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Open Letter

When I get up, I sit for a moment on the side of the bed, I stare at the floor, and I say, "Fuck." Every morning. Every single morning. Doesn't matter how great a day might theoretically lay ahead. That's what I say, and that's how I feel. I have one variation: Sometimes I say "Oh" first.

I wonder if it's any better for you, getting up at a time which is really very late at night and doesn't count as morning at all. I'm going to bet it's not - you still have to haul yourself out of bed like anyone else, and Daylight Savings Time would have to be quadrupled before it made a dent in your morning horizon.

Yes, morning is a very bleak time for me. The last thing I want to hear before breakfast is something like "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie, which you played again today. I mean, have you listened to this yourself? "Love of mine, some day you will die/But I'll be close behind to follow you into the dark." And that's the upbeat part.

I'm already in the dark at that time of day, regardless of Daylight Savings Time. I don't want anyone to follow me, I need someone to lead me out of it. And how about that new posthumously-released Johnny Cash song, "God's Gonna Cut You Down," which 'XRT is giving far too much airtime? That's just what I need: "You can run on for a long time, sooner or later God'll cut ya down." I guess I'd wear solid black every day too if I believed that.

I also don't want to hear "Crazy Mary" by Pearl Jam, or anything whatsoever by Depeche Mode. Is that so wrong, Lin? Am I a bad person because I can't stand excruciatingly depressing music before 9 a.m.?

Remember the old partying adage, "Too early for Floyd"? This was a phrase that translated as, "Please postpone playing any selection from Pink Floyd, as your party guests wish to remain upright and ambulatory for a little while longer, or at least until the pot has run out." I'm just applying this ageless rock wisdom to the morning. In this case, "Too early for Floyd" means "Play all the Pink Floyd you like, just play it after I've dressed and left the house."

I hail the power and value of very depressing works of art in all genres. But I don't get up in the morning and read Elie Wiesel's Night while I eat my cereal. I don't switch from Good Morning America to a video of Terms of Endearment cued up to the scene where the dying Debra Winger says goodbye to her kids. Of course, I'd rather shoot myself than watch Good Morning America. I just meant that as a hypothetical example. I'm not watching TV at all in the morning - I'm listening to you. So if you play music that makes me want to shoot myself, well then, I might as well watch Good Morning America.

I realize it would be impractical for me to provide you with a list of songs I find acceptable for your time period. But it could be helpful to establish some broad guidelines, no? Just to reassure you that I am not unreasonable, let me emphasize that I don't mind depressing lyrics in the morning, so long as the song has a great hook or bass line. Let's just skip the combination of depressing voices and music, regardless of lyrics. This would include slow, dirge-like music (the aforementioned Depeche Mode) and whiny or sad voices.

You might think this would immediately disqualify, for instance, The Cure, but not so - here is an example of often depressing lyrics coupled with snappy music which cancels out the whiny voice. Bring on tunes like "In Between Days" and "Boys Don't Cry." But dump any Sarah McLachlan, an artist all too frequently heard on 'XRT at all times of day.

We'll make an exception for James McMurtry's "We Can't Make It Here" because of its kick-ass social value, and because I know he's a big favorite of yours.

What do you think, Lin - is it OK to skip the hard stuff in the morning? Would you feel unreasonably constrained if you cut out any depressing songs prior to 9 a.m., when such a large percentage of your listeners are within easy reach of medicine cabinets packed with sharp implements and potentially lethal drugs? I hope not, because I enjoy having you for my best friend in the whole world, at least for a few hours each morning. Except when you play music that makes me want to slit my wrists.

Sincerely,

Cate Plys

*

Open Letter is open to letters; brighten up my morning and send some. What songs and bands are most likely to drive you off a ledge in the wee hours? Or do you get up and listen to oral histories of the Dust Bowl while you brush your teeth? Send to cateplys@sbcglobal.net.



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Posted on February 19, 2007


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