Monday, September 17, 2012


Canada is an amazing country. It is something you have to experience with an open mind to fully appreciate it, but I've had a great time on nearly every trip I've been on to my favourite city in all of what they call "North America"(actually, Canada is completely separate from the USA- and the border that ends the States and begins Canada really does begin an even more New Old World as I call it) Montreal. I find it to be a place where you can go and suddenly be in a whole different country, a whole different state of mind. It's like leaving the USA to enter Europe- very refreshing. The Canadians are usually very polite, very amiable people, but also a bit more reserved than Americans. I had a lot of things to prove when I got there and even though I proved them there, I sadly lost them when I got back to dingy, selfish, polluted, miserable New Jersey and America. Sure, it's beautiful this time of year in Princeton, but the people are a major setback once you've been in the more hospitable Canada. In America politeness is treated like something that shouldn't exist- or maybe I'm paranoid. I just don't like it much here. Maybe it's because I've lived in Princeton all my life and just need a longer period of change, but this time it's been impossible to readjust.
I've cut myself off from society.
I really have no need for it anymore.
I'm heartbroken and in complete disarray.
How did all these rosie things with thorns plant themselves in my garden?
I fell in love up in Montreal and here "love" just doesn't happen. Lust maybe, but love- rarely if ever.
I'll recount some of the highlights of my trip. The day we drove back was the morning of much affection and loving and learning with the Canadian Hussars regiment who gave me the best time of my life so I think you know how hard leaving that for all the trivialities of America feels- yeah, go on tell me again: it sucks.
I only needed two stores to supply me with 100 records of brilliance and horrific side effects this time. I honestly can say that most of the horrible stuff was because of a common Montreal disease- condition. You can look a record over in their poorly lit stores and hotels plenty of times and if it's hard enough to notice it not know you've been completely screwed over with the condition. Like someone in a coma ran it over with their car! It happens every time. And this time it was mainly records in the $25 range! Ouch! However, I must tell you that what I came away with is pretty fantastic all things considered and made it very obvious that when American music slacked off Canada was one to take over just as much as the Northern Europeans.
       The Canadian music scene definitely had some really high points and great bands in the 1960s, but it would take till the year of 1969 and bands as awesome as Vancouver's Mother Tuckers Yellow Duck who you just have to get past the name and Montreal's Life whose album was late 1969/early 1970 (or I could be wrong and it's '71- not sure as there is no date on it) before there really would be a "Canadian Sound." Both these bands have their British and American influences, but it's very differently played, sung, and composed with more of an emphasis on trying for something deeper, something that some American bands had which could almost lead one to say they in turn sounded Canadian. I have listened to Mother Tuckers rare as hens teeth 2nd STARTING A NEW DAY twice and could say it's the best rural psych into soft progressive folkrock ever made. Right up there with the big UK ones like Northwind and The Parlour Band- California Sunshine gone a little bit darker, edgier, more whole sounding. Crazy thing is, I had to go back to the store where I'd left it to buy it- I had fucked up and just ignored it while it was on the previous day and then knew I'd made a potentially fatal error. Denis Lalonde, bless him, owner of Le Pickup which is the best store in the city for used vinyl, gave me a great deal on Mother Tuckers and my much missed copy of Saint Steven which I got back from him and I'm really glad I did it. He also gave me a record out of his own collection by a French band called Le Systeme Crapuchik- which translates into "THE CRYPTIC SYSTEM." This one is a masterpiece, but I need to give it a few more spins than one to know just how high it ranks. He turned me onto it, but I'm a bit surprised he decided against keeping it. Maybe because he collects a lot of female vocal psych more than male vocal. I actually thought it was a girl at first, silly me! Life is one that just has no equal. Not even England where most of their influences are derived from had a band that did it better. Life, formed in the late 1960s in Montreal, were all English Canadians probably from the West Island (as I think it's known as) who definitely liked their Procol Harum and Traffic, but where they begin is where most British jazzy/bluesy heavy prog psych ends- they begin with something that cuts deeper, that is more joyful, less self-serious than many a UK early progressive underground rocker and if you've read here before you know I love British bands in that category/genre. I've gone back several times to this one and I can't believe that upon first hearing it in 1996 I absolutely hated it- very strange. I couldn't even appreciate their brilliantly strange jazz/Spanish/funk/folkpsych take on "Strawberry Fields Forever" where as on the rest of the album the horn arrangements are actually very tasteful.
I got loads of other great ones in Montreal, but also a lot of just dire condition or dire music filth. A lot of the worst ones were American bands I seem to remember, but I got some pretty amazing American discoveries up there too. So how come I'm out over $400 with losing on records. How come after a little over a week I'm ordering more? Because, I'm a natural fool for music and because, well, I just am Ben and that seems to be a major source for miserable here. Also, there's the main issue, the broken heart issue. I had to take off the needle when listening to "Sorrow" by Germany's Lucifer's Friend- a song that has always had a big impact on me when I hear brilliant English singer John Lawton's high pitched screams and waling vocals.
Still, for the whole duration of the trip I felt great. It was on getting back that everything went wrong. I should have known that after having an absolute ball in Canada I was destined for disappointment and a really horrible comedown back in America. I don't hate Americans. I try to love everyone, but it's a very hard adjustment to go from the most polite country there is to the rudest one. I don't like most people in this country because they are stupid and have no soul. Never trust an American, me included! I can't tell you how many promises I've broken and how much of a bad, destructive side I can have. I suppose we all have our bad days....
Now, onto that broken hearted issue- let's see what led me from Heaven all the way down to Hell.
It's simple really. I packed my bags, we left for "home" and it just spiraled out of control when my last meaningful, brilliant, experience of the trip ended. As is so often the case, I became one with soldiers. Perhaps, just maybe my true calling in life was to be one or work for the Armed Forces as most of the better Americans you'll meet are Marines or Soldiers or Sailors or Airmen. This time it was even more of an impact, though. I really had a strong feeling that I belonged with the Hussar boys and they were beyond hospitable to me. They took me in like one of their own- like family. I felt much more true love than just lust which is sometimes the case as I spent 2 hours with French and English Canadians who are about the brightest, most beautiful people in the world. It was horrible when it ended. When a tug of war ensued between who put me in touch with a higher ranker and the higher ranker became a bastard when I got back to America. I don't think I'll get the chance again, not because of anything I said or did, simply because it would have to come at a time when most of them wouldn't remember me. I can really relate to all that screaming, howling, and freaking out in "Sorrow" which is a sort of jazz/progressive drama about lost love. I always had a strange feeling of connecting with that song when I heard it and that could easily be because love turns into sorrow for me. If you don't like horns don't buy BANQUET- the album it's from as on that album Lucifer's Friend went for a full orchestra and got pretty jazzy. When you have two 12 minute long tracks I think that tells you something. John Lawton captured lost love and sorrow even more perfectly in Uriah Heep with the Ken Hensley/Lee Kerslake composition "Come Back To Me" off the FALLEN ANGEL album- a song that is high up there with favourites for me. Yes, once love is gone loneliness and alienation set in. We talked about that in Canada. I felt for the first time like I was home. Here there is too much at stake, so I leave you with a line from that song "Come Back To Me/Can We Try It One More Time?"
I'd love to go for 1 million more times back to beautiful, brilliant, loving, kind, heavenly Montreal and just leave this boring selfish big country full of big business and big deals in the past!
When do I get my one way ticket back to somewhere a lot nicer than here? Couldn't be soon enough!

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