And Then The Ceiling Comes Down

February 8, 2012

It was late January or early February and I was trapped in the special hell that was inventory at the large record store where I worked.

The store was so large that it took our staff of sixty or so two days at about ten hours each day to accomplish the task of counting – and recounting – everything.

And, the festivities started at six in the morning.

(if you wish more grisly details, they’re here)

On this particular morning, my head was splitting with a headache that – surprisingly for that period – was not a hangover.

(we were not opposed to a cocktail or six before, during, or after our shifts)

Attendence for inventory was non-negotiable; absence was a fireable offense even for veterans, but I had enough tenure and title to skate late that afternoon. I had realized that I had cracked a molar which had been the source of the headache.

I managed to get a dentist whose office was a fifteen-minute walk from the floor of the house I shared with two roommates, one a drummer who resided on the couch. The staff had mercifully agreed to stay a few minutes late and see me after the last scheduled patient.

The assessment was that a root canal would be necessary, but I would have to return the following morning. However, I was provided with the means to alleviate the pain until the problematic tooth could be properly addressed.

I stepped out of the doctor’s office, dazed and hungry. And then, the skies opened and, though it was unseasonably warm for the time of year, I was drenched to the bone within minutes.

I continued the trek home, now dazed, hungry, and drenched. Across the street from our house was a small grocery store and, though I was pretty much skinned, decided that, after the traumas of the day, I deserved something of sustenance more than Ramen noodles.

Ten minutes later, I unlocked the front door, salivating at the prospect of the Tombstone pizza I had purchased.

(truly a luxury at the time)

I preheated the oven and went to my room to change into dry clothes.

Entering the room, I noticed a large “blister” on the ceiling in one corner. I actually mumbled to no one, “Hmmm…that doesn’t look good” a split second before a chunk of the ceiling came crashing to the ground.

Fortunately the mess of plaster and water missed the stereo by eight inches.

Here are four songs from CDs that were likely in the stacks nearest the stereo that day…

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger
from (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (1995)

Though it was received mostly with a shrug here in the States, Paloma and I loved Definitely Maybe, Oasis’ debut, spending a lot of time listening to it during the early portion of our friendship.

A friend who was a label rep snagged me a copy of the band’s sophomore effort and, though we weren’t quite as passionate about (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, I professed our approval.

(then I added that I didn’t think that it would break them here)

Six months later, Wonderwall was finally making the Gallagher brothers a sensation Stateside (albeit briefly). Personally, my favorite track was the shuffling sonic tower of grandeur that is Don’t Look Back In Anger.

Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost Of Tom Joad
from The Ghost Of Tom Joad (1995)

Late in 1995, Bruce Springsteen released the stark solo album The Ghost Of Tom Joad, which recalled his grim masterpiece Nebraska. I lived with the album for months.

And though the album wasn’t as stellar as Nebraska, I’d put The Ghost Of Tom Joad‘s haunting title track on the list of Springsteen’s essential songs.

(and, sadly, the lyrics resonate far more now than they did fifteen years ago)

Pulp – Common People
from Different Class (1995)

I discovered Pulp from reading British music magazines in the mid-’90s and, though the band never really broke through in the States, I became a fan when I snagged a promo of His ‘n’ Hers in 1994.

A year later, Different Class became an even bigger seller in the UK, making Pulp and lead singer Jarvis Cocker superstars in their homeland. In the US, the group remained a cult act relegated to college and alternative radio or MTV in the middle of the night.

The witty, slightly acerbic Common People – in which Cocker describes a relationship with a female acquaintance from a wealthy background – has an infectiously elastic melody and is impossible to dislodge from the brain.

Aimee Mann – You’re with Stupid Now
from I’m With Stupid (1995)

Aimee Mann was a favorite from the first time I saw her platinum blonde rat tail in Til Tuesday’s video for Voices Carry. I hung with Til Tuesday through a trio of albums in the ’80s, each better – and more ignored – than the previous with the wonderful curtain call Everything’s Different Now being essentially a solo effort from Mann.

The quasi-title song from Mann’s second true solo album I’m With Stupid was as stripped down as anything she’d done before. Uncluttered and sparse, the song was a lovely showcase for Mann’s clever wordplay and knack for a catchy, melancholic melody