A writer ponders writing and music, ephemerality, timing, and The Beatles after watching Peace play “1998” on a roof.
Timing is life’s way of getting you to pay attention. For example, this article probably wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t woken up early for no reason at all and saw that rock band Peace had posted a cryptic still linking to a website simply titled Peace Playing 1998 On A Roof. And because I’d forgotten what it feels like to really feel anything beyond what sparked my own analyzing capacities when I listen to music in awhile, this little collection of scattered thoughts (which I’m terming a “wild-thought-dumpster,” a wildly unorganized piece that I advocate that everyone in this space should try at least once) now exists.
Stream: “1998” – Peace
Peace Playing 1998 On A Roof features exactly that–the band playing their early hit “1998” on a rooftop somewhere. And, timing comes in clutch again, as its release just so happens to align almost perfectly with the fifty-year anniversary of the Beatles’ concert/jam session on the roof of the building Apple Records was housed in. For those of you out there who aren’t fond of meticulously absurd anniversary-keeping, the only things you need to know about the relatively impromptu concert is that it was the foursome’s last public performance, came at a time when the band was slowly crumbling apart, and that those renditions of “Don’t Let Me Down” and “I’ve Got A Feeling” are pure magic.
And since life, and music writing, are all about being timely, this article—or rather, a brief collection from the dumpster of unrestrained thoughts I had upon watching this—should be about wondering what it all means. What is Peace trying to say, releasing this performance online a mere 24 hours away from the fiftieth anniversary of another famous rooftop performance? Are they likening themselves to the Beatles? If so, is this a similar sort of farewell? If not, is this just the beginning of something more ambitious? Where are they? What’s next, What’s Next, WHAT’S NEXT??
But it’s not. I don’t care what Peace may or may not be trying to do or say or whatever, for once. This may make me a bad journalist, if you can call me that at all, really. I’m just saying, if you were strolling down Savile Row a cold morning in 1969 and heard “Don’t Let Me Down” raining down from the rooftops, I don’t think you’d stop to contemplate what it all means. I know I wouldn’t—I’d be so focused on getting closer to the building I’d probably get hit by a car.
Watch: “Don’t Let Me Down,” Live in 1969 – The Beatles
At some level, that’s what this little performance of Peace’s raises in me. I don’t want to analyze or speculate about meaning—I want to sit there and let “1998”’s ocean of instrumentals wash over me. I want to be on the ground in Birmingham or London or wherever this is, blinking sunlight out of my eyes as I look heavenward, confused, mouthing Baby, you’re Dracula with a group of equally perplexed yet overjoyed onlookers. In short, it makes me want to live. Not sit through a moment wondering how I’m going to document it later, how I’m going to possibly capture that Boyce’s cymbals look like the rings of Saturn drifting in space, daring to disturb the universe with a sound, and tie that in with the greater statement that that’s what music IS.
No. Simply put, this little video, simply makes me want to be a fan again–to forget everything that has to do with writing or anything else for a moment, and just feel and wonder as I listen.
Zadie Smith paraphrased someone else as saying that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Which is true, isn’t it? How ridiculous, to try and describe something ephemeral and auditory in this visual world. (Because music is ephemeral; recordings aren’t.) Yet at the heart of it all, writing about music—or anything—all art is, in a way, screaming your existence into the void. Here, it’s just a little more literal.
When I watch and listen to Peace here, I’m not five years too late, or even fifty years too late. Time is suspended, for a moment, and all is centered on right now, not what comes before or after. It’s simply a declaration of existence, one much like the time those four men from Liverpool shook up surprised Londoners on their lunch breaks fifty years ago. Though it’s a different medium, I’m right on time, and every time I listen—though listening more than once cheapens it, in a way—I can be right there in the moment with them.
And that, maybe, is what it should all be about, perhaps.
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