Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Midwest Midnight

Goodyear's Badside
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The following was written for National Public Radio in response to their request (from listeners) to answer the following question: What music has changed your life?

Growing up in Akron, Ohio, working-class rock-and-roll music seemed to find its way into nearly every home—ours was no exception. And while Dylan, Springsteen, and Mellencamp permeated the airwaves, the one song that stirred me to my soul (and still does to this day) was written and performed by a singer and band that fell just short of national stardom status—Midwest Midnight by The Michael Stanley Band.

Stanley once said that Midwest Midnight was, "...the most honest song I've ever written," and it was the first song that spoke to me about my hometown—or at least that part of the country that I called home. Stanley's anthem left me feeling that there was no denying who I was or where I was from—no matter where I chose to live following my high school graduation in 1978.

It's funny how one can know the words of a song by heart after all these years and still only possess a vague notion of the song's intended message—such is art. Today, the lyrics of Midwest Midnight are still abstract to me and at 47-years-old, I would have thought this little mystery would have been solved by now. Perhaps I really don't need to know what Stanley was trying to say because his song has woven its way into the fiber that defines me, which is understood, but not necessarily articulated.

Living in the wide-open spaces that straddle the Wyoming and Montana border, I consider myself a Westerner now. And while my taste in music has expanded exponentially over the years, every now and then my MP3 player will select Midwest Midnight in the shuffle mode and I'm instantly taken back to the world of Northeast Ohio—its overcast skies, industrial skylines and its proud, working-class ambience.

Excerpt from Midwest Midnight

With thirteen lovers I hid beneath the covers
got staples in my hands for my time
With the radio low so the folks don't know
I proceed with my passion of crime...
And though somewhat obtuse, I've been told this abuse
will more than likely make me go blind
But with a heart that's aching, it's a risk worth taking
'cause true love, they say, is so hard to find...

Why can't she see what she's doing to me
If that bandstand girl only was here
And I'm living the dream, getting lost on the screen,
doing Presley in front of the mirror...
And I'm hanging around, getting high on the sounds
of the ladies and electric guitars
Cross a double yellow line to who knows where
with six sets of glory at night in some bar...

Midwest midnight
Ten thousand watts of holy light
from my radio so clear...
Bodies glistening, everybody's listening
as the man plays all the hits that you want to hear.

1 comment:

Steve said...

First order of business...the notion of how specific songs thrust a person into a memory, place, time and/or philosophy. Too many songs float about out there to be mentioned...but I feel as one ages, such meaningful lyrics (or not) serve to paint a clearer picture of life, love, heartache or all of the above. For me one of those tunes is "Desperado" by the Eagles. "Don't you draw the queen of diamonds, bot...she'll beat you if she's able. You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet". Nothing else need really be said regarding that line. As for "Midwest least the early verse, it simply comments to an age old practice, that of masturbating when more ready sensory stimulation tends to wane in one's immediate world.

Of course if need be, one could go the route of Willie Nelson's "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys", where it states: Pickin' up hookers, instead of my pennies...I've let the worlds of my youth fade away.