Whenever I go into a store someplace new & I want to buy something to remember the place by, I give myself up entirely to association. I buy a copy of A Thousand Acres in a bookstore because it’s a friend’s favorite book. I pick up the Cars Candy-O album because I still haven’t figured out why Alberto Vargas gets an acknowledgment at the end of the Mad Men credits. I buy a Sarah Vaughn CD in a Beale Street music store because I’m an uncool white girl with no knowledge of jazz, blues, R&B or soul but I can remember that Kazuo Ishiguro worships her.
Out of newness, something familiar. Order from unfamiliar surroundings.
So, it was in this way that I found myself falling even more in love with the song “Thirteen”. At the Stax Museum in Memphis, I browsed the racks, trying to pick something new out for myself & something that Kurt didn’t already have. (Musically, he’s much more hep than I am.) Big Star’s first two albums were on one disc & since Alex Chilton had been so mourned, I thought “Well, why not?”
We listened to it on the way home; “Thirteen” is the fourth track. As soon as I heard the opening chords, I said to my husband, “Do you know what this is?” I had a cover of this song by Elliott Smith, a vulnerable, sweet acoustic version that made me think of him as a perpetual lost little boy.
Goosebumps prickled my arms as I listened. I knew the words, but nothing took away from hearing the original & my favorite lyric “Won’t you tell me what you’re dreaming of?/Won’t you be an outlaw for my love?” I felt this lovely, dizzy feeling of realizing just how great the song is & having no preference for either version. Just pure love for three minutes of song & longing. All by clumsy choice.