If you know me at all (and, uh, since I think I have two readers and you both do know me) you will know that I am a Blue Rodeo fan. Blue Rodeo has been a part of my musical life for over 20 years, since their first record Outskirts back in 1987. It was my go-to record for many, many months during my 2nd year of university, and this album helped me get through it. Not in a “my life sucks, Blue Rodeo saved me” sort of way (although it would be cool if that was in fact the truth) but more in a “this is the sort of record I’ve been waiting my whole life for and it’s finally arrived and I can’t stop listening to it.” Because that is the truth. That record was on my turntable in the mornings when I got ready to go to classes and when I came home in between classes (if I had time). And then when I wrote essays, and finally drifted off to sleep. The last song on side 2 was “Floating”, and for ages, when I couldn’t sleep, that was the song I needed. I’ve never been very good at falling asleep to music, I tend to need to wait until the song/album/piece is over, before I can rest, because I don’t want to miss anything.
This, it has to be said, is something I realized I shared with The Musician even before he could talk. That kid would never, ever fall asleep to any sort of music – lullaby, radio song, me singing – nothing. He would stare at me wide-eyed, wrapped up in whatever happened to be playing. At the time, we thought it was strange, I mean what sort of baby doesn’t fall asleep to a lullaby for chrissakes? A baby who will grow up to be The Musician, that’s who. Years later we realized that his passion for music runs deep, and he too, did not want to miss a single note.
So back to “Floating”. I would put Outskirts on while getting ready for bed. Flip it over to side two when I got into bed, and let the music just wash over me, but I could never fall asleep until the last bits of “Floating” were done. For a very long time, this was my favourite Blue Rodeo song, and one that – to me, anyway – is underappreciated and underplayed.
I continued to follow the band, but as often happens, life, etc. gets in the way and while I still picked up their records and listened to them and read up on their career when I could, I have to say that for a long while during the early 90s, they fell off my radar. But then, in 1997 I picked up their new CD – CD! I think every other album of theirs that I owned had been on vinyl or cassette – and was back in the swing. Then of course, The Musician was born at the end of ’97, and once again, me and BR we kind of lost touch.
One thing that remained constant though, was Outskirts. It still held top spot as my go-to record when I needed one. I had put away the vinyl and the turntable, and invested in the CD version of the album, but you know what? It wasn’t the same. Just like a lot of vinyl-to-CD switches, it lost a bit of its magic. Still an amazing record, but kind of missing something. The pops and crackles? The flipping to side two? I don’t know. I imagine that a lot of it had to do with no longer being in my room on my own with the lights out, listening as I lay in bed. Now I was listening to it with my husband and children, driving in the car maybe, or just at home with it on the stereo, but with a lot of other things on the go. Awesome – but different. And still, the band itself remained off my radar. The Genealogist, he’s a Blue Rodeo fan, which is great, and we would often listen to this and other albums, but again, a lot of my friends and co-workers didn’t share the same musical interests, and it can be hard to get jazzed about stuff when you get blank stares at the mere mention of a favourite band’s name. Or worse you get “wow, those guys are OLD, are they still around? I thought they’d be dead by now, no way they’re still putting out albums, what are they coming on stage with their walkers?” sigh…
By now you may have realized that the “magical revelation of one band in particular” I spoke about in the linked post above is Blue Rodeo, and finding Vivian as a BR soulmate re-ignited the fires big time, and we have seen the band several times together now, and twice with The Musician in attendance.
I think it’s amazing how this band, who I enjoyed immensely in solitude for many, many years, has now become one of the most social aspects of my life. The interwebs help, for sure. Now, the band has a kickass website, contests, an online store, an awesome “ticket pre-sale” site, if you’re a member of the online community, and so much more. Music connects us, and it’s easier than ever to get and stay connected with the musicians you love, and with other people who also love them. But I have to wonder, had these options existed back in the late 80s, would I have taken advantage of them? I didn’t have the pre-teen screaming obsession with them – I was 20 when the first album came out – and I couldn’t see myself plastering my room with posters and writing sappy “OMG I love you” fan letters like I might have done had I been, say 13, when I first heard them. At 20, I was (I thought) sophisticated! A university student, dontcha know! I was cool! Or so I thought. So it’s hard to say. I love the experience of seeing them live with friends and with my son, and I love that the website helps fans communicate and join together, but I also love putting on my headphones and zoning out alone to Outskirts every once in awhile, and pretending that they are my band and mine alone.
And this brings me to their new double-vinyl/double-CD album The Things We Left Behind that was released last Tuesday. It’s truly amazing, and parts of it really take me back to 1987. This is an album to be savoured, an album meant for headphones and listening in the dark, in order to soak it all in, and I have been doing that. But it is also an album to be shared and celebrated, once the solo listening is complete, and I look forward to that too; to seeing the band again and hearing more of this music live. But this is, for me, the first album of theirs in a long time where I can visualize myself, back in my old bedroom, flipping the record to side 4 (cos it’s double, right) and lying in the dark, drifting off to sleep.
But not before the last bars of “Venus Rising” are played out.