The other day, I posed a hypothetical to my husband: “What if vinyl records get recalled because the material is needed for human survival?” I was imagining records being turned into some fuel or heat source. He didn’t find this very likely. I tried another: “What if the record collectors of North America are forced into migrant status? Are we going to carry our record collections and stereos around with us from place to place?” I was imagining Toronto being ravaged by some climate catastrophe, us being left with no choice but to flee with, at most, the necessities we can carry, shutting the door on our apartment and our record collection forever. This forced me to realize that we are only able to have a record collection because we have a steady place to live.
Years ago in some small northeastern U.S. town, I was granted access into the apartment-sized record collection of some Old Head who shall remain nameless. This was not the place where this person lived. This was where their collection “lived,” as if it was a human being that could appreciate the tall ceilings and old wood floors. Kind of like how, legally, a corporation is recognized as a “person.” What is the impact of viewing a collection as a living entity? And what about the ecological footprints of our collections? Each record is shipped somewhere, and that imprecise statistic alone frightens me. I sometimes wonder if we are a community of music lovers or a community of fossil fuel-addicted, private-property beneficiaries? The truth is that we are both, and that’s okay. Life is an incessant paradox.
A package arrives at my door containing Ted Hawkins’ Watch Your Step LPand I forget all the hypotheticals, statistics, and impotent guilt. I’m absorbed in the nutrition of good music. I’ve needed this record in my collection ever since I was on tour lying in some Berlin hostel bed with a swollen sprained ankle and my dear friend, Chris, sympathetically sent me the song, “Sorry You’re Sick.”
I’d be your doctor if only I could. What do you want from the liquor store? Something sour or something sweet? I’ll buy you all that your belly can hold. You can be sure you won’t suffer no more.
I became obsessed with the tender humor of this song and the way Ted sang like he was bleeding to death but had accepted it. When I gave the whole album a try and heard the song “The Lost Ones,” I became the one bleeding to death. It’s a song from the perspective of a scared young boy trying to take care of his sick mother and younger-than-him sisters with no help from any adults.
I am not working because I am not old enough. My sisters are too small and they cannot help us. We’ve all tried praying but I don’t know how to pray.
How often do we get songs from the viewpoint of a child? What is more important than children and their well-being? I can only think of one thing of equal importance: Earth. I hear the Ever-Giving Earth pleading with us,
You wouldn’t force me to live like you if you knew the agony that I am going through. Oh please, stay close to me.
Meg Remy is the artist behind U.S. Girls. Her newest album, Heavy Light, dropped in early 2020. She lives in Toronto, Canada. All italics are Ted Hawkins’ lyrics from the album Watch Your Step. Feature image by Karen Alonzo.