i bought a cd on 9/11/01 where were you when the planes hit?' that's our generation's jfk question. i remember it well. unless you were directly invovled in the day's events, the answers are all strikingly similar.
i was working in my (then) company's office in downtown boston. someone yelled across the room, go to cnn.com.' the image on the front page, with very little discriptive language, showed what was surely an accident. perhaps a small plane, maybe the person flying was nuts, or drunk, or both. it was the only explanation that one could conjure. then another hit. websites are unreachable due to an unprecidented number of hits on sites with any news of the event. people in the office are calling people in new york, radios are being turned on. before you know it, what had been a beautiful, clear, september morning one not unlike the dozens of other september mornings throughout our lives had turned into something straight out of h.g. wells' imagination.
you all know the rest. it all unfolded the same for most of us. many of us were allowed to leave work early. if you were in school, classes may have been cancelled. people scattered to be with their loved ones. nobody knew if more chaos was on the way. it was a feeling that most of us never felt before a crushing sense of extreme vulnerability and uncertainty in a world where everything seemed so predictable and routine.
i took the subway (the t, as they call it in boston) home. it was eerily quiet. nobody spoke, nobody laughed. where people usually read or lost themselves in their portable music, it seemed wrong to do anything, or maybe people were just too stunned and distracted to be engaged by anything so banal as a novel or a cd.
my stop was not harvard square. but as soon as the announcement came for the stop, i was up and out the car and up the steps and on my way to newbury comics. i remember the dialog in my head, the argument as to whether to go home or to go to the store. would the record store even be open? would i be the only person so callous and uncaring to be shopping? could there be anything as selfish as making a music purchase within minutes of thousands of americans losing their lives in an attack on our country?
my decision to buy music that day probably could be traced to several things. first, the utter denial and lack of understanding of the scale of these events. maybe this was my way of convincing myself that none of this was happening. i have also been guilty of stress-shopping in the way that an alcoholic may go to a bar when stressed, i have been known to go to the record store, a place of comfort, discovery, and reflection through my youth and even into adulthood. maybe i was looking for some kind of a salve. never a terribly religious person, music and literature are where i have often found solace. music has a way of speaking to us. we find beauty and pain in various works, and lyrics can often lend us a perspective that we might not otherwise stumble upon. it may have been nothing other than pure selfishness and lack of respect and compassion. i know in my heart this was not the case, yet i can't quite pinpoint why i chose to go to the record store at such a time and i've never really talked about it openly.
bob dylan's love and theft', among others, was released on 9/11/01. this fact has been discussed often, i'm sure, with various nuts reading meaning into the lyrics that was never meant. regardless, dylan is probably one of the few true poets in modern music, and his lyrics have resonated throughout the last 40 years and have meant a great deal to me in my own life.
i cannot listen to love and theft' without thinking of the events of 9/11. there are obvious, and deliberate, loose connections to the events, or at the very least, to the volitlile state of the world, in some of dylan's lyrics anyone who vaguely alluded to contemporary politics or world events would be in his company. tweedle dee & tweedle dum' cannot be listened to without picturing a characiture of misters bush and cheney.
other lyrics are eerie in hindsight, although they are vague enough to be related to any struggle.
mississippi: Every step of the way we walk the line Your days are numbered, so are mine Time is pilin' up, we struggle and we scrape We're all boxed in, nowhere to escape
lonesome day blues: Well, today has been a sad ol' lonesome day Yeah, today has been a sad ol' lonesome day I'm just sittin' here thinking With my mind a million miles away
but the song that never fails to destroy me when i hear it, is the beautiful album closer, sugar baby'. the song, it's clear, is about parting with a lover not exactly the stuff of catastrophe. however, the haunting, lilting melody, and the sorrow of the lyrics seem to capture something darker and more menacing. i'm sure it's simply projection on my part. but these lyrics reached out to me on that day and seemed, even as snippets from a larger work, to really capture the dread and sorrow of the day:
I got my back to the sun cause the light is too intense I can see what everybody in the world is up against You can't turn back you can't come back, sometimes we push too far One day you'll open up your eyes and you'll see where we are ... Every moment of existence seems like some dirty trick Happiness can come suddenly and leave just as quick Any minute of the day the bubble could burst Try to make things better for someone, sometimes, you just end up making it a thousand times worse ... Just as sure as we're living, just as sure as you're born Look up, look up seek your Maker fore Gabriel blows his horn
i bought a cd on that day. to this day i can't pinpoint exactly why. i could never have known that, just days later, george w. bush would be urging me to go out and buy something that to do otherwise would mean that the terrorists won. whatever, george. but i did buy that bob dylan record on that horrible day. i looked into the eye of a cashier with a pierced lip and i handed her my money after she rang it up. we both knew what was going on in three different parts of the eastern united states at that very moment, and we both knew that we both knew, even though nothing was said other than, thank you.'
partial listing of albums released on 9/11/01:
Bob Dylan "Love and Theft" (Columbia) Mariah Carey "Glitter" (Virgin) P.O.D. "Sattellite" (Atlantic) Babyface "Face 2 Face" (Arista) Jamiroquai "A Funk Odyssey" (Epic) Nickelback "Sliver Side Up" (Roadrunner) Ben Folds "Rockin' The Suburbs" (Epic) Slayer "God Hates Us All" (American) DJ Krush "Zen" (Red Ant) Stone Gossard "Bayleaf" (Epic) Spike 1000 "Waste of Skin" (Columbia) 11/5 "After the Drama" (The Right Stuff) All "Live Plus One" (Epitaph) David Arnold "The Musketeer (motion-picture score)" (Decca) Arsonists "Date of Birth" (Matador) Bad Ronald "Bad Ronald" (Reprise) Pierre Bensusan "Intuite" (Favored Nations) Beulah "The Coast Is Never Clear" (Velocette) Big Cizzle "Ya' Neva Seen It Com'n" (Ark 21) Biohazard "Uncivilization" (Sanctuary) Bitch and Animal "Eternally Hard" (Righteous Babe) Blue Highway "Still Climbing Mountains" (Rounder) Dale Ann Bradley "Cumberland River Dreams" (Doobie Shea) Betty Buckley "Stars and the Moon (Live at the Donmar)" (Concord) Casual "He Think He Raw" (Hieroglyphics Imperium) Chris C "Presents Amokalypse Now" (Highborn) The Charlatans U.K. "Wonderland" (MCA) Jeff Coffin "Go-Round" (Compass) Color "Are You with Me?" (Melisma/Arista) Conexion Latina "Mambo Nights" (Enja) Joyce Cooling "Third Wish" (Universal) Crash Rickshaw "Crash Rickshaw" (Tooth & Nail) Departure Lounge "Jetlag Dreams" (Instinct) The Derailers "Here Come the Derailers" (Columbia) Dervish "Midsummer's Night" (Compass) DJ S .M.L. "2Step + Future Soul" (Topaz) Drastic "No More" (Khalifa) Dream Theatre "Live Scenes from New York" (Elektra) Dredg "Leitmotif" (Interscope) Electric Frankenstein "The Buzz of 1000 Volts!" (Victory) Robert Ffrench, Clement Irie "Yesterday & Today" (Artists Only!) Mike Gallaher "Blue Paradise" (Leon Russell) Goliath "The Gate" (Music Cartel) Christopher Gordon "When Good Ghouls Go Bad (motion-picture score)" (Varθse Sarabande) Halfcocked "The Last Star" (DreamWorks) Roy Haynes "Birds of a Feather" (Dreyfus) Michael Hedges "Beyond Boundaries: Guitar Solos" (Windham Hill) John Hiatt "The Tiki Bar Is Open" (Vanguard) James Holden "Fear of a Silver Planet" (Ark 21) Impulse Ride "Residue" (J-Bird) Jacob Young "Jacob Young" (S-Curve) Jaya the Cat "Basement Style" (Gold Circle) JJ72 "JJ72" (Columbia) Lucy Kaplansky "Every Single Day" (Red House) Robert Earl Keen "Gravitational Forces" (Lost Highway) Killarmy "Fear, Love & War" (Loud) Chris Knight "A Pretty Good Guy" (DualTone) James LaBrie "Vol. 2: MullMuzzler" (Magna Carta) Laptop "The Old Me vs. The New You" (Telegraph) Phil Lee "You Should Have Known Me Then" (Shanachie) Leftover Crack "Mediocre Generica" (Epitaph) Chris Lee "Plays and Sings Torch'd Songs" (Smells Like) Lennon "5:30 Saturday Morning" (Arista) The Long Beach Dub Allstars "Wonders of the World" (DreamWorks) Love Saves the Day "Superstar" (Bodyguard) Nick Lowe "The Convincer" (Yep Roc) Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley "Halfway Tree" (Motown) Meisner, Swan and Rich "Meisner, Swan and Rich" (Varθse Sarabande) Mercury Rev "All Is Dream" (V2) Mixin' Marc "Adrenaline Rush" (Strictly Hype) Katy Moffatt "Cowboy Girl" (Shanachie) Moldy Peaches "The Moldy Peaches" (Rough Trade) Jason Moran "Black Stars" (Blue Note) Mountain Heart "The Journey" (Doobie Shea) No Use for a Name "Live in a Dive" (Fat Wreck Chords) Roland Orzabal "Tomcats Screaming Outside" (Gold Circle) John Ottman "Bubbleboy" (Varθse Sarabande) Ozomatli "Embrace the Chaos" (Interscope) Phil Perry "Magic" (Peak) Pressure Point "To Be Continued" (GMM) Professor Griff "And the Word Became Flesh" (The Right Stuff) Dave Ralph "Naturalized" (Kinetic) Dexter Romweber "Chased by Martians" (Manifesto) Leon Russell "Signature Songs" (Leon Russell) Poncho Sanchez "Latin Spirits" (Concord Picante) Sanford Arms "Too Loud for the Snowman" (Pattern 25) Richie Santana "Progressive State of Mind" (Strictly Hype) Boz Scaggs "Dig" (Virgin) Screwdriver "Prophecy" (Artists Only!) Secret Chiefs 3 "Book M" (Mimicry) Shabaz "Shabaz" (Ark 21) Ricky Skaggs "History of the Future" (Skaggs Family) Soil "Scars" (J Records) Solex "Low Kick and Hard Bop" (Matador) Son Ambulance "Euphemystic" (Saddle Creek) Sons of Otis "Songs for Worship" (The Music Cartel) Ken Stringfellow "Touched" (Manifesto) Karen Taylor-Good "On Angel's Wings" (Scream) Jacky Terrasson and Stefon Harris "Kindred" (Blue Note) They Might Be Giants "Mink Car" (Restless) Thought Industry "Short Wave on a Cold Day" (Metal Blade) Jimmie Vaughan "Do You Get the Blues?" (Artemis) James Venadle "Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (motion-picture score)" (Varθse Sarabande) Christopher Young "The Glass House (motion-picture score)" (Varθse Sarabande) Gene Watson "From the Heart" (Row Music Group) David Wilkie and Cowboy Celtic "The Drover Road" (Shanachie) Jah Wobble & Bill Laswell "Radioaxiom A Dub Transmission" (Palm) Wayne Wonder "Schizophrenic" (Artists Only!) Zohar "one.three.seven" (Ark 21) Various artists "Cafι Ibiza" (Water Music) Various artists "GBH New York" (Topaz) Various artists "Lotus Lounge Volume 2: A Wordly Mix of Global Grooves" (Bar None) Various artists "Poet: A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt" (FreeFalls) Various artists "Smells Like Grunge Spirit" (Big Eye) Various artists "Training Day (soundtrack)" (Frontline/Priority) Various artists "Trance Stimuli V2.0" (Priority/Neurodisc)