Sunday, August 3, 2008

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

I can't remember ever being unfamiliar with The Beatles' self-titled double album, popularly referred to as The White Album. In a small way, it's a shame, because I'd love to have a recollection of that moment of discovery.

By the time we moved into our home on Edgevalley Drive, when I was nine years old, the album was already well known to me, but it is that basement I am always taken back to when I listen to The White Album. The bar that took up a significant portion of our rec. room, instead of being stocked with various bottles of spirits was stocked with the records that my parents had collected when they were children, teenagers, and young adults. There were stacks and stacks of these records piled on the shelves behind the bar out of sight from where we were usually positioned in the room. It was an effort to dig through these, and to finally select what I wanted to hear, and place the chosen album on the turntable that sat on top of the bar. It's weird that my brothers never did this. I have asked them which albums or songs remind them of their childhood, and they always recall what was popular at the time, completely disinterested in or unaware of this musical history our parents brought with them, before there was us, in boxes they packed and unpacked in a series of moves that coincided with the landmark events in their lives. I wonder about my father listening to this music in his residence room when he was going to the University of Toronto; in the first apartment he shared with my mother as a newlywed; and finally, how he felt hearing his nine-year-old daughter belt out the words to "Happiness is a Warm Gun" with such unrestrained enthusiasm.

It was easy to distinguish my father's records from the ones that had belonged to my mother because he had signed his name to the cover of his, something my collector-brain, after years of working in second-hand bookstores, is fairly appalled by, but which I otherwise find endearing. For some reason, or for several reasons, my father had been concerned about losing his claim to these, and this signature in bold blue ink was evidence of their importance to him. I don't know where these records have ended up, and I'm inclined to doubt that my father does, either; I think it's true that stuff begins to lose its importance as we get older, and particularly as the not-stuff, like relationships with people and geography, is revealed to be inconstant and even fleeting. What you ultimately get to keep is your own picture in your own head. The Beatles didn't write these songs for me or my dad.

One of the records was scratched. In one chorus of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," George Harrison sings, "While my g-weeps." My mom always thought the lyric,"I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping" was ridiculous; that it was only included because it rhymed. And maybe she's right, but I have looked at floors and spaces and felt immobilized by the amount of dust and dirt and clutter I am confronted by. It is too much, sometimes. But eventually, you pick up the broom, because you want to put something new over that mess, or you at least want your damage deposit back.

My very first apartment, which I shared with Kim and Andrea during my second year of university, that first time around, was at the corner of Bloor and College streets in Sudbury, Ontario. I thought it was funny, living at the corner of these two side-streets that shared their names with major streets in Toronto that ran parallel to one another, and which would never, ever, meet. I had copied onto cassettes a number of albums from home, and of course one of these was The White Album. I anticipated the skip, appreciated the scratched record sounds that had been transferred to this cassette and this city, and on those nights where I was feeling lonely and homesick, it made me feel a little less so.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Beatles (Harrison)
I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don't know why nobody told you how to unfold your love
I don't know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you.
I look at the world and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don't know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don't know how you were inverted
No one alerted you.
I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all...
Still my guitar gently weeps.

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