Sunday, April 11, 2010

Red Brick Memories

There's an evocative passage in Boey Kim Cheng's Between Stations about his memories about the old National Library at Stamford Road. He wrote about listening to Mahler LPs in the Lee Kong Chian reference section. (pg.53)

Today we have the Esplanade Library with its wonderful collection of arthouse DVDs. But back in the 80s, the CD and vinyl collection at the reference section of National Library was a lifeline for a youngster starved for rock n roll.

2 standout albums: Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run CD and Sonny Rollins Live At the Village Vanguard record. The CD they let you take it away from the counter and play it on your own at the CD player section. But the vinyl, the librarian will tell you which headphone station to go to. You sit down, put on the headphones while the librarian will play the record on a turntable at the librarians' workstation. When you are through with Side A, you go over and tell the nice librarian lady to turn over the record.

I finally got round to buy the 30th Anniversary boxset edition of Born To Run. HMV is selling them for a good price. Brought back memories of afternoons spent at the Red Bricks after school. A quick lunch and then hours spent listening intensely to the music. What is this thing called rock n roll? Is it the words or the music? The guitars? But Born To Run gave prominance to the saxophone and piano.

Back then, I focused on the words, sort of a pract crit approach to rock. But of course, it's the sound, the vibe and the attitude. Still, 35 years on, Thunder Road, the opening track of Born To Run, still sends a shiver down my spine:

The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone again
Don't run back inside
Darling you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty but hey you're alright
Oh and that's alright with me

You can hide 'neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a saviour to rise from these streets
Well now I'm no hero
That's understood
All the redemption I can offer girl
Is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now ?
Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow
Back your hair
Well the night's busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heaven's waiting on down the tracks
Oh-oh come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh-oh Thunder Road oh Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it's late we can make it if we run
Oh Thunder Road sit tight take hold
Thunder Road

Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back
If you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride it ain't free
And I know you're lonely
For words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free
All the promises'll be broken
There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they're gone
On the wind so Mary climb in
It's town full of losers
And I'm pulling out of here to win

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