Led Zeppelin – Friends. “looking for what I knew”
The third Led Zep album. I remember one of the sisters of my friend had this LP, complete with the rotating volvelle. It was intriguing as it seemed less straight ahead rock, and more pastoral/acoustic in the overall style.
There comes a point in trying to remember a friendship that was some 40 years in the past, however pivotal, that the striking memories and the broader recollection of character, the emotional associations, the environmental context have been described and I find myself wondering if that was all there is is left of the 5-10 years we knew each other – flickering mental images? Not even conversations, but vague ideas of what he brought out in me, filtered through and shaded by so many encounters since those days.
I don’t remember us listening to particular songs, just that there are record sleeves and cassette inlays that stir up mud from the pond of my deep memories. But listening to Friends now, there are resonances and associations triggered that seem valid to draw attention to.
“The greatest thing you ever can do now, is trade a smile with someone who’s blue now”
My friend died in sad circumstances. Our life paths and choices had taken us far away from each other in the decades since I left Worcestershire. I’d lost touch with almost everything about him, and he would have been a very different person than the boy I knew. There is very little chance that I could have made a difference. Many people pass through our lives, and we pass through the lives of many others in our turn. Some relationships, connections, exchanges will inevitably be shorter-lasting than others. And yet, seeing a video of him shortly after I’d heard the bad news, there was something of the friend I knew in the expression on his face, the intonation of his voice and and particularly the look in his eyes. Early years form the core of who we are and that remains like the central tree ring in the trunk of our ever-developing being. Of course now it is idle speculation, but who knows what long-forgotten connections would have been reactivated if, for some reason, we’d found our ways into each other’s lives again.
“It’s very easy just…”
Knowing the right thing to do, having the courage to reach beyond the normal patterns of behaviour, finding the right words to say at the apposite time. Sometimes I feel these things are beyond me. There have been several times over the years when a passivity on my part, a lack of understanding of what the other person is going through, a selfish or thoughtless choice of action have left me wondering if I had acted differently, the person involved might still be alive. Again, idle speculation – in the end, we all go.
And yet some things stay the same. It strikes me how amazing that the song I am listening to now is exactly the same pattern of sound waves as was the case when listening to it back in the seventies, almost as if it was a portal to a previous era.
It’s not, and the past cannot be changed. But it does no harm to try to remember and celebrate those we used to know.