I was just driving in a rainstorm pushing the buttons on my XM receiver and I heard this.
Funny about music. There’s stuff that you get immediately, that’s so in the pocket you just want to sit in your car and marinate in it.
That’s what I did. Sat in my garage feeling that someone understood me.
Funny society we live in. Everybody’s upbeat and at ‘em and I feel this way sometimes but often I’m reflecting, sitting in front of the picture window, staring at the world outside, sitting in the seat of my Saabaru contemplating what’s on the other side of the windscreen… Feeling positively alone, yet part of something, much bigger than myself. The world. I’m just a speck of dust, here today, gone soon, but while I’m here I’m just as vital as anybody and anything, the President of the United States, the bird on the wire, the dust blowing on the prairie.
I couldn’t make out all of the words.
And for some reason the title was not displayed in my radio readout. The song before was, and the one after was, but not this one. Obviously it was Mark Knopfler. But what was the name of the song? Even though it wasn’t over, I needed to hear it again.
Mark Knopfler. He and his band Dire Straits had immediate impact with “Sultans Of Swing.” They were on Warner Brothers in America, which knew how to do this stuff. But outside the U.S. they were on PolyGram, which was a powerhouse overseas. As a result, Dire Straits became the biggest band in the world, playing stadia wherever they went. Yup, just a guy and his guitar with his mates, just music, no dancing, oh what a magical time it was.
But then it was too much. Mark broke it down, decided he was more interested in his muse than the fame. He went solo, and he’s never been as big. But there’s this one cut he did, more than half a decade back, that I positively loved. “This Is Us,” a duet with Emmylou Harris. And I played that album, 2006’s “All The Roadrunning,” but I loved nothing quite as much. I wanted to dig deeper, but I didn’t know how.
And now I’m in my automobile and there’s this song I’ve never heard that I think I’ve known my whole life. Like a secret brother, a long lost uncle.
Thank the deejay.
So I came inside and started doing research. I figured the track was from Mark’s new album, “Privateering.” But I sampled every cut on the album and didn’t find it.
I was going through every Knopfler track, every album in reverse order, from new to old, and I wasn’t finding it. Then serendipitously I got an e-mail from the deejay, Mike Marrone, and he revealed what I needed to know, the song was “Prairie Wedding,” from Mark’s 2000 album “Sailing To Philadelphia.” It might be thirteen years old, but it’s brand new to me. It’s like uncovering a Dead Sea Scroll. That’s what’s great about music, for all the focus on the brand new, everything’s a land mine, just waiting for your discovery. Right now, Led Zeppelin is new to somebody. Can you imagine that? Hearing “Whole Lotta Love” and then stumbling upon “Physical Graffiti”?
And what you hear on the radio so often is not as good when you’ve got the ability to hear it ad infinitum at home.
But that’s not the case with “Prairie Wedding.” I love it even more. Hearing it and reading the lyrics…I’m reminded of nothing so much as “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” my favorite Robert Altman film. You remember, “If a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass so much!” That’s what small time player Warren Beatty says during a card game, but you can barely hear it, because Altman recorded sound on multiple tracks and mixed them together to replicate real life. And in real life you miss stuff.
And you’re so used to Warren Beatty being an all-knowing winner. But not in this movie. And there’s Keith Carradine as the naive warm-hearted cowboy. And there’s Julie Christie and Leonard Cohen songs and a bunch of snow and I’d recommend the flick except it might be too much for those who like “Avengers” and the obvious stuff. Yes, there’s story in “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” but it’s truly about the aforementioned feel. Just like in “Prairie Wedding.” There’s a story too, but you get the message from the feel.
Think you could love me Mary
Think we got a chance of a life
Do you think you could love me Mary
Now you are to be my wife
Imagine how lonely he was. How desperate she was. No social network, no Internet dating, just a business deal.
We finally headed out of the station
And we drove up the home trail
And when we came on the farm she laid a hand on my arm
I thought my resolution would fail
That’s the power of touch. I’m not good with it, never being touched growing up. I don’t trust it, but when I don’t recoil, when I get over my heebie-jeebies, it roots me, makes me feel so good.
And I froze as she stepped in the doorway
Stood there as still as could be
I said I know it ain’t much, it needs a woman’s touch
Lord, she turned around and looked at me
We all need a woman’s touch. We’re clueless without them.
When the sun’s going down on the prairie
And the gold in her hair is aflame
I say do you really love me Mary and
I hold her and I whisper her name
We’re all unsure. Do they love us or not? People are not like records. They can betray you, abandon you. Doesn’t matter if you live in the city or nowheresville. Then again, the more isolated you are, the more you fear being left. It’s just too painful.
Funny how these Englishmen are fascinated with the American West. Hell, Elton John’s best album is “Tumbleweed Connection.” They’re kind of like these mail-order brides. Unhappy where they are, dreaming of a better life in the new territory.
“Prairie Wedding” is the music for all those who hate the Top Forty. Who believe in subtlety as opposed to being banged on the head. It’s what you discover when you grow out of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. When you need your music to be protein instead of sugar.
This gem’s been hiding in plain sight for over a decade.
Today I discovered it.
And I’ll never forget it.