Music of Books: M Train by Patti Smith

Although I’m a huge fan of musicians with a gift for the poetic, I was fairly unfamiliar with Patti Smith. I had heard that she was an incredible memoirist and took a look around at Powell’s for her work. Instead of choosing the National Book Award winning, Just Kids, I turned to her latest, M Train (2015), and found a meditation in it on the French writer Jean Genet that interested me and kept on reading. Here’s some things that stood out to me in the book.

Coffee Junky

Smith has a cup of joe at least every other page of M Train. In 1971, she set off to Mexico to write a book called Java Head in the great tradition of literary quests in search of a fix. As there wasn’t a plethora of knowledgeable baristas back then, she did the next logical thing and asked William S. Burroughs where to hit up the good stuff. The old master pointed her to the mountains of Veracruz. Smith spent days on a coffee bender winning over the caballeros only crowd with her enthusiasm about the bean and a caffeinated exegesis on Bach. Java Head was never written, but a habit was solidified that was much more healthy than what her rocker contemporaries were rolling at the time.

Checkmate, Bobby Fischer

In one of the stranger moments of the book, Smith is on a trip in Iceland and is invited to photograph the table that Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky played chess on in 1972. She then receives an invite from Fischer himself, who was given asylum there, which is quite a bizarre story on its own. Her description of the meeting with the controversial former champion is an example of how to deal with difficult people that we could all learn from these days.

“He began testing me immediately by issuing a string of obscene and racially repellent references that morphed into paranoiac conspiracy rants.

Look, you’re wasting your time, I said, I can be just as repellent as you, only about different subjects.

He sat staring at me in silence, when he finally dropped his hood.

Do you know any Buddy Holly songs? he asked.

For the next few hours we sat there singing songs. Sometimes separately, often together, remembering about half the lyrics.”

Getting comfortable

Patti Smith not only gets asked to take polaroids of famous furniture, she also gets to try them out for herself. Roberto Bolaño’s writing chair in Blanes, Spain, Friedrich Schiller’s table and Diego Rivera’s bed when she get’s sick on a visit to the Casa Azul in the Cayoacán borough of Mexico City. Not all of us get the opportunity to convalesce at the house where Frida Kahlo was born and died, but Smith makes it count, writing, “I got up and put on my boots and gathered my pictures: the outline of Frida’s crutches, her bed, and the ghost of a stairwell. The atmosphere of sickness glowed within them.”

Magic and Loss

Ostensibly, M Train is a travelogue of Patti Smith’s journeys, interspersed with memories of her childhood in Michigan, relationship with her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith, and the devastation of her house by Hurricane Sandy. What is remarkable is that the biographical details are overshadowed by the exploration of loss tempered by immense curiosity that she is conducting through writing. From imagined conversations with a Sam Shepardesque cowpoke to ruminations on the detective shows she watches in hotel rooms on tour, we get a storyteller who values the riddle more than the answer. For every memory of a lost loved one or visit to the grave of an artist who influenced her, Smith leaves inventive verbal altars and dozens of polaroid photos scattered through the pages. She starts the book with, “It’s not easy writing about nothing,” but appears to effortlessly construct lines such as, “Not a depression, more like a fascination for melancholia, which I turn in my hand as if it were a small planet, streaked in shadow, impossibly blue.” For all the places Smith goes and the people she meets, M Train is really about the famous singer songwriter sitting in her favorite cafe alone, comfortable with letting us look at what she is working on.

Are you missing Patti Smith’s music? Here’s a great live version of “Ask the Angels” from her 1976 album Radio Ethiopia.

Music and Memory: The Return of The Clientele

Where does music end and memory begin? Some of my earliest recollections exist solely because of the music that accompanied my experience. I have vivid memories of a summer morning in my youth spent with my sister around a Fisher-Price turntable, listening to Bryan Hyland’s “Sealed With a Kiss” on repeat. Neil Diamond cassettes were staples of our family road trips, as were children’s albums like Cabbage Patch Dreams or Psalty’s Christmas Calamity. Many Willie Nelson songs still evoke trips across the Trans-Canada Highway in the winter with my dad in his old Ford pickup. One band in particular, The Clientele, can remove me from my current consciousness and turn me toward the past with ease.

Listening to their single “I Had to Say This,” from their earliest collection Suburban Light, will forever summon a spring morning in 2001 when I asked my then-girlfriend to marry me.  We hosted a radio show together, and I had schemed for months how to ask her to walk down the aisle. The station had recently begun streaming online, so it seemed novel at the time that I could let friends and family know so they could listen in beyond the reach of our signal.

As I was gathering my courage to ask, I put on The Clientele’s song. Two reasons compelled me; first, the title and its gentle insistence. Second, the feel I get from the song, both urgent and languid, low fidelity and lush, shimmering and blurred. Today, hearing the song will transport me to that time, to that feeling of transition, knowing that I would soon be leaving university for a job and a life shared with the person I loved the most. I remember watching her through the studio glass, content in the conviction that could only be possessed by a 23 year-old about to cross a major threshold.

The song still conjures the fearlessness of that day, the certainty that the future would be filled with wine and roses, that it would all unfold exactly as it should.  The recklessness of longing, of getting what you want, and feeling as though it was predestined.  All these things were in my mind as the song faded out, and I mixed it with the instrumental version of the Beach Boys “God Only Knows,” which of course was our song. And seeing the look in her eyes, when she realized exactly what I was up to.  We both started to speak on the air at the same time, so I deferred and let her go first.  “I wanted to ask you if those were backwards guitar solos,” she said smiling, referring to a conversation we’d had the prior evening in the context of some T. Rex songs. That moment was weightless, trapped in amber and filled with the morning light of a beautiful spring day, on the cusp of a summer that remains as magic to me as any I’ve experienced since. All I need to do to bring it back is drop the needle on a record.

Fast forward to this past spring, my morning routine would involve waking up to see my phone on the bedside table, and the immediate anxiety of needing to know what awful things had happened on the East Coast of the United States of America. The masochistic opening of Twitter became such a bloodless, painful exercise that I was numb to the news of the day. During that time, I forgot that social media could have ever been a positive force, that it could offer a happy surprise or news that could turn a day from bad to good.

As is so often the case, I had to piece together the news as it was unfolding, and work backwards a bit to determine if what I had hoped had really come true. The Clientele was reforming! They had a new record and were touring again! Of all the bands I have loved in my life, they hold perhaps the closest place to my heart. From 2001 to 2010 when they disbanded, The Clientele reliably put out records and played shows in Seattle (where we lived) at least every other year.

Those years when my wife and I were establishing our lives together, The Clientele were a regular part of the noise we surrounded ourselves with. We listened to the records, went to the shows with friends, and goddamn, they made me happier than any band ought to have the right to make one person. My wife said something to me offhandedly at a show of theirs, “I love watching you watch this band play,” meaning that I could never contain my happiness when I witnessed them create their lovely music.

Their new album released this fall, Music for the Age of Miracles, is their first since 2010’s mini-album the Minotaur. In an excellent interview, singer Alasdair MacLean mentions that the new record is saturated with the story of Orpheus, the Greek poet and musician whose divine songs moved (almost) all that heard them.

In the context of The Clientele’s return, the story of Orpheus’ trip into the underworld may be read as cautionary, that there is a danger in loving or making music leaning so heavily on nostalgia and memory. Our perception may simply become a hall of mirrors, gazing forever inward, and showing us only what we think we want to see, ourselves. That in looking back, we may lose the thing we love the most. Instead, I feel like this record is a wonderful continuation of a catalog that is (in my mind) unimpeachable, and a welcome return from a band that I believed to have said all it was going to say. It’s easy for me to imagine some far-off day, listening to this music again, and remembering these moments with fondness, of a time when my little girls were so young and delightful and my family was making a new life in a strange town.

DJ Mr. Mom will host a retrospective of his favorite Clientele tunes on his show “Nobody Wants a Lonely Heart,” on Freeform Portland on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 from 10 pm to midnight. You can catch the Clientele in Portland on Friday, November 10th.

What’s the Deal With House Shows?

Mini Blinds (photo by oddmonsterpdx, Instagram)

I walk down the stairs, but get stuck halfway in traffic. The walls are wet with perspiration. I shimmy sideways through a tiny avenue between bodies, only to be confronted with more bodies. The temperature is rising and I continue my slippery shuffle over beer-slicked concrete. Towards the source of excitement. No one seems to be bothered by getting brushed passed, too preoccupied by the sonic momentum of pounding rhythms and singing amplifiers as the crowd pulsated harmonically. The band was in full swing, entranced like Delphic oracles in their artistic rite. The quintessential House show: a critical territory for musical subcultures and a gathering place for creative underdogs.

This is a memory from May 2017, and the house where this show took place has since closed its doors forever after its tenants were evicted for renovations. Despite Portland’s growing economy, many are being priced out of portland due to rising property values and inflation. As Portland’s infrastructure changes, various music scenes face a challenging issue; diminishing public spaces.

Theres nothing for kids to do here, and killing house shows is killing the kids.

There should always been something said for the adaptable tenacity displayed by artists of all kinds, and music is no exception. House shows exist out of a desire to hold the culture closer, and because businesses shouldn’t have a monopoly on live entertainment, and of course, because there are so many musicians and fans under 21. In a city where alcohol is everywhere, many shows are held at bars and missed by young adults., which has been the catalyst for pockets of fringe folks to open their own closely guarded speakeasies and clandestine music halls in their basements, garages, and living rooms.

“There’s nothing for kids to do here, and killing house shows is killing the kids. That hurts all around, because not only are those the future artists, but they’re the one who are excited to spend their money,” says Nathan, former house venue proprietor and local musician. Portland’s all-age venues are noticeably lacking.

Sweet Reaper (photo by edenkittiver, Flickr)

It’s harder than ever to stay afloat financially in portland, many people are working multiple jobs and spending half or more of their income on rent, leaving them too tired or simply unavailable to go to shows, which leads us to the leading cause of scene shrinkage: attendance.  “With venue shows, sometimes you’re lucky if you get anyone there, and if you do, they drink and hang out, maybe they watch your show, maybe they don’t. They don’t want to get moshed into, they don’t want to spill their drink. And as a band member, you are far less likely to see one red cent of whatever money is made. You get your 2 drink tickets and 1 guest list spot, and thats it,” said Nathan Richardson, local musician and former house venue tenant. Undeniably, house shows have a much more lively energy. Perhaps it’s because the generally ore youthful crowd blowing off some steam, but I mostly think it’s that we know we’re getting away with something. For me, going to a show is similar to a religious person going to church. I get the same thing out of it: community, celebration, and a profound sense of inward and outward connection.

“Portland just always changes you know? It’s so cliquey. There’s punks that never show up to certain punk shows, and there’s punks here that don’t even know other punks… It’s a weird city, and its always been weird. It goes through a lot of phases of whats cool and whats not, because it’s a trendsetting city,”  said Nathan. Exclusivity is definitely a factor when it comes to getting more people involved and interested. It’s natural for us to be protective of our environments, especially when authenticity is so readily co-opted by commercial interests, and conversely, its hard to be a new person in a new place, especially with Portland’s newly adopted  xenophobic outlook on those who have recently moved here. Social media and word of mouth are the main forms of promotion when it comes to house shows, which ensures the safety of the event in a semipublic way, but also creates a nepotistic barrier that could potentially be keeping out people who would otherwise be active cultural contributors.

So what can we do to make things better?

Bands always remember the places where the crowd was wild more than others.

Talk to people, reach out, make an attempt to get to know them, and create friendships. Communication is key. Portland people are not always the most outgoing folks, and it can be frustrating trying to find a foothold socially, but that old Mr Rodgers-type idiom says it best: just be yourself.

Mr. Wrong (photo from Mask Magazine)

Resist the urge to not participate. However small, history is made at every show whether the crowd be 5 or 500, and you could be a part of that. Don’t be afraid to have fun and express yourself. Not everyone ‘dances’, but those who do are typically envied at some capacity. Bands always remember the places where the crowd was wild more than others, so if you like what they’re doing, show it.

Behave respectfully. I can think of more than one occasion where someone’s poor behavior or bad decision drew attention from the neighborhood and law enforcement, causing evictions and other undesirable situations. This type of culture venerates autonomy as much as it requires it, and its up to each of us as individuals to display constructive habits as the standard example.

An Appreciation of Guitars Tuned to Air Conditioners

Amidst the usual flurry of new releases, reissues, record store bin surprises, and mixcloud and bandcamp streams, one record has returned to my turntable again and again since its release last year: Guitars Tuned to Air Conditioners by Tim Rutili and Craig Ross.

I admit I don’t really know about Craig Ross beyond this project, although his resume looks quite respectable.  I have been a fan of Rutili’s work in Red Red Meat and Califone, among his other projects.

I realized recently that the real pull of this record is the escape it offers from all the noise of today. With the constant digital bombardment of social media, email, news alerts etc, I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to instrumental music. Language seems increasingly suspect, as facts are mutated and exploited, or simply ignored, in the ever-growing cacophony of discord and acrimony in our popular and political culture. This record provides an antidote to the exhausting compulsion to monitor the news for signs of the turning point, the moment we realize our surreal nightmare is finally going to come to an end. Alternately claustrophobic and expansive, the music provides an escape — you can almost feel the scratchy motel bedcover beneath you as you hear the air conditioner crank up to insulate you from the heat outside. With a long multilayered track to each side, the mind wanders, while periodically dipping back in to the music — I often get to the end of the record not realizing I’ve ended up somewhere very different from the moment I put the needle down. It’s always over before I’m ready to return. The title would indicate a more industrial sound, which isn’t entirely true — despite the mechanical origins, each track manages to have a subtle organic appeal, revealing new elements slowly as the landscape shifts imperceptibly underneath.

Despite the ethereal nature of the record, it is tethered to the substantial plane; the physical package is another lovingly crafted piece from Jealous Butcher records, as part of their Hired Hand series. Like many of their releases, you can feel someone else’s hands on each record, feeding that jones that those of us who fixate on physical media can’t really explain to the uninitiated. Rutili’s work often incorporates a visual component, as evidenced by his photography and film work. Each of the 275 original copies comes numbered in a hand-screened cover, which also contains a 10″ print of a photograph. Of course, it’s also available digitally, so never fear!

Music of Technology: Milton Babbitt and the RCA Mark II

Back in my high school years, when rave went mainstream, I asked a friend, who was a standout cellist, what he thought of electronic music. He said, “Do you mean the stuff composers were doing in the late fifties and early sixties? It was kind of a fad.” I nodded to disguise the fact that my classical knowledge amounted to the soundtrack of the film Amadeus; however, this factoid was archived in my brain when I took the leap from avant-garde rockers to modernist composers and heard Milton Babbitt’s synthesizer opera Philomel (1964).

Babbitt was as academic of a composer as one can get: mathematician, Princeton professor and 12-tone serialism chauvinist, he is nevertheless most known for the punk rock sounding essay “Who Cares if You Listen?” which caused a lot of angry letters to the editor of High Fidelity magazine in 1958. Although he later claimed that the editor changed the title from “The Composer as a Specialist” his stance against the popular is strident and approaches the great American taboo of elitism:

“And so, I dare suggest that the composer would do himself and his music an immediate and eventual service by total, resolute, and voluntary withdrawal from this public world to one of private performance and electronic media, with its very real possibility of complete elimination of the public and social aspects of musical composition. By so doing, the separation between the domains would be defined beyond any possibility of confusion of categories, and the composer would be free to pursue a private life of professional achievement, as opposed to a public life of unprofessional compromise and exhibitionism.”

And what electronic media did Babbitt withdraw to? A research synthesizer larger than your studio apartment. The RCA Mark II was golden age Cold War technology, implemented to demonstrate American exceptionalism and maximize efficiency, the latter of which Babbitt was most interested in. Why deal with an orchestra and conductor when you can get exactly what you want? It is rumored that Igor Stravinsky, no stranger to music controversy, suffered a stroke when witnessing Babbitt operating the paper tape binary sequencer of the RCA Mark II. Did he believe that the end of the composer was nigh, or entertain visions of complete creative control?

Fifty-three years later, Babbitt’s Philomel is an epoch of classical music when electro-curiosity ruled the academy. The incredible soprano Bethany Beardslee thrusts her voice between the pulses of the RCA Mark II to tell Ovid’s myth of violence and metamorphosis. Bleeps and bloops stand in for rousing crescendos. Mathematical sequences upstage the drama. But for all the rigor that early electronic music exudes, it doesn’t seem out of place in the current music landscape. An uncompromising artist can be popular and voluntary withdrawal from the public hasn’t stopped many “outsider” musicians from getting heard. Even more important, the offspring of technology like the RCA Mark II has allowed the public to be the composer. It’s highly conceivable that a modern day Bethany Beardslee could lay down a version of Philomel with a Casio SK-1 and Garageband in her bedroom, which is something I would care to listen to.

Richard Lloyd, Guitar Player

Richard Lloyd was a guitar player in the band Television. Not the rhythm guitar player. Not the second guitar player.

No.

One of the two guitar players in the band.

He and the other more well-known guitarist Tom Verlaine took turns taking solos when the band played or recorded. The solos are credited in the liner notes for both of the band’s original two albums, Marquee Moon and Adventure. Despite that simple fact (and the songwriting credits) what is never made clear to the listener is what an integral part Lloyd played in the sonic construction of each song. He was the sinew and the strength on which each songs was constructed. He attacked the melody and drove it home.

He was the heart of the Television engine.

This was only made clear to me by seeing the band perform live during a 1992 reunion tour. I was a bit shocked to see and hear Richard Lloyd plays riffs and refrains in the songs that I had in my mind attributed to Tom Verlaine. Mister Verlaine for the most part played rhythm guitar parts so he could sing and took the occasional closed eyed solo.

In the meantime, in each song, all of what I considered to be signature little bits and hooks were sent flying into the air and our ears from the fingers of Richard Lloyd.

Television is not a jam band, not a groove band. They are a band that builds on a solid foundation of interlocking guitar riffs. one guitar playing a part, while a second guitar plays something that compliments or fills in from what the first guitar part has not played. Thus filling the space over a steady beat by the drummer and bass player. By this measure Richard Lloyd was the more important guitar figure in the band, as he was the one responsible for many signature parts throughout the songs, while Tom Verlaine was often playing rhythm guitar, singing lyrics, and then coloring songs with an unusual solo.

On the occasion when Lloyd took a guitar solo, as in “See No Evil”, the lead off track from the album Marquee Moon, it is a burst or explosion of pent up force, peeled off of taut strings.

After the band’s second record Adventure the band faded out somewhat and broke up.

Both of the guitarists recorded solo records in 1979– Tom Verlaine’s album being somewhat reminiscent of Television, featuring a couple of songs that the band had performed live but had never recorded in the studio, while Lloyd’s solo album, entitled “Alchemy” was a bit of a departure, a bit more poppy than one might have expected.

It was not until 1985 that the integral part of his partnership with Tom Verlaine began to be apparent to myself, with the release of his second solo record Field Of Fire.

It is an album strewn with interlocking guitar parts, riffs built upon opposing riffs, and ripping muscular solos, a definitive piece of work by a musician on sure footing with his past efforts in his prior band, embracing what he had built in the past, and owning it. I came to understand over the years with subsequent albums, and seeing Television perform reunion shows, that every aspect of “Television-esque” guitar on his solo records was not derivative, but original, as he was in fact the instigator of what I have come to know as a style.

I am happy to say that he has been quite a bit more prolific than his former band mate, having released a number of solo records (one of which is the Jimi Hendrix covers album The Jaime Neverts Story), plus he has been a guitar player for hire for the likes of Matthew Sweet and reformed Cleveland pre-punk legends Rocket From the Tombs, taking the place of now sadly deceased Peter Laughner.

On October 24th 2017, his memoir Everything Is Combustible was published and placed onto retail bookstore shelves. As I write this piece, I am about one third finished with the book. It’s a  truthful document of a unique individual, whom I am pleased to say has made me happy hundreds of times over with his recorded legacy. An influence that has been felt all around the world by virtue of his key part of being the band in the early CBGB’s scene, which went on to include The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, etc. The force of this music inspired or influenced kids in the U.K. to form bands such as Sex Pistols, The Clash, Subway Sect and the Buzzcocks, as well as inspire the likes of Echo & The Bunnymen, R.E.M. and many more bands.

Marquee Moon consistently places on lists of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll records, or lists of best debut albums, and will no doubt continue to be discovered and re-discovered as long as there is music.

Thank you Richard Lloyd!

Olivia Newton John – A True Story

I was impressed. She swam with dolphins! Could I be Olivia? I wrapped a white headband around my knotted mane, hoisted leotards and leg warmers over my limbs, then dropped the needle. Toes tapped in place. Dolphin. Guitar. Waves. Drum. Dolphin. Guitar. Waves. I shook my hips sideways, remembering moves from kindergarten dance class, mostly bland choreographies plucked from a book. I could do better. I held my breath and waited for her to start singing. One. Two. Three. Across the room I bounded in cartwheels, belting along. Imaginary dolphins at my side, ocean waves too.

Show Review: Screaming Females – Mississippi Studios

Indie rock? Sure, whatever you want to call it. The Screaming Females remind me a lot of Sleater-Kinney for two reasons. First, their sound leans more towards harder rock played with determination. Second, Marissa Paternoster’s voice is unmistakeable. The classifications and influences aside all you really need to know is that the Screaming Females rock and you should go see them.

Michael Abbate on bass and Jarrett Dougherty on Guitar played wonderfully in sync and set the foundation for the band’s sonic experience. They play with a confidence that sets the stage for Paternoster’s guitar to rip and riff as she wishes. More importantly it grounds their songs as Paternoster’s voice pierces the music and commands your attention.

The highlight of the show was “Glass House,” off the new album All at Once.

The first part of the song began with Paternoster on stage alone as the rest of the band took a breather. As she began, the song allowed Paternoster to showcase her talent as a powerful singer. Her voice overflowed with sorrow, supported only by her melancholy guitar. Abbate and Dougherty joined her on stage and the song soars into the refrain  “my life is this glass house/ impossible to get out.” That song was something special and confirmed that the Screaming Females are only expanding their talents and continuing to bring their fans new music that stands on its own.

Ghost Songs

*Disclaimer: I’m just a human, but decided to write this post in the voice of a ghost. Happy Halloween!

I love when October rolls around. It’s the one time of year when even the non-believers sort of, at least kind of, acknowledge the idea of ghosts. Yes, I am a ghost.*

October: Finally a chance to shine, even if I’m just a shade. When my ghost-hand whispers across your sleeping face at exactly 3:33 AM, maybe you’ll think twice before assuming it was all just a dream.

(It was me!)

Why am i here?

I recently began wondering what I am and why I’m here. While contemplating my existence, I thought about ghost songs. Some of our oldest ghost stories were passed forward through time by way of music, contained and carried within song.

Margaret and William

Perhaps the most storied ghosts in songs are called Margaret and William. I have yet to find examples of them being ghosts at the same time. Sometimes Margaret is the ghost, and sometimes it’s William. Sometimes Margaret isn’t even called Margaret, which is probably pretty confusing for William.

Margaret and William just can’t seem to find middle ground, no matter what variation songwriters explore. Their relationship consists of haunting one another, and sometimes William saying, “And let me kiss those cold corpsy lips,” which is probably one of the creepiest pickup lines I’ve ever heard (and I’m a ghost*).

Margaret is called Little, Fair, Proud, and sometimes even Pretty Polly. It’s unclear how Pretty Polly was derived from the name Margaret, though this strongly suggests she’s associated with Pretty Polly from the traditional murder ballad, which has a less romantic, less ghostly story behind it.

William is always referred to as Sweet, whether ghost or alive, and so is presumably one of the best ghosts or living beings you could run into. Maybe just don’t let him kiss you. Fortunately, he’d probably say something super awkward and ruin the mood with his morbidity before this would even become a possibility.

Also, if Margaret really is related to the Pretty Polly of the murder ballad, then Sweet William could very well be a close relation to her cruel killer, Little Willie. Not so sweet after all, William?

The Songs

Here’s one variation on the star-crossed love story of Margaret and William. It’s called “Sweet William’s Ghost”, performed by the UK folk group The Spinners**. The intro to this recording even briefly describes the history of William and Margaret in British folk songs.

**Note: This is a folkier, and lesser known The Spinners from the UK, not to be confused with the Detroit R&B group The Spinners who recorded such nostalgic, soulful favorites as “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” and “I’ll Be Around” in the early 1970s.

The English folk song “The Unquiet Grave” is thought to be related to “Sweet William’s Ghost”. Here’s Shirley Collins, who played an important role in the English Folk Revival of the 1960s.

Here’s one starring Margaret: “Little Margaret” by Karen Dalton. This version was recorded privately by Dalton and her close friend, Joe Loop, while ensconced in a cottage in Boulder, Colorado in 1962/1963.

Buffy Sainte Marie also sings of Margaret in her 1966 song “Lady Margaret”. This if off her third album, Little Wheel Spin and Spin.

Here’s a nice list on different variations of Fair Margaret and Sweet William.

Wuthering Heights

Some aspects of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights appear to be inspired by William and Margaret’s story. Heathcliff might be the super angsty shadow version of Sweet William. They both enjoy kissing the cold corpsy lips of their lost loves – though Heathcliff passionately shakes Cathy’s corpse in his arms, and curses her to haunt him and never find peace, while Sweet William falls asleep with Margaret’s corpse in his arms, usually after kissing her three times. As a ghost*, I’m kind of disturbed by both scenarios.

In 1978 Kate Bush wrote a hit song from Cathy’s perspective. Cathy’s very cold, and won’t Heathcliff just let her in through his window so she can grab his soul away? Soul grabbing is so romantic and not scary at all. Come on, Heathcliff, what do you say?

If you’ve never seen the music videos for “Wuthering Heights” they’re must-sees. Here’s a version to start with.

Final thoughts

I still don’t understand why I exist, and what a ghost really is, but may we all spend some quality time with our ghostly loves as the veil between worlds thins for the holiday season. Happy Halloween!