Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny

Still in ninth grade mode now. I mentioned in Cacoethes, Indeed that there was a second rock combo from that time to make me realize something was in the wind. If nothing else, as a musician wannabe, it was getting harder and harder to keep up with what was coming across the radio--amphetamines injected straight into the metacarpals would have been most welcome. Just a year earlier, I could play (on guitar) almost anything I heard, but all of a sudden there existed new chords, new rhythms and new techniques which had me nonplussed. Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Freddie and the Dreamers, Herman's Hermits, even most of the Monkees never slowed me down one bit, but this new band hitting the airwaves turned me into a sausage-fingered doofus, a grinning plowboy in striped coveralls and red bandana attending the Metropolitan Opera.

I think even the merely passive listener unconsciously sensed the soundscape had just emerged from the chrysalis of Louie, LouieAs Plato insinuated:

When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake.
Music was at the very heart of the Age of Aquarius.

I well recall those warm spring days, socializing with Bill in the living room while he toiled away at his college homework. He was studying to be a landscape architect and always had countless drawings to execute, etching away with his mysterious pens and inks while I twiddled the radio to life (still tubes in those days--wait for the warm red glow of a 12AX7 to initiate youth-oriented debauchery) and chatted. It was very fraternal. All of a sudden, a tune came on that made him set down his implements, and forced me to sit upright, ears to attention, staring at the radio loudspeaker intently as though eyes would help decipher what we were hearing; the nylon tan and white tweed grillcloth was a curtain on the mysterious, gradually parting to unveil unique tonalities. The sound was, quite simply, different from anything we had experienced before: arresting, sensual and it forced a person to slap hands in time to the beat on the hideous orange boxy sitting chairs positioned in our 1950s style living room. I don't recall the exact words we spoke to each other, but the content was: "What in the heck was that?" And here 'tis:



Just a year before, some cretins could occupy Number One on the Top-Forty with nothing more than three chords from the very first lesson covered in a Mel Bay Learn to Play Guitar book. All of a sudden, I felt like I existed in a new world. Boundless. Fresh sensations. Occult no more. Someone just handed me, and me alone, Dr. Leary's key. Looking back on it, I see now what transpired that day was identical to the marvelous scene in which Lord Henry and Dorian conversed for the very first time, out in Basil Hallward's garden. Dorian Gray reacts:
He had known Basil Hallward for months, but the friendship between them had never altered him. Suddenly there had come some one across his life who seemed to have disclosed to him life's mystery. And, yet, what was there to be afraid of? He was not a schoolboy or a girl. It was absurd to be frightened.
I am Dorian (but you already knew that), The Association is Lord Henry, and of course, The Kingsmen were Basil.

Indeed, it was at that moment I found a new sense of independence. No longer would I be content with Box Socials as the only officially sanctioned way to interact with girls. No longer would I listen to adults on moral issues (intellectual issues, yes, of course, since they knew more than me, and I wanted to know more myself). No longer would I consider youth an impediment. If truth be told, Peter Pan was always my role model. Still is.

And, of course, the lyrics to Along Comes Mary weren't lost on me. Anything was fair game now for an expanded consciousness. Well, most anything. I might draw the line at viewing The Green Slime in a delirium.

That song, too, is probably the one that first made me dream of the hippie chick I've never met.

Now if you only know me from this blog, which is admittedly and very deliberately rough around the edges just to reveal causes and effects, or perhaps witnessed my "performances" on stage, you might never guess there's another side few people would credit. For in fact, I have always been deeply moved by Byron, Shelley and Keats. These guys weren't called the "Romantic Poets" for nothing and I'd gladly go to Happy Hour with them.

Romance, as I see it, derives from another song by The Association. I had no way of "actualizing" (as the psychologists and similar mountebanks phrase it) what this tune was insinuating when I first heard it in the ninth grade. I've come a bit closer to understanding in successive years, always falling when inches away. Interrupta caritas est. It's not easy being a sociopath.

Here's the tune I refer to:



I'll concede there are a couple words in there that are perhaps a little over the top. But it's a beautiful song nonetheless, and any excesses are more a matter of unintentional clumsy wording of something very deep, yet so very simple, often the hardest ideas to get across. Hearing it back then, the meaning seemed like a shadowy mirage of things to hope for. 

Listening analytically, I was struck by the incredible chord structure
and its insanely intricate vocal harmonies and patterns, so different from the Shadows of Knight's jejune Gloria (which came out around the same time). Popular music really had rounded the bend and would never look back. Well, that's not quite true. I forgot about disco.
 

It says this: life should be lived with the notion that ecstasy is the goal, not plain vanilla happiness or easy contentment. Perhaps the song was trying to express to this West Junior High lad something from The Book of the Law:
Come forth, o children, under the stars & take your fill of love!
The waiting! Good thing my astrological chart features the Sun in Taurus with a Taurus ascendent. But little did I anticipate what Venus square Uranus would portend over and over again. And again.

Which explains the title of this blog entry. Some time ago, I studied the excellent BBC series Civilisation in which Lord Clark made the startling claim that the notion of romantic love arose quite late, perhaps in the 1200s.

A teenage sociopath hearing Never My Love, in the 1960s, trusting the melody and harmony, questioned for decades if the libretto was screwed on straight. I still wonder. Could I have been searching for the ephemeral? Are there things we will never know?


Once something arrests my attention, I can't put it down until totally wrung dry. That's when, looking for Newton's shinier pebble on the seashore no one else would notice, I found this absolute gem by The Association, my favorite, my anthem, my introduction to the suspended chord:


Enter the Young! If that's not a synecdoche, I don't know what is. Or at least so I felt (ever the egoist) back in those warm, elm-lined, anticipatory Ames youthful days, though the word hadn't entered my vocabulary yet.

Again, that title? Yes, it's accurate enough. But you know something? Raving formalist I am, I would rather see it phrased as: ontogeny is phylogeny. In either event, in the 1200s of my boyhood, romantic love became a definite goal thanks to the nudge from this music. I think I also sensed something that would later come from the lips of the character of H. G. Wells in the wonderful Nicholas Meyer movie Time After Time:
Every age is the same. It's only love that makes any of them bearable. 
Yes, sociopath I. But equally so, from those days and from those songs always looking for a love pure and based upon trust. Hardly sociopathic, is it?

Was The Association trying to get me to mend my evil ways?

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