I'm sitting at my computer at work, listening to one of my favorite songs of all time: the live recording of Led Zeppelin's Since I've Been Loving You that appears on the live triple album How The West Was Won. It has been one of my favorite songs since I was in junior high. I went through a Led Zeppelin phase at the time, so I'm sure once I discovered this recording I listened to it over and over again — it has remained one of my favorite songs of all time. I think one of the reasons it remains special is because it is a song I don't hear very often. This particular recording doesn't come on the radio (nor does the studio version either), and it wasn't used in a car commercial campaign. If I ever hear this song it's almost certainly because I wanted to hear it and I put it on myself.
I recently started using Spotify, and I started a playlist called "Songs for Vibes", which is just an ever-rotating collection of the songs that I'm really digging at the moment. A couple weeks ago I put Since I've Been Loving You in the playlist, so I've heard the song at least several dozen times since. This is probably more than I've heard it in the past several years. It's still awesome, and it's still one of my favorite songs of all time, but it did just occur to me that listening to it for the thirtieth time in the past couple weeks didn't feel quite as special as it once did. I'm familiar with the experience hearing a song that you like and then getting burnt out on it by overplay on the radio/tv/internet, but this was slightly different in context. It felt strange.
This reminded me of another recent experience. This past Friday night I went to see Ben Allison play at the Green Mill. I was excited because I've been listening to his music since I was in high school, but I've never seen him play live. The show was incredible. The band was hot, the atmosphere in the Green Mill (somehow that was my first time there) was fantastic, and I lucked out on some seats right in front of the stage. To my great pleasure he played a few songs from my favorite album, the album that introduced me to his music, Cowboy Justice . It was really great to see these tunes I've been listening to for years finally played in person, with all of the variations and interpretations that happen when jazz is played on stage. Then they played a rendition of the Buffalo Springfield song Expecting to Fly . It was fantastic. I had never heard the original song, but this was something special. It was the song that stayed with me as I left the venue, and still as I lay in bed that night.
The next morning I promptly did some googling to try and find a recording of it — was it on a record somewhere? Was there a crappy phone-recorded version of it on YouTube? Nothing. Finally, I settled on listening to the original song by Buffalo Springfield, and it was also excellent. I liked it, a lot even, but it wasn't the same as that beautiful, simple arrangement that Ben and his group had performed the night before. I can still hear it in my head if I try, and I imagine I will be able to do so for a long time. This fleeting moment, the performance of this song that I might not ever witness or hear again, was singular. As much as that performance affected me, and as badly as I wanted to hear it again, maybe it's better that I don't.
Maybe there are some things that don't need to be, or maybe even shouldn't be archived. On the internet, or anywhere. There are certain moments that impact you in ways that go beyond what a record of that moment can convey. Maybe it's better they remain fleeting. This is not a new concept to me, but somehow in this new context it felt especially profound, and I'm trying to use it as an opportunity to remind myself that it's okay. That performance of Expecting to Fly will remain a special memory for a long time, but would it if it were in a playlist that I listened to every day? I doubt it.
I've removed Since I've Been Loving You from my "Songs for Vibes" playlist. I'll spend some time away from it, and return to when I really need it.
I wondered whether
I could wave goodbye,
Knowin' that you'd gone.