Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Album for All Seasons

My memory of "90125," the Yes album that was released 30 years ago today, is bound to be different from most people's.

Sometime after it was released, I was called in to the offices of the Arkansas Gazette to interview for a job opening on the sports copy desk. After the interview, I was so sure I would get the job (and I did) that I bought "90125" on my way home that night. I listened to it all evening after I got home. Even today, when I listen to it, my mind flashes back to that evening.

I continued to listen to it nearly every day after I got the job and as I prepared to move to an apartment in Little Rock. It became the soundtrack for that period in my life. To this day, I cannot listen to it without thinking of those days.

The job at the Gazette required me to work nights — until after midnight. I remember listening to "90125" most nights when I got home. I tried to keep the sound down, but my neighbors must have heard it at times. They were good sports, though. No one ever complained.

The big hit from the album was "Owner of a Lonely Heart," which is still probably the most recognizable track from the album.

(By the way, I always thought the title of the album had some kind of significance — but I just didn't know what it was. Turns out there was a good reason why I didn't know. There was no significance, none at all. It was lifted from its Atco Records catalog number: 7–90125–1.)

"Owner of a Lonely Heart" was already a hit when the album was released on this date in 1983; it is probably still the most recognized track. Three other songs from the album — "It Can Happen," "Leave It" and "Hold On" — were released as singles in the months that followed, but none ever duplicated the success of "Owner of a Lonely Heart." Not even close.

"Leave It" started getting a lot of airplay a few months after the album was released. I had Mondays and Tuesdays off in those days, and I often drove to Hot Springs to watch the horses run at Oaklawn Park that spring.

Even though I worked in the sports department and had the advantage (if that is what you want to call it) of the insights of my co–workers (including the fellow who covered the horses for us), I never did very well at the track. At a certain point on those occasions, "Leave It" started playing in my head. It was good advice, and I usually had the good sense to follow it.

And so it is that I have a mental link between "Leave It" and my afternoons at the track.

"It Can Happen" was making the rounds of the radio stations that summer. I always liked it. I'm not sure why.

Maybe it was the upbeat message of the song. Maybe it was the sitar — it was simultaneously reminiscent of my early childhood, when I heard the sitar in Beatles songs, and of my teen years, when my father listened to a lot of Ravi Shankar's music. Both were certainly influences on my musical tastes.

If "It Can Happen" and "Leave It" had been released in reverse order, I might not have had the good sense to leave the race track when I did because "It Can Happen" would have been sending me an entirely different kind of message as it played endlessly in my head.

"Hold On" was released two years to the day after the album was released. I'm not sure what kind of message I would have taken from it if it had been a hit when I frequented the race track.

As the title suggests, it offers encouragement to anyone facing a formidable challenge. It isn't an original title. There were already lots of songs with that title when this one was recorded, and there have been many more since.

So, clearly, the title wasn't unique. Was the message unique? Not really. Trials and tribulations have always been part of life and always will be. That's what makes a song like "Hold On" so universal. We've all been there (or will be), and most of us can empathize with others when they're up against hard times.

At least in my case — and I'm sure it must be this way for others — "90125" was an album for all seasons. It motivated, advised, encouraged and commiserated.