It’s been awhile since I’ve been here. I would like to say that it was because I was busy going places, but that’s not true. In the time since my last post, I’ve seen the rise and fall of expectations for the Gold reissue. It seems like some of y’all’s Gold records went places you didn’t want them to go. Too soon?
“Going Places” is sublime from beginning to end. I’ve written many a’time about the layers of sound in sf59 songs. But think back to how those layers sounded back in the Silver days. Yes, there were multiple layers, but they all sounded the basically the same. In “Going Places”, we hear JM master the many layers so that each sounds distinct. Each part plays off another, leading us through the hypnotic, interwoven sound.
We start off with multiple guitars that sound like we have caught them in the middle of an ongoing chord progression. The drums punctuate the guitar chords. The cymbals crash as the main hook of the song begins. There’s some other percussion sound here that sounds a bit like castanets. I have no idea what the actual instrument is as I am woefully ignorant on percussion matters. It adds a nice texture to the beginning. I don’t think anything like this would have been used on Gold (and even if it was, could you hear it?).
The guitars weave in and out of each other. They start a call and response with the keyboards that is one of the hallmarks of this song. The guitars set up the hook to be completed by the keys. The bass is mobile as it sticks with the guitars for the first part of the hook followed up by a descending line during the keyboard response. On the second go round of the hook, the bass jumps up an octave during the guitar part just to add a little kick.
The vocal harmonies in the verses add a nice flavor. The main vocals are rich for one of the earlier albums. It sounds like he’s getting closer to finding the right key to sing in. The vocals are wistful during the “going places” refrain. This is may favorite part of the song. The strings set up the tension before the vocals jump in on the refrain with all of their longing and regret. After the vocals drop out, the keys carry the melody and the emotion through the outro. The strings become more prominent and embrace the moments between the melody. The whole outro is one of the most skillful, wordless expressions of longing I’ve ever heard.
As for the lyrics, I found that I don’t have much to say about them. I was mostly ignorant of the lyrics in the verses until I had to look them up to write this. It’s had me stumped for awhile. I still can’t figure out anything to say about them other than it has a bit of a throwing shade aspect to it. And, honestly, I don’t find that to be nearly as interesting as the music so I will ignore the lyrics mostly.
This is not to say that the song does not have meaning for me. I listened to this song many a’night when I was delivering pizza while in college. The call of “going places” took on mythical importance to me. I didn’t even pay attention to the essential “I don’t want to go” part of the phrase even though I could, at least, understand those lyrics. I didn’t want to think about places I didn’t want to go. My mind was filled with thoughts of all the places I could go after I finished college and became a real adult. What sort of life would I have? What kind of people would I meet? Could I find an atmosphere where I would fit in? Could I find a place were I could thrive? These were the things I longed for and they found expression in that “going places” refrain.
As it turns out, I didn’t go anywhere after college. I stayed where I am. My father’s health is not good and I knew that my mother would need help eventually. So I stayed behind. Remembering now all the longing I felt listening to this song in my early twenties, I am struck with the irony that the song now has more of a message of staying in places I don’t want to stay.
This sounds sadder than it really is. I am content with my life where I am even though I know there are places where I would fit better. I’m not sure what I would do with myself if I actually fit in somewhere. How does one live like that anyway? I have no clue.
And I find ways to go places even while remaining in the same place. Going places is not so much about physical location now as it is about how you move when you are where you are. I’m continually going places with reading or writing. My mind goes everywhere I’m inclined to go. There are always mysteries to chase and beauty to see. I’m surrounded by it, even here.
Having conversations with me is not particularly safe territory as I will take the conversation as far as you will allow me. I know few boundaries in dialogue. A friend recently commented to me that she liked our conversations because they were different and they reminded her of the book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. You don’t know where you will end up when you start a conversation with me. Will there be earth-shattering emotional revelations? Will we talk about cat memes? Will we talk about Nazis? Will we talk about the B-52s? Will MST3K references make an appearance? Will we discuss the history of the Catholic Church as interpreted by a Protestant? All of that is probable.
My understanding of going places has changed by necessity, much like a flower will break through pavement just to grow. Whether you are going or staying, whether you are where you want to be or going places you don’t want to go, you have to find a way to keep pushing, to keep reaching. You shrivel up and die if you don’t.