“The most crucial use of knowledge and education is to understand the importance of developing a good heart.” ~ Dalai Lama
I’ve been pretty sick with a cold for the last three days. It’s been hard to keep my eyes open, so I’ve listened to a lot of TV. Today, however, I was finally able to watch something, so I chose the painfully long documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Runnin’ Down A Dream. Long though it was – two minutes shy of four hours – it’s fantastic because Tom is (was) fantastic. The Heartbreakers is the kind of band I always wanted to be in. Rockin’, smooth, and totally tight as a family. Just last week I’d discovered I had a first pressing on vinyl of Southern Accents. It’s not my favorite Petty album though. That would be a toss up between the 1976 self-titled album with my all-time favorite Breakdown, and his third album Damn the Torpedoes. It doesn’t matter. Anything Tom Petty did was great, and I’m so very thankful he made the music he was meant to make.
“The Lord will bless you for being kind to people.” ~ Reva Hubbard
Last night as I was pouring over Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, relishing the ancient art of vinyl album covers, something caught my eye. Tusk is an elaborate vinyl package, even among double albums. There are slips inside slips inside the outside cover. Of particular interest were the outer (or middle) slips. Instantly, it was 1979 and I was back in my tiny bedroom, sitting on the floor in front of a second-hand stereo, where I scoured the intricate collages for hours. Now, they reminded me of Peter Beard‘s work. In 1993, I came across a book called “The Adventures and Misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa” by Jon Bowermaster. It captured my attention for two reasons: 1. Beard is a fascinating artist known primarily for his collage diaries (he sometimes uses his own blood to draw on them) and 2. I’ve loved Africa since early childhood, particularly Kenya where Beard has a home called The Hog Ranch. As Tusk continued to spin its quirky pop tunes, I pulled out my copy of the book. I rifled through the pages, memories flying back to me; Beard’s friendship with Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen who wrote the autobiographic Out of Africa, one of my all-time favorite books), the sheer beauty of Africa, the shame of big game killers, the privileged life that afforded Beard such an adventure that most people, certainly most artists, could never have. And then I saw it: a photo from one of the Tusk collages. Beard made the collages for Tusk. I knew about Peter Beard before the Bowermaster book. He’s listed on Tusk’s credits. As someone who used to absorb every piece of information from albums, the connection between Beard and Tusk had been buried in my brain all these decades, subconsciously rolling around, waiting to resurface. It was a beautiful moment to reconnect with these two things I loved so much when I was younger. I hope one day I’ll have the opportunity to go to Kenya and Tanzania, roam the Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve, and wake up “at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” What a blessing that would be, but it certainly doesn’t diminish the blessings Tusk and Peter Beard have given me for decades. I’m lucky that they’ve come back home.
“We do not deny the reality of death, or the degradation of suffering. But we do claim the victory of life over death, of light over darkness. And so we defy anything which would degrade our humanity.”
~ Fr. Mark Brown
Working my way through the vinyl archive I came across a pivotal album for me; Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. Lisa Clevenger Fannin gave it to me for Christmas in 1979, just a few months after its release. The double album made a huge impression, and it’s still my favorite Fleetwood Mac album. It was their follow-up to Rumors, one of the highest selling, chart-topping albums of all time. How do you follow that, really? In Fleetwood Mac’s case, you let Lindsey Buckingham do whatever he wants. By all accounts, he drove the band insane with his constant experimentation. Critics panned it, but music and sound enthusiasts heard the brilliance right away. Lindsey doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves, as a guitarist, and especially as a sound engineer. Not all of his experiments are great, but when they are, they’re really great. Tusk is loaded with audio brilliance. It contains songs that have stayed with me for nearly 40 years like Brown Eyes, Beautiful Child, Sisters of the Moon, and of course, Tusk, featuring the USC Marching Band. It’s an epic track; the album a masterpiece. Thank you, Lisa, for the gift of a lifetime. It still sounds as great as the first time I dropped the needle on it.