My Precious…

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Recently, I listened to Dire Straits’ Making Movies, one of my favorite albums from the 80’s, and one that I hadn’t bothered to listen to in quite a while.  Side one includes three excellent songs, “Tunnel of Love,” “Rdire_straits_-_making_movies_-_frontomeo & Juliet,” and “Skateaway.”   Side two was never quite as satisfying, with three very good songs before concluding with an anti-climatic and out of place clunker.  The album has always been a brisk listen, even when I had to flip the album.

I used to drive on business a lot, and the car became my primary “music room,” where I could listen to the music 1) fairly loudly and 2) undisturbed.  And, it was in my car that I was recently  re-experiencing Making Movies in that context.

When I got to “Skateaway,” I was disappointed, not for any lack of appreciation of the song, but because its instrumental introduction had lost something… duration.  The song isn’t short; it clocks in at a generous 6:19.  It’s the intro.  The song begins muted and fades in with cymbals and a breezy beat punctuated by jingling tambourine to create a rhythmic mood.  It’s soon joined by an organ which creates the shape of what is to come before Mark Knopfler kicks in with his restrained fingerpicking flourishes.   Good stuff.  Then, at 35 seconds, the song formally commences when Knopfler begins singing.  I still like the song.  My recollection was that the intro lasted much longer.   It was a worthy intro, one to appreciate for longer than 35 seconds.

Bah, humbug.

So this sets me out to reading the interweb about what smarter people than me are putting forward as to why time seems to tick faster as we get older.  I know time is limited, but when I was younger, the time I spent concentrating on something didn’t just seem more expansive, it allowed me to live within the moment.  It was precious.

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If you want, you can read this.  The key quote which resonates (after searching through many similar articles) is this:

Psychologist William James, in his 1890 text Principles of Psychology, wrote that as we age, time seems to speed up because adulthood is accompanied by fewer and fewer memorable events. When the passage of time is measured by “firsts” (first kiss, first day of school, first family vacation), the lack of new experiences in adulthood, James morosely argues, causes “the days and weeks [to] smooth themselves out…and the years grow hollow and collapse.”

Hmm.

Many years later, a more sophisticated version:

[She] suggests that an intake of fresh, unusual experiences — rather than a predictable routine — can trick our brain into once again registering time more slowly, the same way we did as children.

Children have to be extremely engaged (i.e. dedicate many neural resources or significant brain power) in the present moment because they must constantly reconfigure their mental models of the world to assimilate it, and properly behave from within. On the contrary, adults may rarely step outside of their mental habits and external routines. When an adult frequently experiences this overstimulation of the same stimuli, their brain renders it "invisible" because the brain has already sufficiently and effectively mapped those stimuli. This phenomenon is known as neural adaptation. Thus, the brain will record fewer densely rich memories during these frequent periods of disengagement from the present moment. Consequently, the subjective perception of time often passes by at a faster rate with age.

Maybe.  Or, maybe I just need to disengage my critical thinking and absorb the experience more.

I was recently introducing my daughter to The Who’s “Eminence Front,” another prime example for a fantastic music intro, but one that is more satisfying at almost a full two minutes before the vocals begin, has much more time to deliver.  And, with a common denominator in these two songs, it’s easy for me to recognize that 1) I tend to listen frequently to songs with great intros, 2) many of these are keyboard based (I’m far more of a guitar fan), 3) there are varying types of intros.

First, there is the type of intros above, which establish a feel or a mood that becomes the essence of the remainder of the song.   Others in this vain include Led Zeppelin’s haunting “No Quarter,” The Verve’s aptly titled “Bittersweet Symphony,” Guns N’ Roses bona fide rock ‘n roller “Sweet Child of Mine,” Steve Winwood’s ultra groovy “ Night Train,” Dire Straits wonderfully indulgent “Telegraph Road,”  and others.   A common denominator is that these songs sound great loud, as in loud enough to hear the quiet parts above the road noise… if you were in a car.

Second would be songs where the intro is more of it’s own musical piece but is revisited occasionally in the song.  The Temptation’s “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” is a great example.  The intro is a fully realized piece, but it’s not the foundation for the song.  A pitfall of this tactic is Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” whose intro is revisited as a gorgeous refrain that only reminds the listener that someone spliced the wrong song around it.

Third, there are songs whose introductions take a bow before yielding to something largely unrelated.  Sometimes, the artist gives it a proper name.  Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time” includes a pulse quickening rocker before taking a breath and settling down to a mere foot stomping rocker.   Alan Parsons Project irritates in that “Sirius” is a great intro to “Eye in the Sky,” but it is listed as a separate track and doesn’t hold its own water.   There’s an abundance of progressive rock songs that fall into this category; I’d rank Renaissance’s “Song for All Seasons” as a resplendent  exemplar.

For those who bother to download Spotify, I’ve grouped the songs accordingly for your enjoyment.

 

 

 

Please feel free to comment on other songs with great intros!

1 comment :

  1. Interesting.

    Not sure I agree on your take on Boston. Then again, I don't have the album on my digi-music. For something completely different, I would offer ELO's Fire on High, a totally instrumental piece. The intro dies out at about 1:30.

    As for the epochal one, Elton's Funeral for a Friend intros for about 5:49.

    As for the two songs that should be one vote, Van Halen;s Intruder/Pretty Woman. Two songs that you never hear one without the other.

    ;-)

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