invisible empire

photo by Elliot Landy

A friend just turned me on to Music From Big Pink, the 1968 debut album from The Band. I listened to it for the first time yesterday. I’m forty-six years old. The album came out when I was one. It was made in the basement of an old house down a long dirt road in the woods near Saugerties, NY. It sounds like it was made in the basement of an old house that sits at the end of a long dirt road in the woods.  It sounds like dirt, rainwater, whisky, broken barroom pianos, and snakes. More than sounds like. Is. Tastes like, even. Like eating a big scoop of snake, rainwater and whisky-filled American dirt. I can’t even begin to comprehend what it is about. It sounds as ancient as the dinosaurs and as futuristic and otherworldly as a  transmission beaming back from Voyager, light years and billions of planets away from ours. It sounds like unwashed beards and cigarettes smoked down to the filter. Of crazy love and even crazier breakups. It sounds like a record that will never be made again. Because I wonder if the kids today can grow beards and move down to the end of a dirt road and make something that is crazy and beautiful and that no one understands. I wonder if,  in the age of Twitter, TED talks, internet startups and Foursquare, the kids today will ever be able to create something truly original and otherworldly ever again. These days, we’re told what to believe, who the experts are, how we’re going to solve all the world’s fucked-up problems. But what if we just grew a beard, or didn’t wash our hair, and drove down an American dirt road into the woods, with our instruments in the back of our truck, just to see what would happen?


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