Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall

I have been accused of being difficult.

Control your shock, please.  I’m speaking of something specific.  Both my husband and mother have told me that purchasing gifts for me is fraught, since I tend to buy the things I want for myself, with some alacrity.

So it was with great forbearance that I put James Taylor’s “One Man Band” into my Amazon wishlist some time before Christmas, and waited.

And waited.

No dice.

So, what’s a girl who has been accused of a behavior to do, but repeat it?  I ordered it earlier this week, and it arrived.  We’ve listened to the CD, and now I’m watching the DVD portion of our show.  And I can’t help but be reminded of my first concert.   Which is a bit of a story in and of itself.

I was about 12, and my aunt, my dad’s sister Judith, informed me that it was time I saw some live music.  She told me that she was going to take me to a concert as a gift.   She also made it clear that this was a rite of passage – one that was not to be avoided or delayed.  She handed me a Boston Globe advertisement for “Concerts on the [Boston] Common” and told me to choose a concert.  No pressure.


The rite of passage, the solemnity with which she intoned that It Was Time I Did This: frankly, this scared the ever-living crap out of me.  My incredibly sheltered, small-town, 12-year-old mind was possibly imagining opium dens – if she had a single clue about what opium dens might consist of (hint: not a single iota of an idea).

But James Taylor was on that list.  The idea that James Taylor might exist outside our family’s stereo’s speakers (I speak broadly here – I’m not aware of a member of my dad’s side of the family who is not a fan) was a little alarming, but the opium dens receded a bit (not entirely – I was aware that “A Junkie’s Lament” was not exactly about monkeys and snickers bars, but I had no more idea about the mechanics of heroin addiction than I did about the circuitry of an ENIAC).  I told Jude that JT it was.

It was five of us who went that clear summer night – Judith, her husband Chris, my uncle Bob, and his wife Kate.  Four people who were then  younger I am now, ostensibly escorting a 12-year-old to her first concert (Jude is 11 years older than I am, more of an age to be a cousin than an aunt.  Bob is closer in age to my dad.  God love ’em for putting up with me).

I was still terrified.  Excited, but terrified.

As we went through the entry, Chris noted the whiff of pot smoke – did I mention I was scared?  Yeah.  We found our seats as the opening act (Karla Bonoff) finished her current hit (the forgettable “Personally,” which Judith excoriated).

I sat, nervous as a cat.  I was uncertain, tense, thrilled.  And then JT came on.  And I began to have some clue about why concerts are such compelling things.  Seeing someone live has an energy that is impossible to replicate, but with JT there are those “How did he do that?” moments – tricks of timing and skill that are akin to stage magic.  I’ve seen him several times since, and he always seems to have some variety of that trick in his shows: something that shows off his skill with timing, but in a low-key, seemingly casual manner.

In the case of this show back in the early 80’s, it was him singing “You’re Just In Love (I Wonder Why)” as a duet with a reel-to-reel tape deck, with the deck providing pithy, spoken psychoanalysis to the psychosis provided by the song (e.g. “I smell blossoms and the trees are bare…”  “Ah.  Olfactory hallucination…”).  The trick doesn’t seem too wonderful, unless you’ve had to try to time something live to match something recorded.  Not so easy.

As evidenced by this latest DVD, he’s still at it, but with massively geared drum mechanisms and a video containing a subset of the Tanglewood Festival Choir.  I’m no longer afraid of opium dens, but a JT concert still has the ability to give me that uncertain, nervous, thrilled feeling.

Thanks, James.


  1. I confess that I missed it. Maybe it was the treadmill request that I couldn’t get past. Ya think? BTW I bought the “Strange Conversations” CD and love it. Thanks! Remember the wintry day we were listening to a new JT and thought there was a snowmobile in the yard, only to discover it was a chain saw on the (omigod was it?) record? He evokes good memories. Shower the people, my dear. . .

  2. Heh. The treadmill was actually a placeholder for me to remember it – not a real request. I use my wishlist for nefarious purposes, I guess.

    I remember the chain saw and 2×4 episode quite well.

  3. Nice memories. I had very similar reactions to the new DVD. It’s so close to actually being there. The outtakes (Dylan voice, and happy version of Fire and Rain) are perfect. It was a good day, then and now.

  4. hey there–I recently purchased JT’s One Man Band as well; I think its really intimate and lovely.

    I share some of your early concert fears and memories….