11. “Living in a Dream,” Arc Angels

Without this song, there’s a lot of good music I would’ve ignored over the years.

This song hit the radio in the spring of 1992, about a year and a half after the death of my musical idol, Stevie Ray Vaughan. I loved it immediately for the raw, kinetic vocals of Charlie Sexton, mingling with the smoother, almost mournful quality of Doyle Bramhall II’s voice. Not to mention, of course, the totally SRV-inspired guitar licks slithering around off Bramhall’s fingertips. Only after I’d fallen in love with the song, did I learn that the rhythm section of this band consisted of Stevie Ray’s partners in crime from Double Trouble, Chris Layton on drums and Tommy Shannon “on the Fender bass” (as Stevie used to say). So, obviously, more to love.

The logical next step was to go out and buy the CD. The artwork was beautiful and my excitement level soared as I spent the standard 20 minutes penetrating the plastic wrap before plunking the disc into my CD player. There it was off the top, “Living in a Dream” blaring through my speakers. I was super psyched for the next song.

But then something disappointing happened: I didn’t like it. And I didn’t like the song after that. Nor the one after that. I was deflated. I felt cheated. I didn’t have a lot of money, I was still in high school and I probably spent the only 18 bucks I had on that worthless, one-hit piece of plastic. How could this lineup of musicians have gone so wrong, after that amazing first song? I thought it sounded like (shudder)… country!

Today I ask myself, “Country? What’s country about that?” It’s a glorious piece of Texas blues-rock. There’s passion in every note, in every lick, in every snap of the snare. It’s filled with catchy hooks. I wanted to visit the “Paradise Café,” I wanted to get to know “Sweet Nadine” and “Famous Jane.” I, too, as Bramhall put it in “See What Tomorrow Brings,” “felt so much anger when they put away Stevie Ray.” It’s one of my favourite albums of all time (and the only studio album they would make).

But I never would’ve felt any of that if I hadn’t given it a second chance. I was so disappointed in it. I didn’t really want to listen to it again. I don’t know, maybe it was my frugalness, maybe I refused to let it be a waste of money. But I decided to give it another listen. And it grew on me more and more each time through.

That’s happened so often to me throughout my life, since then. Now, whenever I’m not feeling an album on the first listen, I don’t get too down. I spin it again and see what happens. Sometimes nothing happens and I’m just disappointed. But a lot of times it works. My ears just need to get used to it all. It just happened with the most recent Paramore album. I didn’t know a lot about them other than one song that I loved (“Ain’t it Fun”). On the first listen, I thought, “This seems a little, I don’t know… juvenile. Like it was made for teenagers. Like it just wasn’t made for me.” But I gave it a few more spins and enjoyed it more and more. I decided I didn’t care who it was made for. If I liked it, I liked it. Clearly, it spoke to me on some level, so why not give in to it? So I did, and my ears were happier for it. Thanks to “Living in a Dream.”

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