Sunday, April 27, 2014

Going to Cola

We were all sooooo stoned. 1996 - riding to Columbia to see Smashing Pumpkins, of all people. Beck's Stereopathetic Soulmanure made me fall in love with his music that day, a task that "Loser" had failed miserably to achieve a couple years before.

But the next tape, the mix tape, had one song on there that was particularly special. One track that stood out so markedly that it brings all the sensory information with it - the burgundy interior of the little Chrysler the five of us rode in, the cigarette burns on said upholstery, the little hairs on the back of my neck standing up as I heard "the world shines as I cross the Macon County Line. . ."

It was the 90s, so my hazy teenage brain conjured an image of a young Neil Young  or Kurt Cobain type - scraggly hair  and flannel shirt, ripped jeans - wailing those words into a boom box. It was just a guy and a guitar, but this song was different, special. It was more intense than Nirvana or the Pumpkins or any of the other rock or metal bands I'd heard. It was more intense, more real than anything I'd heard, frankly.

We reached our destination, "enjoyed" a couple hours of Billy Corgan's abuse and division of the audience into "posers" and everyone else and made our sleepy way back to Charleston. I forgot about the song.

Fast forward about 10 years. It was one of the worst times in my life, up to that point, and this song that I'd not heard in a decade came howling back into my mind's ear. Who was that guy that did "Going to Georgia?" I asked myself, learning instantly (thank you internet!) about the Mountain Goats and their career which had thus far never made its way under the rock I was living under.

It was as if this bit of information, this song, was just tucked away, filed in there to come back and help me just when I needed it. In the midst of duress, doom, and gloom, John Darnielle and his powerful songs swung in and pulled me back from the precipice just at the moment I was ready to let go and plunge forever downward. Those songs gave me hope when I could find it nowhere else.

Thank God for the Mountain Goats.