Monday, June 4, 2012

A Child's Nirvana

          When I was nine, I discovered one of my brother’s CDs stashed away in the stereo cabinet.  The CD was Nirvana’s “Unplugged in New York”.  I had never heard rock music before; this new music was a revelation to me.  I had grown up on a strict diet of church music and classical; my father has spent almost forty years playing trumpet for a local opera company.  My dad brought my siblings and me along with him to rehearsals; the sound of the orchestra would lull me to sleep in the red velvet seats of the empty opera house.  I thought of classical music as being like the air we breathe; regular and predictable.  
          But this new music; I was enthralled.  I listened to that CD in private over and over again.  My favorite song was “Lake Of Fire” --- where do the bad folks go when they die? / That don’t go to heaven where the angels fly.  Kurt Cobain’s voice was raspy and intense, the deep bass rooting the song in earth-bound gravity.  The trill of the guitar was a direct homage to the wings of flying angels.  
          I suppose that preference was an indication of where I was going to end up someday --- burning in a lake of fire.  Or the song “Jesus Don’t Want Me For a Sunbeam”.  Which, at the time, I already thought Jesus didn’t want me for a Sunbeam.  I was a child who, even at the age of nine, felt insecure about my ability to be loved by God; all of my little nine-year old sins haunted me.  I was the youngest child, lost among her six older siblings.  My mother was overworked and exhausted; I grew up in a vacuum of parental oversight.  The barren landscape of my child-hood caused me to act out in ways that ended up filling me with guilt and remorse. 
          I told my dad about the band Nirvana one day on the way home from church.  My dad’s reply was that the music was sinful --- “One of the members of the Rolling Stones said that his job was to lead the youth into sin.” he said.  We were in the car; I was sitting in the backseat, my father in the driver’s seat.  His resolute back brooked no argument.  I didn’t care about what some stupid member of some stupid band had said; what did that have to do with my Nirvana?  I was stubborn and tried to argue back but my father is never one to brook dissension; for that moment, he had the last word.  
          I never gave up on rock music; I listened to the music in secret, never discussing my music preferences with my father.  Nirvana was the first but others followed.  As a good Mormon girl I stayed away from Marilyn Manson; there was a lot of talk in Church about the evils of his music.  But I explored others; eventually I discovered Jimi Hendrix. An entire world opened up; there was no turning away from Jimi Hendrix or the music that followed.  Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mississippi John Hurt, Don Edwards, Mark Knopfler, Metallica --- I was hooked by the range and depth of their emotions, by the flexibility and intensity of the music.  


  1. Oh my, yes. For my part, rock music definitely played the role of the Devil. Agewise I was perfectly positioned to utilize file-sharing programs, which gave me access to way more music than I would normally have heard (having a cool older sister with Nine Inch Nails tapes didn't hurt, either). Toward the end of high school my mother was definitely concerned that the music I listened to was "driving away the Spirit" (which I suppose in hindsight it was. Thanks, Dave Grohl!).

    Now I've gotten older and attended concerts of bands I adore, and those concerts are the closest I've ever felt to whatever Ineffable Thing might be out there. Go figure.

    1. I know what you mean by the feeling you get at concerts. And just listening to some of the music. Much better than church music; those hymns used to put me to sleep. All in a major key, all repeating the same drivel over and over, and played in the slowest, dullest tempo imaginable.

  2. Anyone can find sin in anything they wish, I suppose

    My father found sin in Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue." Imagine that; a Southern, buzz-cut, old, fart who never missed an episode of Grand Ol' Opry condemning Johnny Cash because what he heard was a man “speaking evil” towards fathers by attempting to kill his father (piss on the true meaning of the song). Hell, he even spoke at one of the Stake Conferences when he was in the Stake leadership about the evils of Johnny Cash’s song. I felt like hiding under the chair it was so insanely absurd, or perhaps absurdly insane in his case.

    Yet! On the other hand, he loved military music such as John Phillip Sousa and calling to war against the heathens of the world in “Onward Christian Soldiers” which was not just an acceptable song, it was a mantra by which he lived and died – hating anyone who was different than he; by color, creed, religion or politics.

    Religions should go away permanently; they are nothing but divisive, hate-propagating and truth-derisive organizations built for one purpose only; to control other’s emotions and thoughts.

    1. I remember being just dumb-founded by my father's reply about the Rolling Stones. Really, what did that have to do with anything? I've since found out that one of the authorities has been telling that particular story about Mick Jagger for years now. Even as a nine-year old, I was skeptical of the truth of what my father was saying.

      Sometimes I really wonder about these "stories" that General Authorities like to tell; do you suppose they make them up? Some of them just don't have the ring of truth to them.


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