Thursday, May 06, 2010

the song remains the same

I've been listening to CDs I had heard years ago and as The Best of Simon and Garfunkel spun away, I thought of songs like The Boxer that I had kept listening in a loop. I realised that, years later, things hadn't changed. As soon as the guitar opened the track, I knew that I hadn't forgotten all the things I had relished so long ago: Paul Simon's way with words, the arrangements (the brass, the piccolo trumpet, the pedal steel) and the catchy refrain.

All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

The undergraduate days back home were when I got an education in rock. I had managed to cover some ground with Pink Floyd and The Beatles thanks to spending time in the reference section of The British Council Library. Unfortunately, I had only heard of Led Zeppelin. I had not managed to hear even a single song by the band. This was before the omnipresence of Wikipedia and the numerous portals of streaming radio. The music shops around town lacked an interesting back catalogue. I had struck gold with some Beatles tapes (Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) and Pink Floyd albums still adorned the shelves, but as far as Plant, Page, Bonham and Jones were concerned, there was just nada. Zilch. Until the day I struck gold on a music store in Pune camp. Innocently sitting on a rack amidst other random unsold tapes was Physical Graffiti. In retrospect, this double album serving as my introduction to the band was rather risky; it's almost like introducing someone to the The Beatles with The White Album. The Zeppelin double, however, was arguably less sprawling in its excess than The White Album. I was hooked as soon as the snarling energetic unapologetic riff of Custard Pie opened the album. As the mix of wah-wah, clavinet, harmonica and (once I paid close attention) the risqué lyrics faded away, I was a fan.

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