Gimme the Prize: Reflections on the RNC

24 Jul

RNC Cleveland

“I am the one, the only one,

I am the god of Kingdom Come

Gimme the prize!

Just gimme the prize!”

— Queen

Who wants to talk about the Republican National Convention? I wanna talk about the Republican National Convention. But I don’t wanna talk about the Republican National Convention, because to talk about the Republican National Convention is to acknowledge that the Republican National Convention actually happened: four days of preschool bugout, each vituperative highlight scribbled and shot for embarrassing posterity. It was like a high school reunion where everyone grew up to be, uh, embittered Republicans mired in midlife crises: This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife! Well, how did we get here?!

Ah, but we know how that happened, don’t we? The GOP’s pretended to wear such personae for years. It’s the ultimate conservative fantasy: the angry populist magnate. All Trump did was swipe the template and crank it to a Nigel Tufnel 11. He’s faking it, too, but resonating with the rabble.

His party’s only pandered to that base; Trump, however, empowered it. His central message: “Cluelessness is conviction. Believe what you want, for belief is superior to truth.” And he continues to be its living embodiment. Fact-checkers dog him — in fact, they tore his convention harangue to pieces — but his apostles care not, because his statistics sound right. And besides, they might luck out and get to shoot somebody.

As a spectacle of lunacy, the RNC barely registered as a sideshow. It was more of a toilet-sale blowout at an El Segundo junkyard. Commandeering the dais was a ceaseless procession of “Murder, She Wrote” guest stars, quacking imbeciles, sports-world zeroes, cover bands, one-shtick jabronis, ring-kissers, ankle-suckers, withered emperors, jowly groupies and future Brutuses.

This is your Republican party, folks, flown in from a 1970 Grayline bus to Reno, spiffed in newer, toothsome Solo-cup-soccer-mom skin and christened, in homage to apprentice saint Nixon, the Silent Majority. (Though if you spend any time online, you know they’re anything but silent.)

But it’s a lost, divided party, as evidenced by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who formally endorsed Trump for the nomination in words that must have tasted like an ancient Zima crawling back up his throat. During his speech, party chairman Reince Preibus spat the usual sawdust, but his eyes seemed to beg for a Flavor-Aid dunk tank.

Momentary hero Ted Cruz performed his equivalent of Sid Vicious’ “My Way” by refusing to acknowledge his ex-tormentor as future king. Unfortunately, it was just a premature salvo in his 2020 bid and not a principled stance, although he managed to steal the night’s momentum from Trump’s official benediction and up-yer-bummed it back to the cheap seats, where he’ll continue to live forever.

So the convention was less a celebration of unity than a dysfunctional family reunion, where everyone hates Uncle Donnie, but he’s rich and mean and might cut them from his will. So they endured a lot over four useless days.

Its only relief was Ivanka Trump, given the on-deck spot that final night and for once countering the convention’s madness with love. Hopefully, she escapes her father’s shadow. The candidate was less benevolent with his third wife, Melania, banishing her to Night 1 with a cribbed Michelle Obama speech and throwing her to the press. (His other kids were sprayed haphazardly into the lineup.)

Trump also invoked the wrath of Queen for swaggering out to “We Are the Champions” when “Gimme the Prize” would have been more appropriate to the event’s tenor, followed by a group singalong to “Who Wants to Live Forever,” led by the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln and John Kasich, as the Quicken Loans Arena fainted toward the Cuyahoga. It may as well have done just that after Trump’s concluding Thursday night speech: a botched litany of apocalyptic booga-booga that gave liberals hives, fact-checkers whiplash and Orwell a cheap thrill.

And then, for once, I felt for the Republican party. Because like me, all it could do for now was watch. Bye, Jumbo.

Sophisticated Whoppers

30 Jun

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Last month my neighborhood Burger King underwent a cosmopolitan rhytidectomy, in accordance with mandates to transform such troughs into elegant gastronomy. McDonald’s has emerged in recent years from an extended postpsychedelic adolescence to embrace the Library of Alexandria aesthetic, while Jack in the Box, under direct orders from draconian CEO “Jack,” has jettisoned its staple blues and reds for a soothing Humidor Autumn. The desired effect, according to corporate literature, is contemplative chi, as opposed to “Holy God, this Applewood Bacon Cheese Fist is wrapping itself around my heart.”

Having never patronized a chic Burger King, I decided this morning to have it my way. On foot I passed the phantom of its children’s playset — the industry no longer caters to plebes. In its place stood a scale replica of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon complete with tanzanite wall, over which flowed a talkative Chianti stream. Occupying its drive-thru lane were sleek fleets of Google cars activated by smartphone apps. Four impeccably attired valets monitored the parking lot, sending any vehicle older than 2008 to a “VIP lane” seven blocks away.

The building’s exterior could best be described as futuristic neoclassical. Its sanctum, inspired by the parlor in Don and Betty Draper’s Ossining home, wallows resplendent in oaks and comfortable beiges. Posted advertisements no longer boast of “flame-broiled” or “flame-grilled” meats; they’re now “artisan-crowdsourced.” Six overhead flatscreens broadcast “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” with a corner space nearby to discuss the film with the shift manager, a former Harper’s editor-at-large. Wafting through the restaurant: Herb Alpert’s “Fandango,” on 180-gram vinyl.

I immediately recognized my counter garcon’s uniform as Yves St. Laurent. “Yes,” she confirmed. “They outfit us all.” “But what about grease stains?” I asked. “Those,” she said, “are flown in from Vienna.” She then apologized for the store’s wine steward, whose flight was delayed in Milan. “That’s fine,” I replied, and ordered the venison curly fries with a 32-ounce growler to go.

Because of the restaurant’s new decibel regulation, I saw only one other “broseph,” as BK calls us nonemployees: an older gentleman pecking at a laptop while seducing a mimosa. Sans prompt, he told me, “It’s a Dogme-esque novel about a man who’s smarter than everyone else but is too humble to share his rare gift, so he hangs out at Burger King, tormented in self-imposed silence, until a beautiful cashier who recognizes his shyness as intellectual superiority offers him her soul. I liken its tone to a Ferrari 458 speeding recklessly past the intersection of Huxley and Terry Southern, and crashing into an abandoned storefront that once sold steampunk fetish wear.”

Alas, I left before the BK book club convened in the alcove, but I’ll be back for the Appalachian dulcimer jam this evening. If you’re not too busy with the Taco Bell barrel tour, feel free to bro by. Bring your Konghou — and plenty of antacids.

Friday night, 99/Hill

30 Apr

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Friday night, 99/Hill, tearing the void, hit the lights at 40, spin left hot, passenger on a drive to zero, straddling the window, pounding the rooftop, leg to the door like you’re breaking a wild mustang but this here’s a ’95 Honda Civic; it needs persuasion to bust, so kiss the accelerator, make it groan, because the car’s gotta know what a car is for: trapping memories, building soundtracks, and here you are at 38, savage as always, impervious to age, your cologne a chem trail in the dark, streetlight fingers in thinning hair, and between the wind outside and muttering motor, your homie J.D., down since diapers, cranks “Mr. Brownstone,” Guns N Roses, aw yeah, from a joint deliverin’ sinew in a bottle, Appetite for Destruction, but this is a mix, a driving mix, and you know what’s next: “Black and Blue,” baby, Van Halen, SAMMY, and oh, yeah, your jam since ’88, when you were 10 and not 38, and if you ran into your 10-year-old self now, man, he’d couldn’t wait to fit your skin, think your thoughts, spin left hot on a Friday night, sparked-Owl casual, eyes shut, imagining open eyes on you, mouths agape in disbelief, holy cheet, zat Andy Louris, West Albany High School Class of ’95, man, he hasn’t changed at all, man, dude damn rattles with life, and mid-envy it hits ’em: you’re 38 and they’re 38, but they’re not 38 like you, they gave it up to settle, man, they thought they were smart but they were stupid, yo, too stupid to grasp that life is life is life and sometimes you holler to gas the heart, and it’s not like you didn’t try, anyway, but after two kids, seven old ladies, four waitresses and a Sears customer service rep who liked the way your stubble twinkled in neon, you were done, baby, through with even a half-hearted stab at normal, and besides, too many flavors in the fountain, right, like that Burger King kid — oh, God, 19, maybe 22, but oooh, those lips, those eyes and a smock so lucky, and one of these days your banter will meet just so, and damn, you’ll be over the counter, showing her new math, 38 to the nth power, because you’re a 38 that’s never been, and isn’t that funny how it works out, because you remember when your mom was 38, how she greeted it with hippie disbelief, that such a cataclysm should befall her, and all her friends and relatives threw a party with black balloons and condolence cards and it was all very ha-ha until they realized 38 wasn’t a stopping point, oh, no, no, noooo, you kept going: 50, 60 and then, like your mom, you run out of ages to be and that’s that, you know, 38 from the distance of your deathbed is a pleasant diversion while tubes feed your body and machines pump your blood and no one brings black balloons and you struggle to even speak lest your own elocution kill you, but, hey, stop it, no such memories while you’re hanging out a window at 40 mph, the envy of all, because you’re here now, 38 here now, and ain’t nobody ever been 38 like you, not even Old Ken, who you met when you were 19 with disposable income and a persistent thirst, and Ken had only one of those things but was enough of a humanitarian to swing Brother a taste for proper recompense: a half-hour of wasted time as he poured you every story he’d accumulated, about how he smoked dope with Bill Walton, hitch-hiked with Marcus Dupree, went camping with Randy Travis and roadied for Mark Slaughter (or was it the other way around, who cares), and back then you listened to Old Ken, wanting to believe him, wanting to believe you could stuff that much into your tiny pouch, but that was old you, young you, and once-future you knows better as a 38 never beheld by mankind, and oh, oh — this is the part of the movie, because your life is a movie, that everyone will talk about on Monday because they’ll recognize it as the most pivotal of points in a movie choked widdem: you’re hanging out the window and the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” tumbles from the stereo then gobbles the Dolby, Kim Deal’s howls pressing your spine as you offer bliss to the moon in virgin sacrifice and the audience is like, damn, this is the moment that encapsulates everything I love about this protagonist; look at that freedom, his trials but pebbles against armor, bring it, sky, bring it, God, bring it, fates, bring it, Donna, bring it, throw it, hit me with failure and your false expectations then watch me stand, defiant, alone, a 38 like none other who can still hold his drink and smoke, and come to think of it, they’re right: the law can’t whup you, the town can’t whup you, life can’t touch you, and it’s all just left turns into sad-eyed restaurants, anyway, the usual table, the usual waitress, the usual order, the usual sodden charm crawling up your throat, the usual desperate lunch break sounds and promises to call as you consult the bathroom mirror to straighten hair you keep long for strategy’s sake and ignore the hurt confusion staring hopelessly back, then you hit the road, 99/Hill on a Friday night, more 38 than ever before, tearing the void as the void grows close, passenger on a drive to zero.

O Adele

23 Nov IMG_20151122_130505009

 

 

 

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O Adele

Marketplace fatale

Painted empress

Contralto divine

Watchful gaze from Target endcaps

Assorted displays, strategically placed

Exclusive bounties everlasting

Observing commerce

Participating

Surrounding

Dominating

Squired home in plastic

Anticipation

 

O Adele

Rolling Stone

Countenance vexed

Neck, Winsletian

Face scrubbed mortal

Thou speakest in voices two:

One wrings tears from august pearls

Cushions midlife minivan misery

Comforts captives lost between teenage walls

The other brays hearty

In Tottenham strains

The language of dockworkers

And washwomen

Rutting in puddles of porter

Splashed with tobacco

Stained in the blood of sailors

 

O Adele

Butter-lunged siren tart

Crestfallen

Skyfallen

Thine cradled words envelop

An ever-present current

As we shop for poinsettias

Purchase petrol and cigarettes

Scroll numbly through clickbait

Go Macho on the Del Taco No. 4

Splash ourselves in fragrance

Chase smiles in fleeting symphonies

 

O Adele

You sing of love

But does love exist without you?

O Adele

You sing of dreams

But are we not your dream?

Did we ever know 21?

Or feel the depths of 25?

Had we ever said hello

‘Til you acknowledged us in kind?

 

O Adele

Thank goodness you’re here

Our world is in turmoil

Our goodwill shattered

All hope is gone

Lead us

Guide us

Bring us home

 

O Adele

Wait

Your album’s not on Spotify?

Huh

Hm

Well

Fuck you, then.

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The Beginning of the End (Seattle, 1990)

11 Jun
Whirlwind staff box, 1989-90.

Whirlwind staff box, 1989-90.

I’ve told this story before: It takes place in a metropolitan neutrality called SeaTac, shortly before spring break 1990. I was a high school senior with a quietly mischievous keystroke and a travel bag plump with cassettes and clothes.

We’d left Friday morning by activity bus from the West Albany High School parking lot. Street lamps yielded to daylight as we crossed from Queen to Pacific, slashed by waves of telephone lines. Depeche Mode had released “Violator” that week, and I cracked open the case, absorbed that minty new-album bouquet, and packed the tape into my Walkman, watching the town shrink beneath Dave Gahan’s lugubrious nocturne: Let me take you on a trip / around the world and back / and you won’t have to move / you just sit still …

If you knew me then, music and writing were my raison d’etre. I was the dude that found your tastes pedestrian and actively sought to refine them, stopping by your locker with unsolicited mixtapes, you’re welcome. You could also read me in the school paper, The Whirlwind, where I served that year as self-appointed critic, waxing preciously on everything from Bonham’s “The Disregard of Timekeeping” and the “Born on the Fourth of July” soundtrack to “Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop” and the Flamin’ Groovies’ “Groovies’ Greatest Grooves,” the latter of which I highly recommend even today (the others, not so much).

What I couldn’t have known then was how this role would define me for the next quarter-century, damn near trap and choke me. This was still the beginning. I was 17 years old, with a security one only knows in youth. I’d already plotted my course: After graduation, I’d move on, forgoing college for Rolling Stone, then a flurry of bestselling books, perhaps write for “Saturday Night Live” or work in radio. Nail a primo beachhouse in Southern California and hang with my buds on the lanai, drinks in hand, toasting the fortune that had blessed our lives. Journalism and Albany were never part of the equation; both were larks, stepping stones, necessary springboards into the prolific adventure of Me.

And here I was, on a pill-colored bus, headed with the Whirlwind staff to our Waterloo: a two-day national journalism conference at the Red Lion Inn between Seattle and Tacoma. It was an honor to be invited. Apparently. We arrived to swarms of school colors and clashing conversations, marveling at the scope of the event. The organizers booked some marquee talent, too: According to the program, CBS’ Harry Smith was the keynote speaker; we helpfully scribbled some hair onto his bald pate and skimmed a list of seminars none of us planned to attend. Then Harry himself, sans Bic-wig, commandeered a podium, lavished us with hosannas, yammered a spell, and became as one with the cream-colored walls. I don’t think we ever saw him again, and we didn’t care. We were THIS CLOSE to SEATTLE!

But before our carousals, we checked into our rooms: boys on one side, girls on the other, though we never stayed put for long. The Whirlwind’s editor and I introduced ourselves to the girl upstairs by grabbing the tanned legs she’d dangled over the balcony and yanking them until she began screaming. The stems then disappeared and a blonde head peeked over. “Who are YOU?” it asked with a smile. Although she didn’t join our tour of the city, she’d call our room to say hello and, later, goodbye. (Only in high school is such behavior endearing.)

Now, Seattle 1990 is a far cry from Seattle ’15. At some point during that stretch, God took a hose to the place, gutted whole blocks and swapped its more colorful denizens for guerrilla theater troupes. That night, for the very first time, I watched steam seep from sewer lids (a phenomenon I didn’t know existed beyond the “Night Court” opening credits) and saw two tall cops with batons, walking, and tapping the occasional foot: “Hey. Wake up.” We devoured these experiences, hopping over bodies onto buses and connecting with sad-eyed commuters, some of whom lit up quite expectantly at the sight of teenage girls. Seats were jammed with them, fresh, young faces from all over the country. I happened to sit behind two who were subsequently joined by a pair of curious older men. “Where’re YOU from? Wyoming? Hell, me and my buddy here were just thinking about going to Wyoming this summer. What are your names? How old are you?” Others were just pleased to have a captive audience: “You’re too young to know this, see, but it’s all politics, and the game is rigged.”

Our journey ended at the Seattle Fun Center, then a Jurassic shadow of an amusement park whose showcase was “Flight to Mars,” a combination horror/space-themed ride that was the thrill o’ ’62 but an ancient-if-popular curio by 1990. We tooled around that a bit, yelping at the rusted freaks, but my favorite remains the roller coaster.

While standing in line, I confided to my colleague and dear friend Katina Rothleutner that I hated roller coasters. I’d hated them since the betrayal of ’77, when my parents conned me onto Disneyland’s Space Mountain by connecting it to “Star Wars.” “You’ll see Darth Vader at the end,” my evil mother promised. Of course, I saw nothing but the end of days while physics throttled my guts. All that dipping, twisting and spinning made me sick. I didn’t throw up, but I wanted nothing more than to spackle my makers in buckets of evacuation. Katina — sainted Katina — listened sympathetically, then beamed under sparkling eyes and said, “I’m riding with YOU!” She grabbed my arm and maneuvered us to a car, and I’ll take the malevolence on her face to my grave. “Throw up that way,” she advised, pointing to my left.

So there we were, guy and girl, one working overtime to keep his cool as the beast moaned to life and our car began to stir. I could feel Katina watching me, but I couldn’t turn to look; instead I studied the protective bar that would surely impale us later. Then we lurched forward. “Uhhh,” I implored. Silence from my right as we began climbing, to “touch the face of God,” as former president Ronald Reagan said of the Challenger crew. At the top I felt a hand clutch my arm and my eyes instantly fused shut as the track ceased clicking beneath us, holding us momentarily, curiously, as if contemplating our fate. My knuckles flashed white and threatened to explode. I sucked all the air in Seattle past my gritted teeth. The grip on arm pressed tighter at the last possible second when we were pushed, shoved, kicked, coaxed, propelled into oblivion, no longer in control, at the hellish mercy of masochists long dead, banged, punched, thrashed at corners then pulled free, whipped toward impossible turns, yanked into pits then booted to the stars, Katina still hanging on and screaming with delight as the rest of me burned like a thousand needles exploding in my bones, and oh, my God, did I feel ALIVE.

Twenty-five years later, it’s my favorite memory of journalism. I have favorite STORIES, absolutely. But it’s the people around me who’ve mattered. The stolen moments beyond the office that made me feel less alone.

I ain’t a smart dude. You wouldn’t ask me to plan a party or fix your sink. I became a writer because I had no choice. The desire, then as now, was too overwhelming, too vital to my existence. Without writing, I’d have no voice whatsoever. And that’s the thing: For many of us, this was never a career. I wouldn’t even be so pretentious as to call it a “calling.” It was just nature. If you’re a writer, you go where the writers are.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with journalism. As a practice, I didn’t like it much. I never understood the point of churning guff for immediate publication, pile after pile in manic rolls, feeding something insatiable and hateful, though I always admired it as a talent. Three stories a week were enough for me. Since I became an editor, that output’s dropped to an even more insignificant number. Cutlines, headlines and dropheads are my primary currency, a miserable fate for a word guy. I’ve produced a single story over the last year, and after emerging from under an avalanche of research, it took me about that long to write.

It can be a thankless job. We strive for audience connection, yet it’s hard to imagine a relationship more adversarial. You think we’re arrogant, with our audacity to determine what constitutes “news” and our delusions of self-importance. We think you’re stuck-up, too, with your revenge-porn theories regarding our struggles and your unflagging belief in your own perfection, or, at the very least, your linguistic, intellectual and cultural superiority to anyone with a byline. Dig the futility: You’re trying to please people who will always hate you.

One of the first cruel lessons you learn in this biz is the Inconsistency of Humankind. An audience will tell us what it wants, but its actual reading habits, which we can measure, tell us it’s LYING. An audience will accuse you of sensationalism, yet never acknowledge its own complicity and appetite for same. It’ll demand compassion for acquaintances, yet deny it of strangers in similar straits. The general public, of which we’re all a part, can be nakedly duplicitous, and we all have to pretend it isn’t.

So as journalists, we develop both a thick skin — gallows humor — and an equally dense layer of bitterness. Socially, I dance past questions about my job, because when people find out, they tend to get hostile. At last they can tell off a much-loathed institution by berating a stranger. It’s about as civil as dragging the Domino’s guy out of his car, kicking him to the ground and shouting, “Your pizzas are shit, and fuck you for contributing to obesity and heart disease.”

But sometimes even I need a break from this highly narcotic anger. So I return to that weekend, when youth ran wild in brief resistance to adulthood, when two kids shared a thrill on the exhilarating ride of a lifetime. It’s a reminder that things were good. Pure and new. Before passion became an albatross. Before aspiration became a career. Before a career became a sentence with an execution date, all but assuring that your life’s work becomes yellowed newsprint growing cold from neglect. And everyone will say you deserved it, by succeeding at something you loved until it stopped loving you back.

I was a writer then. By the graces of whatever, I’m a writer now. That kid is still here, hungry and hopeful. Maybe it’s time we met again.

See? It really happened!

See? It really happened!

The Last Status

12 Dec

Francis Metzger
I’ve finally opened a Facebook account. This will be my only status, for updates are unnecessary. I’m in a hospital bed having received the news that every measure to save me has failed. In an hour, I’ll be dead. I do not wish to be “commented,” “shared,” “liked,” or “friended.” The only person who matters — Eleanor, my wife — is just beyond this door, composing herself to say goodbye. All I want is to shout into the wilderness one last time.

In accordance with my request, this profile will be deactivated upon my death, its photos expunged, all evidence of my existence erased. I do not desire the vainglorious promise of Internet immortality. I do not seek the digital sympathy of anonymous followers. Know only that I was here, and then that I was not, as life simply intends.

The Righteous Brothers: Mysti-Bliss at 2:55

12 Jan

Reportedly, Phil Spector, his hand-picked marksmen, and the two Righteous Brothers hammered through “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” from August to November 1964, and you know who was alive then? Not me.

I tried to coax some context from my parents, lowly adolescents at the time, albeit to no avail. They were woefully unaware in their microcosmic dioramas that Heartbreak History was going down in Los Angeles as summer tripped toward fall, which then slid into blizzards of promenades where they and other agog-orbed everybodies heard this song for the very first time, the paint still fresh and sweet. (I cursed their luck as I begrudgingly twirled partners to the pizza-box whimper of Bon Jovi, whose “I’ll Be There for You” nevertheless crowds my senses with the nectar of Doublemint gum, Aqua Net, and post-clutch expectations.)

My first “Lovin’” rush came through the pocket-comb prism of Hall & Oates, soaped down and hollowed out, a Xerox of a Xerox of pale-faced blue-eyed soul. A few years later it tumbled into the mitts of Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards, et al; their “Top Gun” barroom mayhem inspired scores of off-key parrots shit-deep in cheap beer and Cupid-drunk on cheaper love. Does no one respect the classics?

O’ to’ve been a stealth intruder during Spector’s grandiose construction. To have witnessed the impatient Bobby Hatfield, the Brothers’ honey-toned half, demanding to know what he was supposed to do while partner Bill Medley sopped up all the tape, only to have Spector, that bargain-carpeted pipsqueak custom-fitted over a tyrant scumbag, allegedly riposte, “You can go straight to the fuckin’ bank.”

Phil was sure an asshole, but he was an asshole with ears. His techniques and omniscience were once beyond reproach. After all, the dude had been moving units with alarming ease since he was a 19-year-old nobody leading his Teddy Bears to No. 1 (“To Know Him Is to Love Him,” 1958).

And he was right about “Lovin’” too: Hatfield is strictly support for the first two minutes — a chorus-bolster — then his tenor breaks free at exactly the right moment, when his Brother can no longer carry the burden alone. “Baby, baby, I get down on my knees for you,” Medley sighs, weary, lonesome, defeated. Into the breach steps Hatfield with the save: “If you would only love me / like you used to do,” pleaded with every last-ditch pine a pain can articulate. Spector’s Wall of Sound surge falls back to a light pulse and lets the duo do its thing.

The song plays well to both men’s strengths: Bill could testify, Bobby could beg. Who the hell with a heartbeat could resist such a combo of honest regret? When the two then rise in a back-and-forth call/response —“baby” to “baby,” “please” to “please,” trading “I need your loves” and “bring it on backs” — it’s just not fair.

But that’s not even the best part, oh, no. Spector & Co. reserve the goosebump payload for the 2-minute, 55-minute mark, after the voices have spent themselves and left an open gasp for a downpour of strings and a crash of drums, an airborne soul touching terra firma following a hopeful glance that became a yes that became a freeze-frame kiss. The same DNA comprised “Be My Baby,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” and any number of play-’em-agains bearing crescendos that carried crushes through many a suburban daydream. It was a Spector specialty, that heavy, narcotic pain, creating a lovelorn beauty unachievable in life, the musical embodiment of teenaged yearning. If only she could see me. If only she ever knew. If only I could ever express myself, she’d see that it was true.

The Righteous Brothers at 2:55 is that moment: a cocktail of heartache and hope. Bring back that lovin’ feelin’. It still hurts even now, despite the fact that I know it’s coming, as I’ve known since the song and I first became acquainted, back when I pretended sentiment was beneath me. I saw every girl then. I’ve seen every girl since. That tiny sonic hiccup and they’re all fucking there, a cruel parade of vanished futures. And then they’re gone, gone, gone. Dust, glimpses, ghosts.

Songs like this don’t grow old. They age with you, their import intact. You can hear them ’til they’re empty — examine their structures, plumb their mysteries, dismiss their formulas — but when you set them loose, they find you. They hit you where you’ve always lived.

As heard on The Essential Phil Spector (2011)

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