Listening to Sara

Oct 25th, 2009 | By | Category: Pop thinking

“Flares! You don’t really wear flares, do you?”

“Um, well”.

“And where did you get that jacket? Rob, come and look at this jacket! The collar is so wide it could fly”.

There was general laughter.  The flares were quietly phased out; the tartan patterned bomber jacket was replaced with a black leather one.

He came from Camberley in Surrey and regarded himself as arbiter of all fashion matters.  Not only was he an authority on how to dress, but on most other matters as well.  There was the day he came in when BBC Radio 1 was playing.

“You’re not really listening to that, are you? Nobody listens to Radio 1 in London.  Why would you want to listen to Radio 1?”

“Um, well, in Somerset, you see, there is no alternative.  There’s not any stations except the BBC”.

“But you’re not in Somerset now, you’re in London.  Let’s put Capital on and have some proper music”.

It was his radio, so he could choose to play whatever he liked.  He would reel off the names of bands and from where they had come in the capital and the suburbs.  There was nothing worthwhile from outside of London; only the Americans could compete.

Mention of Ritchie Blackmore, a Somerset man, who had played with Deep Purple and by then was with Rainbow caused him great hilarity. Throwing himself back on his bed with his feet in the air, he exclaimed, “Rainbow? Rainbow! You’re a dinosaur if you listen to stuff like that”.

He came to mind listening to Fleetwood Mac.  They played ‘Tusk’, the title track from their 1979 album and then the much more balladic ‘Sara’.  It was odd: he used to be indifferent to ‘Tusk’, the cutting edge piece, but, every time it was played, he was captivated by the gentler tones of ‘Sara’.  Beneath the brash exterior there was another person inside.

Of course, when you are nineteen years old, you don’t ask, “What’s the deal with this track?  What’s going on when you stop to listen every time it’s played?” Thirty years later, it would probably be even harder to ask such a question.  The reasons for playing stuff multiply greatly over the years.

He should have been an important lesson, not in sartorial elegance or musical taste, which were never learned, but in seeing the depths.  There were many moments since when arrogance and even aggression have been met with like responses.  Instead of asking where things came from, it was easier to meet fire with fire.  There must have been many times when there were people who had their own moments equivalent to him listening to “Sara”, moments when the outward impression changed to something much softer and gentler.  Too often, the moments were missed.  The noise of the onslaught had deafened any sensitivity to whispered weaknesses.

He would have enjoyed last night’s concert.  As ‘Tusk was followed by ‘Sara’ he would have slipped back thirty years.  Perhaps this time round he would have explained.

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  1. When I think back to my teenage years I was either indifferent, or socially inept to register the ‘necessity’ following the crowd or being fashionable. Fortunately punk was the thing in the late 70’s and only looking back do I realise that I must have looked bizarre in small town Worcestershire. I can’t recall anyone ever telling me I looked ridiculous, although had I gone anywhere remotely fashionable they might have thought it!
    My children appear to be be very similar, the youngest only wears FairTrade or clothes purchased from charity shops. I did notice a couple of odd looks when we walked down Worcester High Street last time she visited – but that may be because she is very tall and striking looking ( or that casual dress for Worcester youth is labelled sports wear) Who knows.

  2. I have suffered years of tyranny!

    First there was the Home Counties ‘sophisticates’ mocking me and then I went to Northern Ireland where the leather jacket had to go (you look like a paramilitary in that!) and I had to spend my early-twenties dressed like a sixty year old with V-necked pullovers and collar and tie (Ulster Protestant culture was like small town America).

    Now, I wear what I like.

  3. Ahh – poor you. I note you stuck with the 60 year old look… : )

  4. Being only eleven years short of the age, it’s hardly worth changing now.

  5. You music-related posts make me quite nostagic. Not for the Fleetwood Mac of Tusk or Rumours, but the Peter Green Fleetwod Mac.
    But you mention “seeing the depths”. I agree with you there , but what are those ‘depths’ ? I would be interested to know what you think they might be,
    Meantime your nostalia has brought me back to hippy days, and comparing them to the current fractious nature of society, causing me to post more serious stuff.
    Don’t forget the ‘depths’! Let me know.

  6. Someone told me that Peter Green was playing in Dublin on Monday, but having gone to see Stevie & co on Saturday, I could not have afforded another night out.

    The ‘depths’ for me are the unspoken stuff, the emotions people feel that are not articulated, maybe can’t even be articulated; maybe the stuff that can only be expressed in non-verbal ways.

    Is society so much more fractious now? I was only a kid in Somerset in the hippy days, but the world did not seem happy even then.

  7. Interesting about ‘depths’. I feel that they are glimpses of the true nature of the world – the architecture and design of the world – beauty. Just as some art (music, poetry etc.) allows a glimpse, a moment of the ‘unspoken stuff’. I am of the opinion that some ‘religious’ events are similar glimpses of beauty. Indeed even mathematics can bring ‘unspoken stuff’ into one’s sensibilities.

    Sara allowed your friend to inadvertently view this beauty, to be imbued with it – even if he was unaware of what is was. The experience is enough, he did not need my rationalisation to heighten the experience. So that’s what I think ‘depths’ are!!

    The world was not happy then, I agree. But hippydom allowed one to contemplate another place. Unfortunately some people thought that the new dawn was here. These days there seems to be very few alternatives to crass commercialism. Where have the idealists (be they religious or secular) all gone?
    Time for the Earl Grey.

  8. My experience of paintings would be illustrative of your point about evoking the ‘unspoken’. I have no vocabulary whatsoever with which to describe what is on a canvas, but love the work of Monet and Vermeer (to the extent of travelling to places to see their stuff). Some music has a similar effect.

    I accept the point about the hippies. There isn’t much idealism around these days (being honest, Protestants have always been more into being practical and stoical anyway!). I was in Nelson, British Columbia last year – one of the last places one might meet a hippy. The week after we were there Country Joe was going to play in a local hall. Maybe the ideallists went off to the green movement (though not the Green Party, which seems more of an opportunist group).

    A friend used to drink Earl Grey in student days. He went into international banking, before throwing it all up to go surfing about seven years ago.

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