Okay. Here’s the picture. Its 1971, probably, or maybe 1970. It’s late at night: and tucked up in bed in my a tiny, cosy box room of a bedroom in 74 Jubilee Road. I’ve positioned my bed, and myself in the bed, so that I can rest my transistor radio on the windowsill and near my ear. Is it Radio Luxembourg I’m listening to (was that still around then?) or some more obscure all late night radio one programme? I would thrill to hear things like Moonshadow by Cat Stevens or It’s too Late by Carole King.. and such.
And this song came on. I knew James Taylor of course. I probably already had ‘Sweet Baby James’ (Christmas 1970) and had seen him at least once on BBC’s iconic ‘In concert’ series. Did I know then of the existence of his first London-made Beatles finished Asher produced Apple album? I don’t think so. And I’d certainly never heard this song before, when it came over the airwaves on my scratchy little transistor radio; but it sent a little chill through me. Mm
Off course, I loved the unfamiliarity of it, the fact of its existence as a hitherto unknown treasure (in the same way that I began to chase and mythologise the early unreleased songs of Joni Mitchell) but it was more than that. Even at first listen, there is something so finely crafted about the song, its two simple verses (and I think I’ve always liked songs, and poems, organized into two mirroring stanzas); the diction crystal clear, and the appealing frisson –particularly appealing of course to the romantic 17 year old –of flight, escape, movement, adventure…
‘That restless feeling…’ –what adolescent could fail to identify with that? –and with the idea that the signs of invitation were all around –‘road maps in a well cracked ceiling’. And there was that delightful youthful sense of holding lightly to things – and even relationships? -travelling light, in order to follow the restless quest: ‘take some bacon/go and leave that watch chain…’, ‘… Pack my bags/and leave them all behind…’
Richard Rohr, the Franciscan active–contemplative whose book about the male quest I’m reading this year (one meditation per day) would heartily approve, I think.