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Big Time Endorphin Dump

February 19, 2012

I first heard of endorphins on some episode of Star Trek. Apparently, endorphins are these feel good chemicals that some gland in the body produces that tells the brain to make the whole body feel good, like during an orgasm or a really good meal or an absolutely cool sun tan session (personally, I don’t rate sun tans anywhere close to orgasms but I’m Italian for the most part.).

I don’t know what it is, but there is something in my makeup that makes me go nuts about good music. That endorphin producing gland goes bonzo when I concentrate on really good music. The knots in my shoulders unwind, my face gets warm, my eyes get watery and I slowly start to unwind and relax all over. My feet unravel and feel big in my shoes. I let go and feel like I’m flying or swimming in warm, invisible water. It’s a pretty far out place to go, but the music has got to be really, really good. Honestly, this is better for me than any drugs or booze I’ve ever experienced (and don’t get carried away, I’m no druggy, just some minor 1960s experimenting like everyone else of that era.). Orgasm is still in first place, though. Especially orgasm with really good music; OMG!!!

Several years ago, upon my return to Los Gatos, a friend lent me a bike and I went to the new Target department store at Curtner and First Street in San Jose to buy a set of lights for the bicycle. Bike stuff is very cheap there. It was about sunset when I left the store and a cop stopped me for not having a light on my borrowed bike. I was just out of the driveway of the Target shopping center, maybe 20 yards or so, and I opened the plastic bag hanging from the handle bars with the new set of lights. Despite this, the cop called his dispatcher and found an unresolved warrant for my arrest from San Mateo County. He had me lock my borrowed bike to a phone pole then he cuffed me and hauled me off to jail. I was sure that the San Mateo warrant had been resolved but no one in the jail was going to take my word for it. They held me at Elmwood for nearly a week, waiting to be transported to San Mateo’s county jail. I was finally taken to the San Mateo jail and arrived there about 5:00 p.m. I spent the night on a jail bunk and went to court first thing the next morning. The judge asked why I was there, the warrant had been resolved several years earlier. Someone didn’t update their computer system so I should never have been picked up in the first place. I was back on the street by noon.

A day later, I was back in Los Gatos with the borrowed bike, minus its stolen seat. While I didn’t have to endure any more legal setbacks as a result of this incarceration, I was rather shaken by my week long visit to the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas, a place I’d never been before. It was a pretty nasty week there. In order to calm me down, some friends offered me their very comfortable guest suite for a few days to recuperate from my little ordeal.
I had been sorting out a whole bunch of music I had loaded onto my computer for the last several years. While in these guest quarters, I figured this would be a good time to organize the music. I need some of those good feeling endorphins. I definitely needed “feel good.” I put together a web page which I came to call “Music of Clarity.” This really was clear headed music, not simple music, but nearly all of it is very minimal in terms of instrumentality, usually just three instruments or less for the most part. But the musicians in each of the songs on this web page knew exactly what they wanted to say with each piece; clearly, elegantly and professionally.

I pretty much had forgotten about this web page but yesterday, while reviewing another ridiculous legal hassle, I was feeling very frustrated and depressed. I had been working hard and my shoulders felt like twisted eucalypts roots. I flashed on the web page of music clarity. I went to it and turned the volume up on the computer to just where it hurt my ear drums and backed off a tad. I started listening to the songs and my worries just started evaporating. I had a massive endorphin dump. After listening to all the songs on the page, some of them several times, I was so rested, relaxed, refreshed. Big time endorphin dump. It was quite nice.

Go check it out. I don’t know what music does to you, but it is a real elixir for me.

While all art is a very personal thing, I’m just going to mention a few of my observations on a few of the works I collected here.

Save this first song sung by Judy Collins for last. This Bob Dylan song is a great summary of the last six months of my life.

There is no other order to the songs but here is some of the stuff I feel when listening to them;

While we think of Peter Frampton’s music as his once popular “talk box” voice effect on guitar solos, the music I included here is totally different. This is work he multi-tracked against himself which seems to be more like samba and bossa-nova based from my perspective. This is very great stuff.

How can Dr. John’s “Flaming Sword” make you feel anything but like dancing with a big smile on your face?

My mom had me take clarinet and saxophone lessons when I was a tike. I hated them but when I was 18, someone stuck an alto recorder into my hands (it has the same fingering as an alto Sax) and I became known as the rock and roll recorder jammer. I could keep up with the best of them. I used to play recorder with “Darkness, Darkness” and “I Scare Myself” and just totally blow out the most professional musicians I knew, right out of the water!!!
In “I Scare Myself,” I can feel the stress and bounce on the strings of the double stops on the violin solo that is simply amazing and mesmerizing.

I was introduced to the esoteric Eric Satie in 1966, my first year of college. He takes some effort to listen to, but he can become very comfortable. But, be sure to listen to recordings by pianist Aldo Ciccolini, he gives the best renditions of Satie, well read, subtly phrased.

Once I really listened really hard to Phil Collin’s “I Don’t Care Anymore” and I counted five different rhythms (or whatever drummers call each “voice”) happening all at once. The guy is a genius and he was singing all the time as well (probably multi-tracking, of course). I heard he wrote this during one of his divorces. Is that hard to believe?

Mayall’s “Double Life Feeling” could not have one note taken out, not one note to be added. It is just too good.

Jorma Kaukonen was the lead guitarist for Jefferson Airplane. In my early college years one of my friends was writing songs for a band call Petrus managed by Bill Graham. The lead guitarist of Petus was Peter Kaukonen, Jorma’s younger brother. When they were growing up in Sweden, Jorma and Peter were trained as classical guitarists and I was told that Peter consistently placed higher in the guitar competitions than Jorma did. Peter said Jorma had worked on Embryonic Journey for years before he’d let it get recorded.

By far, my favorite piece of music on the web page is the last one, a song by Peter Townsend of the Who. This has all the obscurity of a Bob Dylan song but all the richness and fullness of an ageless bottle of the finest port. The fact they left the finger noise in just makes it all the more full and real. This the clearest of art.


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