The barber was almost done with my haircut when I heard the beginning of a song on a tiny radio. First, a single beat of a drum along with the piano, followed by the guitar and then the vibrating organ. From the first sound, it grabbed my complete attention with its beautiful melody.
I couldn’t understand a word. The lyrics were in English. Before I heard this song I had listened to the Beatles and Elvis. Great music indeed but nothing quite like this. The song went straight to my heart. At that moment I would’ve given anything to be able to understand the lyrics.
Up to that point, my young mind had refused to accept other kinds of music, for me, only rock existed. My mind blocked everything else. My inability to understand the lyrics wasn’t an inconvenience for me to enjoy it.
I was fifteen years old, living in Mexico in the summer of 1966. In those days I didn’t have a single friend that liked rock and roll as much as I did.
By the time the barber finished, the song wasn’t over yet. I stood there paralyzed. Looking at myself in the mirror, wishing for the song to never end. Then, I noticed the barber staring at me. I was sure he was thinking . . . ‘what’s wrong with this stupid kid?’
But he was right, I was a stupid kid because, if I could run to my house fast enough I could listen to the rest of the song and maybe catch the title. I was three blocks away from home. And I ran. I didn’t see the cracked sidewalks, or the unpaved roads, or my friends playing soccer on the street, or the grocery store, or the butcher shop. I didn’t hear the birds singing, or the dogs barking, or any noise at all. I was still listening to the most beautiful song I have ever heard.
We used to live on the second floor of a two-story house. I was up there in a flash. I went to my room and turned the radio on. I could still listen about a minute of it. The humble authoritative angry voice, the sweet sad harmonica drilling the core of my soul. And the part where the organ cried full of joy… or pain. It induced my first mental orgasm.
They said the name of the song and who played it. I knew that very instant that I had to buy it immediately.
I went to ask my three sisters for money. The first one, to no avail, she was the stingy one. The second one, the pious one, I asked her for church money for the next day. And the third one, the one that loved me the most, I told her the truth and she gave me the rest.
I got the record. They used to call them 45s because they used to turn forty-five revolutions per minute (RPM). I played it all afternoon. I even marked the record and counted how many turns made in a minute. They were right; forty-five times per minute, in total about 280 times. I played that song dozens of times that day, loving the song, even more, every time I played it. That moment I promised myself that I would learn the English language before I die.
Anybody could get bored after listening to the same song a few times in a row, but not me, not with that song. That night I didn’t even watch TV. I had dinner and then I took a shower and went back to my room to listen to “my song” a few more times before I went to bed and fell asleep.
It was probably past midnight when the sound of music woke me up. I stood up and turned the light on, then I turned the record player off and went back to sleep. But the music woke me up again. This time, it was the radio, but it was playing the same song. And once again, I turned it off.
The same thing happened once again. Pissed off and scared at the same time, I disconnected the cable from the plug and from the radio. I pulled it from the wall, removed the batteries, and put it under the bed. That should do it.
The next time it happened, I was out of my mind. I didn’t want to open my eyes. I thought Satan was playing tricks on me under my bed. I gathered all my courage and went under the bed. I was having the most terrifying thoughts. I imagined Lucifer grabbing my arms and dragging me to hell. But no, the only thing down there was my record player. I took it and threw it to the cement floor downstairs, where it broke in a million pieces.
In the morning my mom was poking my ribs and saying, “Wake up son, we have to go to church.”
I opened my eyes, and I saw my record player in one piece with my new record still on it, unbroken and ready to be played.
But first, I had to go to church and pray.
And I begged God to allow me to enjoy music again, without receiving any kind of punishment in return.
“Like A Rolling Stone” Bob Dylan. Duration: 6:31
2004 Best Song of all time. Rolling Stone Magazine.
Visalia, CA. 06-04-2012