When I was 15, my favorite record was The Crossing, by Scottish band Big Country. My LP copy of it was as well-loved and worn as the copy of e.e. cummings's Complete Poems that I carried around with me everywhere I went, held together with rubber bands. I still have that record. The spine is broken, and the inner sleeve is torn and ragged, stained by the brittle and ancient scotch tape I used to patch it up, and I can't tell you how much I loved it. I knew every single word, every note of its shimmering guitar symphonies, every vocal inflection, and every breath singer Stuart Adamson took on that record. I knew it from inside my own body, like it was part of my own mind and heart, and it stirred a humanist chord in me that has never stopped humming.
When I was a girl, that record taught me to love nothing better than the beauty of human expression -- not only the product, but the process of it, and the way it issued forth from the lips of creatures who were made almost holy by their endeavor. It taught me to believe in the ability of human beings to fill their world, and the worlds of others with beauty and hope. It taught me to believe in the power of words to express worthwhile emotion, and showed me that human emotion could make a life shine with dignity and meaning. I used to put that record on and squeeze my eyes shut against the petty difficulties of my school-age life, and let my heart roam in landscapes where the love, honor, uncelebrated courage, truth, beauty, idealism, and true, unflinching romanticim of ordinary people held indomitable sway.
Stuart Adamson's voice was soulful and reaching, and to me, it was like his lover's voice that fired the mountainside in that big country where dreams stayed with you, and the sound of his guitar was winged and magnificent. His music made certain that for the rest of my life, nothing without that epic sweep -- nothing that didn't care most deeply for only those things that truly mattered would ever really satisfy me.
A little plot I've had lately has had me doing a little research, and trying to remember those days, and while I was at that, I ran across this quote from him:
"The music I felt wasn't like the music I had grown up hearing, or rather, it wasn't like any one of them. It was all of them together, all jumbled up and drawn into something I could understand, and recognize as mine. I found that I could play this music, and connect the guitar directly to my heart. I found others who could make that connection, and who could see the music as well as play it, and the sound made pictures. It spread out wide landscapes; great dramas were played under its turbulent skies; there was romance and reality, truth and dare in it -- people being people, not heroes, just like you and me. Music could tell stories, little stories. Lands were not conquered, treasure was left in tombs, the magic was in everyday. We learned how we came together, and how we come apart. How life happens."
Beautiful, no? It's interesting looking back on something I loved so much as a girl with the eyes I have now, and find that I still love it on merits that I couldn't have really seen in any conscious way back then.