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Rather than my typical blathering about the band and song in question, I thought I’d instead present some sections of a short story I wrote close to a decade ago, words that were inspired by this particular song.* It’s a road trip story for a road trip song.
We’re on highway seventeen scarcely passed Wawa and its gigantic steel goose when Tallulah makes her third appearance that day. She’s a stark contrast to the blazing guns from the last song, which pushed the needle on the speedometer to a comfortable hum, hovering just over the 100 mark, and propelling the ten-year-old, borrowed PT Cruiser headlong into a horizon all streaked with reds and oranges.
The sun is low and yet the wind whipping through the cranked windows is hot and sticky, the humidity just aching to break. Still, humidity drenched wind is better than the useless AC. We have the stereo volume knob tuned to towering heights just to be able hear it and yet, neither the wind nor the music has disturbed the sleep of my friend Simon in the passenger seat. There’s been barely a stir since he conked out a few hours ago.
I turn the volume knob clockwise even more to try to bring out the majesty of the whispery ukulele strumming and the rough innocence of the soft female vocals. It’s not your typical driving tune and an odd choice for a mix created for a road trip. Indeed, it is the quietest tune on the CDR, the rest comprising of a mix of classic alt rock and hip new indie numbers, many of which I’ve never heard of. If I didn’t know Simon better, I would’ve assumed he was showing off the knowledge he’s amassed over the years and has him as the most popular radio DJ on Indie 88. But really, that’s not his style.
Simon had explained (when putting the disc on after we lost reception to “his station” a half hour outside of Toronto) that this was the song that inspired the idea of this road trip in the first place.
I had listened to the first innocuous strums and nodded. “Who is it?”
Simon’s face made an almost imperceptibly wistful expression as he watched the traffic on the highway ahead of him, an expression he had almost hidden but I had caught it. “Allo Darlin’.”
“It’s a sh*t name.”
“You were always more concerned with band names than I was, Rob, but I admit it’s not the best choice I’ve heard.” He paused, expecting more protests from my side of the car but getting none, he continued. “They’re pretty great though. They’re this English twee-pop influenced band with a folk edge, built around the song writing of the singer. I think her name is Elizabeth Morris.”
“You think?” This was sarcasm.
“The talk I originally heard was that the song title was a nod to influential C86 band Talulah Gosh but other sources have since cited the album ‘Tallulah’ by Australian alt-rock band, The Go-betweens. I prefer the former but think the latter more likely, given that the singer also hails from Australia.” He continued on in this vein, unloading all the trivial bits of information related to the band, the song, the album, and other music of similar sound, but I had begun to tune him out, getting lost in the spaces between the twinkling strums of the ukulele. The sound of this instrument always reminded me of grade six music class, when our eccentric teacher sprang ukuleles on the class, rather than the usual session on learning the recorder. It wasn’t long before some smartass in the class figured out the melody to the theme from Peter Gunn and had the whole class playing it.
I take off my now unnecessary sunglasses because I want to hear the song lyrics better. Lord knows, the volume knob won’t help anymore. The words are drenched in contemplative nostalgia and sung with a bright sadness and a time worn edge, telling a tale of a road trip, much like the one we’re on, except we are driving in rural, northern Ontario, not the east coast of Australia.
And this – the car, the tunes, the dog days of summer, the company, the kilometres behind us and the ones left ahead – suddenly makes sense, much more than anything did two weeks ago, when I had received that seemingly random email from Simon French.
But wait, there it was again. That line, or rather two, that had punctured something in me the first time I heard it this morning: “I’m wondering if I’ve already heard all the songs that will mean something. And I’m wondering if I’ve already met all the people that will mean something.”
*Obviously, any song that inspires me to write is a great one in my books.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.