Music, When It Hits Ya, You Feel No Pain

That lyric, as I first heard it sung by Bradley Nowell of Sublime, goes like this…

One good thing about music
When it hits you, you feel no pain
One good thing about music
When it hits you, you feel no pain
So hit me with music
Hit me with music now yah
Hit me with music
Brutalize me with music

Later, after learning everything I could about yet another ’90s front-man who’d danced with Mr. Brownstone too often and too hard, I learned Trenchtown Rock was a song penned by another legend who’d died too early, Robert Nesta Marley. In fact, according to Wikipedia

Trench Town is the birthplace of rocksteady and reggae music, as well as the home of reggae and Rastafari ambassador Bob Marley.

Sublime’s unvarnished version features Nowell pleading, rather than singing, Marley’s lyrics. This is what hit me when I heard it for the first time. Although I’d go on to become obsessed with Sublime—once owning over 350 of their CDs, cassettes, LPs, VHS tapes, promos, bootlegs, and whatnot, actively participating in the late ’90s bootleg market with biff5446 as my handle, and even running an all-things-Sublime website called: The Sublime Zine—I was never obsessed with this song. And though the tune never resonated with me like much of their other work, those words perpetually ricocheted around my mind—they still do…

I offer that background as explanation for the title of this blog post that has nothing to do with Sublime, or Trenchtown Rock, or Bob Marley. But, it has everything to do with the live-saving power of music, and how, a few lifetimes back, like many, I brutalized myself with music to drown out adolescent pain.

I won’t rehash it here, but you can read my rescued-by-music story in this blog post titled: The Best Friend I Never Had. If you are not into reading long rambling dissertations, it goes something like this…

melifemusic

And back in that era of confusion, naivety, and strife, music was the only thing that could assuage my teen angst.

Today, I’m approaching the apex of this lifetime. I figure after 50, it’s a nice leisurely downhill meander toward the inevitable. That is, unless I decide to have my head cryogenetically frozen so as to come back as a cyborg at some indeterminate future moment. Honestly. I’ll probably just bow out gracefully, die, and call it a good run.

In the meantime, I feel compelled to give the “life saving” gift of music to the next generation of music-obsessed souls to plant the seed of music appreciation, to show how sound can light the way when shit gets really dark.

Besides being music-obsessed, I’m thrift-addicted. There is no place more full of endless possibility and hopeless junk than a thrift store you haven’t frequented for a week. And although I look at anything and everything strewn amid the shelves, I’m always honed in on a few specific classes of relics. One such class is stereo equipment produced before the era of cheap Chinese audio gadgetry really dominated the market—the analog era, let’s call it.

I snap up this stuff mainly in hopes of reconditioning/repairing it and giving it a second life. I don’t experience any existential angst if I make a few bucks in the process. I’ve been called a “fucking flipper” more than once on Craigslist, as though fixing broken gear and selling it at a fair price is unforgivable debauchery. Another reason I like to rescue these relics from certain death in a recycling center, is that most of the stuff that is “broken” doesn’t require much effort to “fix”. Better to be fixed up and have a second life than to be dismantled and made into some cheap Chinese gadgetry, I always say.

In addition to literally hunting high and low for salvageable stereo gear, I also buy records, cassettes, and 8-tracks. I’ve yet to fall into the quagmire of flipping through jewel cases, but it just might happen some day.

About five years back, I noticed that I had snapped up about 50 (or so) duplicate LPs throughout the year. My old-souled, 9-year-old, music-obsessed daughter and I decided that rather than peddling the duplicates for $2-$5 a pop on eBay, we’d put a “Free” ad on Craigslist and give them to someone who had a music-obsessed kid of their own, who’d love them as much as we loved discovering them in dusty thrift store bins among other musty records. Needless to say, when we met the person who responded to our ad with the most compelling story—a mother with a 13-year-old son—it was a pretty damn excellent experience!

As a result of this initial foray into musical altruism, we decided this needed to become annual event. And each year around Christmas, we continued to gift the duplicate platters we had snapped up over the course of another year of thrifting. Eventually, it dawned on me that it would probably be momentarily life-altering to not only receive music but also the means to enjoy the music. In that spirit, I started to gather choice pieces of stereo gear throughout the year.

By the time this past Christmas rolled around, I had amassed the following rig…

  • Technics SA-160 Stereo Receiver Quartz Synthesizer Amplifier AM/FM Tuner
  • Fisher MT-420 Turntable
  • Insignia NS-B2111 2-way Coaxial Speakers
  • Sony MDR-CD180 Stereo Headphones

stereo

I won’t pretend that any or all of these pieces would make an audiophile—whatever that even is—blush. But, I couldn’t help imagining how excited 13-year-old me would have been if this was under the Christmas tree back in ’84.

So, my old-souled, now-13-year-old, music-obsessed daughter and I placed our “Free” ad on Craigslist. The father who responded with the most compelling story was so excited that it melted out hearts. He was going to give our second-hand rig to his 16-year-old daughter who really wanted a record player, so that she could play the old records he had never had the heart to throw out. Since this is how I first became music-obsessed kid back in ’81 (listening to my old man’s Beach Boys, Juice Newton, and Dr. Hook records), the utter coolness of this moment sort of overtook me. As we helped him load the gear into his car, I think everyone was a bit overtaken.

He hugged us both, and we waved as he pulled out of our driveway and drove away.

It is infinitely more rewarding to give a gift than to get one.

There is no gift quite like the gift of music.


© 2020 – ∞ B. Charles Donley