January 1, 2015

CREATIVE NONFICTION BY SCOTT ARCHER JONES "A LOVE LETTER TO BONNIE RAITT"


I currently live in northern New Mexico, after stints in the Netherlands, Scotland and Norway. I believe that this exposure to other cultures makes me a natural to tell a story of a tenuous connection with a blues great.
I'm on the masthead of the Prague Revue. I have a novel out this year, Jupiter and Gilgamesh, a Novel of Sumeria and Texas. I've been a finalist in a few contests but never a winner. I've published here and there but received enough rejection to achieve humility. I'm a finalist in the 2014 New Mexico-Arizona Book awards in four categories.
The publication list is dull but available – what is more important is that I cut and split all my own firewood, live a mile from my nearest neighbor, and write grants for the community.



A Love Letter to Bonnie Raitt


It's no use pretending.  Music touches me deeper than all my reading and my brainy machinations.  Music is the sense in sensory perception, and the other senses are only there for day-to-day navigation.  This is a musical zealot's confession – three times in my life I have been overcome by a sudden, irrepressible passion for Bonnie Raitt.  Yes, I know she didn't know and she never wrote back, but it's still all true, mostly.


Confession One:  Who You Are

The first wave of infatuation, the first time Bonnie Raitt owned me, crashed over me during my sophomore year in cow college.  I only paid attention to T Rex, Black Sabbath, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Who and other like-minded bands.  Jesus, even Grand Funk Railroad.  If it had more than three musicians or four chords, or less than ten Marshall speaker towers, I didn't get it.  But I heard this one album --- Give It Up.  I listened to that album over and over.  Love has no Pride spoke close to me, the words working their way down into my thinking, or non-thinking.
 
I've been alone too many nights
To think that you could come back again
But I've heard you talk: "She's crazy to stay."
But this love hurts me so, I don't care what you say.

Another song, You Told Me Baby kicked off with a great snaky swamp hook and then unbelievably flipped in a horn section.  And who owned this unique voice?  Once I asked about the person behind the vocal, I was hooked.  The mythical side of “Rockstar” infected my imagination as I found she dropped out of Sarah Lawrence to hang out with black musicians in New York.  How cool was that?  (Even if my info was wrong and Dick Waterman in Phillie actually mentored her).  
Who did I want to hang with?  This white chick with red hair, already one of the best folk and blues guitarists I'd ever hear; all I could offer was my anorexic John Lennon look.  Still, she had been born only two years before me and I thought I fancied older women.  She offered me lyrics like “Honey, If I can Make that sacrifice, you can make it too” and “I left you in the morning, I watched you in the window, And Mexico will never been the same”  She lived the dream, while I plodded up the road to a technical degree.  So I kept on listening.      


Confession Two:  What They Did To You

She captured me again in 1983, when we both fell on hard times.  This infatuation lasted years, into 2004 with the Souls Alike album.  In the late 70's and early 80's, I slid into a heavy fusion-jazz epoch, guided by Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.  But in 1983 daily life didn't suit to fusion, wasn't really John McLaughlin's chattery syncopated soaring leads.  Life was work every day,  hoping I didn't screw it up again or get caught as I faked my way through it.  '83 was bad news for Bonnie also, as Warner screwed her over and dumped her out on the street with other artists like Van Morrison and Arlo Guthrie.  They called it cleaning house and streamlining.  Reflecting back, I'd call it Big Mistake, especially the part where they hijacked her album Tongue and Groove.  That had to hurt.
 Arlo or the Belfast Cowboy didn't help me through my own personal blues.  I listened to Bonnie's hard rock album Green Light, an album that gave her decent reviews for the first time in years, but that no one bought.  We both drank too much and slumped alone on couches in dark rooms after midnight.  And though I knew I deserved what was dumped on me, Bonnie didn't.  She had just released a monster slide guitar track Willya Wontcha and a rockabilly blues song Talk to Me.     And somehow it didn't count.
I handled my problems by listening a lot more carefully to the people around me and drinking a lot less.  Bonnie dumped the booze and the drugs entirely.  She handled the career setbacks by jumping back out on the road on her own dime.  She answered the fans and the critics both with Nick of Time in 1989 and Luck of the Draw in '91.  In '92 she hosted New Year's Eve on a TV hookup from the Hard Rock Cafe in New Orleans.  She and the band backed other artists for hours (when did this selfless woman sit down?).  It was pure killer pleasure from beginning to end – the lady would possess us all, the hardest working musician in blues.    


Confession Three: Where You Go

She's back on top, back on top.  2012 and '13 gives her the best tour, best blues album, 200,000 tickets – at a time when I hide away on the mountain and messed about with a novel called Bar Child.  I traveled nowhere, while she took back the world.  In an irony, Used to Rule the World leads off the Slipstream album:
You can't believe your very eyes.
Everything that you were counting on
Was nothing but a pack of lies.
Now you're mystified,
Standing with the rest of us
Who used to rule the world.
Now you're mystified,
Standing with the rest of us
Who used to rule, used to rule, used to rule the world.


Sure, I know she's older than I, by a couple of heartbeats.  Nowadays her age sits proud on her, those crisp edges of her chin under the high-high cheekbones starting to fall apart, those entrenched lines racing back from her eyes.  
Well, I'll take it all, Bonnie.  We could still have a few good years left together.  I'll ride the tour bus, write in the back sitting by the toilet, carry your bags as long as my knees hold out.  Call me, Bonnie.  I'll be waiting.

 _________________________________________________________________
 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpH5i3jgFaU


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLAjH7GQ2bo



 This essay first appeared in Prague Revue
~Scott Archer Jones

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