Friday, 5 August 2016


Attention Shoppers: Mick Jagger Is Live on the Meat Aisle

I like going grocery shopping. The store we frequent is a Save On Foods, modest in scale and delightfully devoid of harsh vitamin piss yellow lighting and signage. Ann and I know where everything is, including the items that are a dollar or two too much. We groan every Thursday morning when Darrell, the chain’s president, writes something like boneless, skinless chicken breasts this week are “cheap, cheap, cheap!” Of course we have “flipped” over specials on sirloin burgers.

Ann and I have really enjoyed our experience at Save On since the obese cashier with bad hips retired. Jackie used to lean against the counter to support herself while examining every item from every angle before scanning its bar code, making remarks and asking questions. The pain of purchasing for us became acute. Life lifts up and turns around. At the store lately I’ve been rocking out in front of the Triscuits and the Cheese Nips. The best incidental music I’ve been bopping to these days is playing, God help me and saints preserve us, at the grocery store.

Commercial classic rock radio has reduced the Who’s entire catalogue to three songs. ‘Join Together,’ a non-album single from their early 70s heyday did not make the short list. Yet it was playing in Save On while I selected a cart with a handle that didn’t seem overly icky – in the winter you can keep your gloves on and not present as a little odd. It took most of my willpower not to air windmill in front of the green, red and yellow peppers. Ann was intent on her list; she didn’t hear the magic in the air. This ain’t Muzak!

Next up was the Rolling Stones butchering the Temptations. Not their note by rote cover of ‘My Girl’ but ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’ inelegantly and gorgeously pummeled. If you cover somebody else’s hit you better put your stamp on your version. I couldn’t help myself, my elbows sharpened, went up, and my lips pouted, a half pirouette in the bakery twisting the meat counter into view. Moments later I was Mick Ronson strumming and watching that man, Bowie, as he sang ‘Rebel Rebel,’ honey.

For a finite amount of time in the mid-70s it seemed as if Aerosmith had discovered rock music’s philosopher stone. Rocks was their fourth and finest album and they’d somehow managed to meld the Stones and Led Zeppelin together over two sides; it’s the only record of theirs I still play with infrequent regularity. One of the radio hits was ‘Back in the Saddle:’ “I’m baaaaack!” As I pondered the selection of frozen thin crust pizzas mouthing “I’m riding, this rig is gonna rattle” I was bemused by the fact that ‘Sick as a Dog,’ the album’s best song and perhaps the band’s best song ever, was never a hit. ‘Sick as a Dog’ is the funhouse mirror of prime Aerosmith songwriting. The drawn out verbal hook “Pleeease” predicates each new line of a verse rather than signaling the chorus as in ‘Last Child’ or ‘Sweet Emotion.’

Things got weird in the dairy section by the milk and cartons of free run eggs laid by relatively happy chickens who are free to exhibit some forms of natural behaviour within a controlled environment. I heard my death song. More specifically, a song I believe I might like to have played at my funeral (the celebration of Geoff’s death) even though I probably won’t get to hear it and nobody will pay attention to the words anyway. I should probably write the selection down somewhere too because if I don’t choose my deep six music Ann will and she will only be able to tell herself and others, “I’m pretty sure I think that’s what he would’ve wanted.” (Ann knows all about ‘Tumbling Dice’ so I know we’re golden all over the place anyway however it all shakes down.) Joe Walsh’s mariachi flavoured ‘Life of Illusion’ nails the human condition: “Pow! Right between the eyes! Oh, how Nature loves her little surprises.” And perhaps offers some startled insight from the sifted cremains in the urn: “Wow! It all seems so logical now!”

Checkout was a breeze. But as I collected our bags I felt a pang about Jackie, I kind of wished she was still working because a song I haven’t heard in 20 years started playing over the sound system. If we’d been in her lengthy, crawling line I could’ve listened to Dave Mason’s ‘Only You Know and I Know’ in its entirety. Unfortunately it was time to go, don’t you know?

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