When I was younger, my best friend, Heather, was often my biggest influence. She was a year older than me, and much cooler, by far. And while we often thought exactly the same way about any topic from TV to fishing, our differences became obvious when it came to music. She liked the moody singer-songwriters, and I was into everything from pop to classical.
One year, she brought me Sting’s “Dream of the Blue Turtles” album, and I didn’t know what to do with it. His songs weren’t mainstream. They were full of strange rhythms, instruments, and political leanings I wasn’t used to. Where were the sappy love songs I could play over and over with my heart ready to burst? Where were the catchy tunes we could dance to? What were these songs about bombs and uprisings? Frankly, I didn’t get it. But I never told her that.
And I never bought another Sting album. But for some reason, this one stuck in my head for years as being important to me somehow. Recently, someone on Facebook posted a video of a live performance for his latest album, “The Last Ship”, a group of songs destined for a musical by the same name to debut this fall. A musical??? What is this man doing? Has he lost the plot completely?
But I listened. The first song, “When the Last Ship Sails” caught me off guard. It wasn’t something that would ever work on mainstream radio, and if an artist came out with music like this in a debut, he’d either be stuck writing musicals or laughed off the stage. For some reason though, I got it. Maybe because language is what takes up the most space in my head these days. The imagery alone did it for me, even without his photos of the monsterous ship at the end of his street. It told a story in a very different way, with onomatopeic lines (“the roar of the chains and the cracking of timbers”) that roused my imagination. And now I can’t stop listening. Period.
Even though my latest WIP doesn’t have anything to do with sailing, it’s funny where inspiration will strike. The idea of stepping away from mainstream, about being lyrical and poetic, doing the unexpected …..these are the things that are swirling around my head as I write. And I feel apprecitative to my long lost friend for trying to show me the beauty of that thought so many years ago. Thank you, Heather!