A Trick of Time

I fell down an internet rabbit hole the other day, and wound up at Rick Beato’s “What Makes this Song Great” installment for “Dance on a Volcano” by Genesis. If you’ve never listened to Rick walk you through the time signatures and chord structures of a song, you’re missing out. I highly recommend for musicians and non-musicians alike, as his breakdowns definitely increase my appreciation.

But what struck me is that I had this album once, and I loved listening to it. I stopped listening to it about 30 years ago, though I don’t remember why, and eventually forgot all about it. But I re-listened to the album over the weekend and all these memories of my late teens came flooding back, memories of this person I used to be and hardly recognize now.

When I was 17, 18, 19… I wanted to be a musician. I was a singer and bassist in several bands, dabbled in drumming and songwriting here and there. I recorded a few songs in my humble home studio. Through it all, I had visions of sugarplums dancing in my head – Sting, The Police, Rush, Yes, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins. As in other areas of my creative life, I never reached the lofty heights of my dreams, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. It’s clear to me now I was never going to be a pro, but I don’t regret chasing after giants.

It’s funny how music can tie your memories to a certain time and place. Songs that once resonated with you in your hormone-ravaged late adolescence can fall flat to your new, enlightened future-self. Such was not the case with A Trick of the Tail. It held up very well. Loved it. I was driving, alone in the car as I listened to this album after over three decades, and I was surprised at how many of those old songs I remembered enough to sing along with.

It was like there were two of me – the younger version, who remembered it all and somehow doubted the older one had ever heard the record, and the older one, eager to prove he had. In the end, the older guy acquitted himself rather nicely.

Rick Beato focused on “Dance on a Volcano“, and it is, like the rest of the album, a pretty amazing bit of musicianship which occasionally veers off into over-the-top progressive rock wackiness. But the rough spots only serve to enhance, not detract from, the rest of the brilliance.

But my favorite is “Mad Man Moon”.

I’m particularly drawn to this lyric, near the end:

Within the valley of shadowless death
They pray for thunderclouds and rain
But to the multitude who stand in the rain
Heaven is where the sun shines
The grass will be greener till the stems turn to brown
And thoughts will fly higher till the earth brings them down
Forever caught in desert lands one has to learn
To disbelieve the sea myth

Love it even after all these years. That “Grass is Greener” thing has resonated with me for almost 40 years and become a part of what I create even now. Such is the power of music.

Great to have rediscovered this album. I feel like I found a long-lost diamond I had forgotten I even possessed, and in so doing, rediscovered a little of the boy who once picked it up. He was funny and creative. He had a lot of big dreams.

I wonder what ever became of him? 🙂

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