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The Whim of the Great Magnet
Psychic anchors and principles - the first songs in the set.
“This is how the world works. All energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet - Never cross the Great Magnet.” - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
Attract and Repel.
Push and Pull.
Rock and Roll.
Magnetism. It’s a force of nature.
You can’t control it. It happens. Or it doesn’t. Why are we drawn to or repulsed by certain people, ideas, cities, careers, songs, or anything? Is it innate in us? Is it fate or free will? Is it the mysterious and mischievous Universe? Whatever that is. I don’t know, but we succumb when that strange force jolts us from the moment and drags us closer to whatever it has in store for us.
Hunter Thompson1 learned not to fuck with the Great Magnet. He tried to resist. The Great Magnet kept correcting his course. That’s what Hunter learned. The choice was always his, but the Magnet would drop hints, flash signals, and, when it needed to, thrust him back into its tractor beam. Never cross the Great Magnet, indeed.
Johnny Depp as Hunter in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
I won’t go deep into the well of fate vs. free will. I won’t debate if the Great Magnet is real or not. Maybe it’s just a cool way to start a post. Either way, something must be responsible for how we got here, who put us here, and what the hell happens next. It might as well be a mystical magnet.
Whenever I need some fancy metaphor or psychic anchor to guide me, I turn to music. It’s always been there to help me see things clearly, incite a mood, support a feeling, reflect and project, or just to kick out the jams, motherfucker. That is what this playlist is all about.
One playlist, in particular, started to take on a more personal theme. An arc was beginning to develop, reflecting important periods of my life. What started out as a fun activity turned into something purposeful.
Over the years, I have made many mixtapes, CD mixes, and playlists. No matter the decade or medium, the process of putting together mixes and lists has been my way of creating. I can’t play an instrument. I don’t write songs. I wish I were a producer, but that’s not a skill I possess either. Instead, I collect and arrange someone else’s songs to create a feel, to use on a road trip, or just to turn people on to new tunes.
I remember back when I was a kid making mix tapes. That was a pain in the ass process. You couldn’t just drag and drop songs into the mix. You had to know how long each song was and calculate if you had enough room on each side of the tape to get them all on there. Ninety-minute Maxell XL II-S were my weapons of choice. The toughest part was squeezing in the last song on a side. You didn’t want to have too much dead air at the end. I had 5-6 go-to songs that were two-minute or less in length handy at all times for that chore.
Fast forward to today, and I am still making mixes. The mix in question is the Their Music is My Life Playlist. When I started compiling it, I did not intend for it to be such an ambitious project. With time on hand during the pandemic, I created a few themed playlists to share with friends and to stay connected. One playlist, in particular, started to take on a more personal theme. An arc was beginning to develop, reflecting important periods of my life. What started out as a fun activity turned into something purposeful and meaningful.
These songs are all tied to my guiding principles. My principles are my magnets.
This playlist tethers my phases and stages with songs. It has a loose, linear timeline but is not an exhaustive year-by-year recap of my life. It covers periods when I felt destitute and inspired. It covers two of the most important moments of my life. It digs into my states of mind, philosophies, and worldview as I aged. You should think about these phases and stages as quasi-chapters in my story, right up until the last handful of songs that tell you what I am all about today and into the future.
This first phase and stage, The Whim of the Great Magnet, and the last two, The Shiny Diamond and The Prelude, operate as bookends to the entire playlist. There are so many great songs on this playlist. I am excited to tell you the stories behind them. I just scanned that playlist. If you asked me to pick one song out of the 100, it would probably be one within the Journey to the Center of Myself phase and stage. Any guesses as to which one it is? it’s a good ‘un.
Before I get into the first chapter, I want to discuss why these songs. Why and how did I choose these songs? Each of the songs speaks to me personally. It could be the title of the song only. It could be one specific line in a song. It could be the chorus or a particular verse. It could be the primary message but not the subject as the artists intended. Or, it could be the whole shebang - title, message, lyrics, feel. When I get into each song, I’ll get specific about the whats and whys.
Enough of the preamble, right? You still with me? Let’s get to our first phase and stage.
Time is Tight - Booker T & the MG’s
Woke Up This Morning - Paul Pena
Wake Up Everybody - Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
Work to Do - Marc Cohn & The Blind Boys of Alabama
Turn off The News and Build a Garden - Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
One Hundred Years from Now - Gram Parsons
These songs are all tied to my guiding principles. My principles are my magnets. These songs start the playlist as an overture. They set my scene. When I play them, they center me. Individually, they jolt me back into the lane of what’s important. Collectively, they speak to how I operate, make choices and decisions, and interact with the world.
The first song in the set is “Time is Tight” by Booker T. and the MG’s. Like all of their songs, it’s an instrumental. How can a song with no words say so much? Oh, dear readers, that is a story I will share in next week’s post as we start our song-by-song exploration of my life’s greatest hits. Until then, a taste…
“Time is Tight” - Booker T. and the MG’s.
When I hear the first few notes of this song, I always think to myself, “dawn.”
To be continued…
There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live and too rare to die. - HST
This post is in tribute to one of my heroes, Hunter.
We didn’t know each other. But we spent enough time together in the pages of his books to feel like I knew him. Hunter was a pioneer, a maverick, and a miscreant. He was known by most for his wild and dangerous persona, but he was more than that. He was a writer, a music fan, and chock-full of true grit.
People who live on the edge learn more about life than we’ll ever know by playing it safe, or at the very least, by the rules. He was full of wisdom and truth - the type that may be hard to digest but that you can count on.
His second wife compiled his wisdom into a book called, The Gonzo Way (not an affiliate link). Please check it out if you are a Hunter fan or not. One of his bits of wisdom from the book is: "the truth is easier.” As tough as it may be, it’s always easier.
The last tough truth Hunter expressed came this month 18 years ago when he took his own life on February 20, 2005. Hunter left a suicide note. He was a known NFL fan. The NFL concludes its season each year in February.
Football Season is Over
No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun - for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax - This won't hurt.
Never cross the great magnet, indeed.
If, pray tell, you are unfamiliar with the Good Doctor, check out Hunter’s Wikipedia page to learn about the man, the madness, and the musings on both.
Join me in celebrating the inseparable connection between life + music.