Sunday, October 5, 2008

Moondance (the album)

I discovered Van Morrison's "Moondance" while working at Sam the Record Man on Barrington street. So I was pretty late arriving there. My co-workers/bosses/friends Sean and Andy in particular made fun of my enthusiasm with responses like, "Yeah, we know, good record. It came out in 1970." Across from the front desk at Sam's there was always a collection of budget cd's. We referred to this area as the "Wow Wall" for the enormous letters spelling "WOW" that were attached to the flat board above the cd's to indicate the wow-worthy bargains to be had. A perennial Wow wall title was "Moondance" and it was Jonathan Andrews who properly introduced me to this album. The two of us certainly played it to death for those co-workers with less approving ears.

Jonathan's picks were all over the place, and he turned me onto and off of all kinds of artists. Working cash by his side was always a bit of a crap shoot. While his temperament was not as eclectic as his musical taste there were certainly days that I loved working with him and days that I hated it. Of all of the friends I made and relationships that developed while working at Sam's, none feels more honest or more familiar than my relationship with Jonathan (I am excluding Sean from this assessment altogether, for the long and intense and complicated relationship we had before he ever hired me). And when I say "familiar," I really do mean that quite literally. He felt like family, like a brother, and that's the only reason I didn't let his indifference and dark moods get the better of my over-sensitive nature.

When Jonathan was in a good mood, and seemed glad for my company, he was so much fun to work with. He can be remarkably easy-going, and I can see how he might make a pretty crappy tenant or nerve-wracking roommate because of this, but not being in either of those positions, it's something that always amazed and impressed me about his character. He has given me his very last cigarette without having funds for more, when asked for one, on more occasions than I can count, despite my astonishment and attempts at refusing his gesture. He has quit jobs that made him unhappy without having back-up plans. He has a lot of faith in the people in this world; in things always working out.

But back to music.
Jonathan would listen to everything. Artists whose cd's he loved to play included Guided by Voices, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Stephen Malkmus, LCD Soundsystem, and Huey Lewis & the News. Myself and Scotty kept conspiring to hide the Back to the Future soundtrack on Jonathan (he always found it, don't ask me how), which of course he eventually only played to piss us off, but I really believe he actually did like Huey Lewis a lot.

He would play Stan Rogers' Fogarty's Cove all the time. That's a great album, but it's a bold move for anyone working in the coolest record store in town, just minutes away from pubs who make their bread and butter by being host to Celtic rock bands playing endless covers of "Barrett's Privateers" to university students who don't give a shit about music but know all the words to that famous song about the Halifax pier.

While Jonathan's friends and peers played in weird indie rock bands, he was championing and eventually playing music with Halifax legends like Al Tuck and the all-but-forgotten Matthew Grimson. While always staying in touch and engaged with new releases, he was also investigating everything that came before, without any agenda except for hearing something great that he had never heard before and finding some musical mentors. He was always learning. And he was always so enthusiastic about sharing what he had learned. Jonathan's first solo album "Halifax Indie Rock" is a self-conscious and earnest homage to just that mentality. I love the name. And I loved how he stood behind the display of his cd's - the face on the cover clearly identifiable as his own - that stood in front of the counter at which he rang in customers' purchases. There's not a hipster bone in Jonathan's body. I'd say he was wise beyond his years in some respects, but he doesn't carry it like wisdom. He's too playful. Maybe it's just so rare to come across a really genuine person who is so difficult to pigeon-hole.
Every now and then I run into someone who knows about and likes to talk about music in that geeky way we had at Sam's. I never realise how much I miss these conversations until I leave one feeling so refreshed and excited. I miss working at Sam's. I miss poring over release sheets and being excited about new release Tuesday, and I miss hearing classic albums like "Moondance" for the very the very first time, courtesy of people who just have to show me why they're such classics. I miss my friends.

Moondance - Van Morrison

(the album)

No comments: