Sunday, January 29, 2006
Like Nature Calling
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese,
high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
-- Mary Oliver
I’m not entirely sure why "Just For Love" by the Quicksilver Messenger Service makes me think of this Mary Oliver poem. It might be the line in the song: "like the wings of some high-flying bird." Somewhere in the lyric is a similar celebration of the way our longings and needs just guide us toward the right things (ideally). It might be that the soft animal of my body just happens to love some hippie music. It may be that the first line of the poem seems to speak to Quicksilver Messenger Service: they weren’t good. They didn’t have to be.
QMS were like some sort of parasite sucker fish that fed off of the great lumbering corpulent mass of the Grateful Dead, whose swelling hordes of delusional and devout fans were ever eager to find another Dead side project, offshoot or cousin band on whom they could focus their deadhead worship. They probably sold thousands of records based solely on the fact that the same artist did some of the album lettering for both bands. You can see live footage of QSM from the bonus disc of the recently re-issued Monterey Pop Festival DVD. It’s not very pretty. Meandering stoner blues boogie, with that kind of initially endearing but ultimately annoying pothead condescending aloofness. The best thing is that they’re all playing matching Gibson S.G.s (bass player included) before the S.G. became the preferred axe of Satanists who wielded much more power. The other point-earning visual touch that QMS had was the weird Native American/Futuristic/hippie/alien iconography that they had working on their record covers. Quasi-Mayan decorative banding. Internstellar transmitter appendages attached to the ends of guitar headstocks and headphones. Lefty has a great story about some acid-damaged aspiring Phish-head coming into a college philosophy class and playing this tune as evidence of deep interconnectedness in the universe. What always strikes me about this song is how the sweeping (harp, piano?) strings at the beginning are so shrill and tinny that they almost hurt. It’s a mellow, placid, pretty song, but you have to experience pain in order appreciate the rest.