Sunday, December 30, 2012

Aimless Reading: The w's, Part 31.2 (Virginia Woolf)

The Waves
Woolf, Virginia
The Waves

I am not sure where I got this. It's not the copy I read in college, which had a blue cover. I think I may have bought it for Lori a few years ago when she was reading Woolf. If not, then I have no clue.

I woke this morning with REO Speedwagon in my head. I hated REO Speedwagon even when they were popular, and yet I could even remember the lyrics to the song. "As soon as you are able/or when I am willing..." you know the song. It was in my head in the shower as well. I had an idea to write about it today on the blog, but the idea seems to have skipped away, leaving only the wretched song. "...as soon as you are ready/to roll with changes..."

What did I think I could possibly make of this song? O, wait, now I remember...

I was thinking about how REO Speedwagon's popularity took off a year or two after I started listening to music. My parents were suspicious of rock's pernicious influence on the young and so kept a close eye on any music I brought home. Several times they sent me back to the record store because words like "hell" or "death" or "drug" appeared in the titles of songs they hadn't bothered to listen to. My father never gave me enough money to buy records anyhow, so I was basically stuck with listening to the radio on the sly.

Starting in about fifth grade, I would tuck myself into bed at around 9:30 and wait for things to quiet down around the house. My parents would usually read or watch TV in bed after we'd settled in. I had a manually tuned clock radio next to my bed. It had a traditional dial clock and was made of plastic colored to look like wood. The clock face was on the left, the tuner on the right, the dial on the side of the machine.

I would tune into WRQX 107.3, later Q107, with the volume down as low as it could go. It did not have a mute button, so you could still hear sound come out of the speaker. It was sort of like letting your eyes adjust to the dark. After a few minutes I could make out the songs that were playing. I sometimes adjusted it up slightly, but I had to be very careful, as my parents ears would adjust as well, at least enough to know that I was listening to the radio when I should have been sleeping.

At 10 PM each night they played The Top 5 at 10,  a countdown of the top five requested songs of the day. When I started listening, Pink Floyd's "The Wall" was all over the radio. I owned a copy of the album, which somehow had made it past the censors. They mostly looked at the cover, the name of the band, and the song titles. I think they hated the music so much that they avoided listening to the lyrics.

The show was usually dominated by Pink Floyd and various other 70s supergroups, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc. I loved this music. I especially liked listening to long guitar solos by people like David Gilmour and Jimmy Page.

Q107 changed its format from hard rock to top forty when I was in sixth grade. The Top 5 at 10 continued, but music other than Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin started to creep in. I was not happy about this. It started with REO Speedwagon. All of a sudden they had one, two, even three songs a night in the countdown, bumping some of my favorites.

This was the beginning of a wholesale change in the music they played on the radio. The Pretenders, The Vapors, Gary Numan, all of whom I came to like later, started taking over the countdown. I used to love to listen to "Stairway to Heaven" and "Comfortably Numb" late into the night and now they were gone, replaced by "Turning Japanese," "Brass in Pocket," "Cars."

Before long the eighties hit in full force, sweeping Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, David Bowie, and the Police into the Top 5 and pushing my beloved 70s rock bands out forever. I never really got over it and somewhere in my heart I blame REO Speedwagon for destroying the paradise 70s late night radio.

from The Waves


The sun had not yet risen. The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it. Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually.

As they neared the shore each bar rose, heaped itself, broke and swept a thin veil of white water across the sand. The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath comes and goes unconsciously. Gradually the dark bar on the horizon became clear as if the sediment in an old wine-bottle had sunk and left the glass green. Behind it, too, the sky cleared as if the white sediment there had sunk, or as if the arm of a woman couched beneath the horizon had raised a lamp and flat bars of white, green and yellow spread across the sky like the blades of a fan. Then she raised her lamp higher and the air seemed to become fibrous and to tear away from the green surface flickering and flaming in red and yellow fibres like the smoky fire that roars from a bonfire. Gradually the fibres of the burning bonfire were fused into one haze, one incandescence which lifted the weight of the woollen grey sky on top of it and turned it to a million atoms of soft blue. The surface of the sea slowly became transparent and lay rippling and sparkling until the dark stripes were almost rubbed out. Slowly the arm that held the lamp raised it higher and then higher until a broad flame became visible; an arc of fire burnt on the rim of the horizon, and all round it the sea blazed gold.

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