before moving on. he made huge mistakes, and never indicated that any of them bothered him. his notes, instead of being crisp and having intent, were slurred together and when combined, said nothing. beautiful melodies that should have swept me away instead were lost in the sloppiness of their execution, and what was left was a flat, lifeless soundtrack to a room already half filled with death.

don't get me wrong. I loved the concert. and I got to see two old friends from high school. and it was a relaxing break from a new record I've been working really hard on. and it was good to see that george winston is still playing. and it was good to know that my music has some distinctions from george winston.

and it was good to see again that music carries me, more than it carries george winston. or at least more than it was carrying him on wednesday night.


Liz said...

boo. was hoping you'd say hey to goliath on your next post.

Brian T. Murphy said...

funny. yeah that might be coming. I'm going to think about that a little more. this is, afterall, the worstweblogintheworld.

Steve Hardy said...

I loved reading this.

Katie said...

"forever your girl" is the first album I remember also. You probably gave it to me.
You write beautifully. And I love how music carries you.

Dan said...

I never told Mike to shut up

evan said...

The first album I purchased was Warrant's Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin' Rich. I remember how happy I was to have that tape. I would listen to parts of a song over and over until I had the words perfect. Then move on to the next part. I was obsessed with knowing every single word so I could sing along.

I'm still kinda' like that.

Brian T. Murphy said...

steve - I'm sure you have similar stories / records.

katie - yeah I think you inherited that fine album from me. you of all people know how I am with music.

danny - you definitely did.

evander - that's a good one. and those skills are now getting put to good use in our new band.

Carla Jean said...

I liked this story, Brian. Also, I loved Paula Abdul and definitely have some of her stuff on my iPod ... need to reacquire Forever Your Girl. (That's right, I said it. Sometimes I like to listen to the stuff I loved in elementary school. I also have Debbie Gibson on the iPod, and STILL have my copy of DG's Out of the Blue.)

bruce said...

great post - yes, i was a big paula abdul fan around that time also. we begged our parents to take us to the guns 'n roses concert - we were so fired up. they got all of us together for a party (5th grade or 6th grade graduation i think) and revealed they had gotten us a big present - tickets to a concert. of course we were all going crazy - convinced it was gnr tickets.

to our lasting dismay it was tickets to the paula abdul/colormebadd concert - 5th row, oak mountain amphitheatre. to top it off - our parents were going to go with us.

it was our first concert though and even though i never owned a paula cd we all had huge crushes on her for the next year - including a never settled debate about which one of us she winked at. i'm sure she was looking to pick up an 11 yr old.

Clint Wells said...

My first two records were Vanilla Ice (ice ice baby) and M.C. Hammer (cant touch this). What a magical beginning to the journey of being moved by music.

Cassette tapes were the shit because they sort of forced you to ingest a full record, which is something fairly foreign to the ipod revolution. But how can I complain as I am currently downloading my 127th live ryan adams concert digitally.

Btm, i dig your writing and your music and your friendship, etc.

drunk in minneapolis,