The very first vinyl record that I ever bought was a 45. On one side of the little record was Carole King’s humongous hit, “It’s Too Late.” On the other side was her hit, “So Far Away.”
I remember walking into the record store. Back then a record store is where you went to buy new reeds, valve oil, sheet music, and, more importantly it was where you went to get the latest music. They had the hottest 45s and the chart-topping LPs.
As a young whippersnapper with nothing but coins in my pocket I tried to visit the record store as often as I could get a ride.
Listening to that hit record in the store’s headphones, you are transported to worlds you are only beginning to discover.
Carole King’s original version of So Far Away, along with It’s Too Late on the other side became the very first thing I would listen to once one of the headphones in the record store was available.
I listened to that little 45 so many times that the music store staff began considering charging me rent.
I already had a fairly sizeable collection of vinyl LP records. I got a new record every birthday and every Christmas. It had been a standard present for several years. There was always that awkward moment when one of my parents would casually inquire about what my favorite musical artist was at the time.
I had a decent collection of Louis Armstrong records. And another one of Mozart records. I had at least one Ella Fitzgerald record. I even had a Led Zeppelin album.
For a sixteen year-old buckaroo I had a record collection. I had actual small stacks of vinyl. But my entire collection consisted of stuff that I asked and begged for. Every sliver of vinyl in my collection came by way of gift-giving.
That’s just not right.
But it was exactly three weeks after I turned sixteen, when I got my very, very first paycheck in my life that I bribed a friend into taking me to the music store where I purchased my very first vinyl LP record.
And that record was Carole King’s Tapestry album. It turned out to be one of the bestselling albums of the Seventies. It was also my number one album of the Seventies — and there was a lot of stiff competition.
Eventually I had saved enough money for a car — and an eight-track player. The first eight-track that I bought was Carole King’s, It’s Too Late. I played both the eight-track and the vinyl so much until both versions were rendered useless. That album is inextricably stuck in my memory banks. I can play it without any electro-technical device. All I have to do is close my eyes and turn that dial in my noggin to “Back Then.”
During that time in my life I did an inordinate amount of car travel. Often I traveled alone. Sometimes there were others in the car. Either way, Carole King managed to squirm her way into the car. As yucca and mesquite and cacti whizzed by, along with sand dunes and pine forest, Carole King was imprinting the adventure onto the skein of time and space — simply by singing her beautiful music onto life unfolding.
It is something that can never be forgotten.
Fast-forward around thirty or forty years or so. In the ensuing years I had traveled into and out of periods of connection to the world music scene and periods of profoundly empty silence. Back and forth I went.
And then came that fateful day.
It was some time in the fairly early 2000s. After closing my business I found myself working in a liquor store. Oh yeah, that was an incredibly rich little experience in my life. What an awesome job that was! (Thankfully it was brief.)
Well, that liquor store happened to have Sirius Radio playing constantly. When the bosses were gone I got to pick my own channel.
It was in that freaking liquor store that I heard on Sirius Radio for the very first time a new song by Rod Stewart. I cannot imagine anyone living through the Seventies without totally jamming to a Rod Stewart song. When Rod Stewart started singing it didn’t matter what your apparent gender was. When Rod Stewart sang every conceivable gender was touched and vibrated in a joyful way. Did anyone have a sexier voice back then?
Many decades later I was standing in a freaking liquor store listening to the canned music when I hear Rod Stewart do a cover of Carole King’s, So Far Away!
My life seemed to change forever.
There are so many songs that become forever signposts along our journey. For me, there are far too many to even attempt to list. But occasionally a song will morph into a new version that somehow manages to take over for the original version in the auto-play of our minds.
I have many, many classic favorites. I have only found two cover versions of those classic favorites that I ended up liking even more than the original.
One of those is Rod Stewarts’ cover of Carole King’s So Far Away. Carole King’s version was the very first vinyl record that I ever bought. It’s the piece of vinyl I lost my musical virginity to. To me, back then, Carole King was a supreme goddess.
And now so many, many years later I was standing in a fucking liquor store listening to Rod Stewart singing, So Far Away. Every fiber of the being that I had become came unraveled, providing glimpses of some potential conglomerate ‘me;’ one that has been shaped by every song that impacted my life. Listening to the husky, gravelly, and sexy voice of Rod Stewart I was shocked to realize that what was once so familiar had somehow, inexplicably become even better!
Like I said, there are only two classic songs which I prefer cover versions of. I pray that Elton John doesn’t read this but the truth is that I prefer Kate Bush’s version of Rocket Man to Elton’s version. I’m sorry, but I do.
And then there is my beloved goddess Carole King. For so many years her song, “So Far Away” was practically my anthem. It’s what I listened to in order to align with who I thought I was at that time. It was a song that always connected me to an exciting part of me that died so long ago.
Rod Stewarts’ newer version of the song connects me to a whole different me. It connects me to a whole different vibratory frequency, if you know what I mean.
You can listen to Carole sing her original song then you can hear Rod Stewart sing his awesome version. You will realize that it is the same song but you will be irrevocably torn between two very distinct versions, distinct vibrations. You may briefly feel that you have experienced both a distinctly female version of this classic as well as a distinctly male version.
But at the bottom of both versions is the same pearl.
It’s all about love, right? It’s about distance, in both space and time. It is about that which remains imprinted on our collective oneness, right? It is about those moments that last forever in not only our own soul but in that of someone else, too.
Those are the moments that cannot be forgotten. They keep floating up into our awareness. You never know when the memory of one of these moments suddenly slaps you across the face. You never know when some epiphany bursts forth with light, illuminating all the freaky corners of your noggin, not to mention the warm, pumping chambers of your heart.
The entire universe exists within each and every one of our ‘moments.’ And it exists everywhere else at all other times. But when a moment illuminates our ultimate journey then we can be grateful for the light of our experiences. We totally feel it and allow it to be forever imprinted. (Kind of like a psychic tattoo.)
So far away
doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine
to see your face at my door
— Carole King
We can easily fall into a period of sadness
when everything seems so far away
until we remember it is all within us
and we can forever touch it
It is not far but near. It is within.
Another recent story of mine that involved music…
And one more with a musical bent….
Here is Carol Kings’ original version of So Far Away:
And here is Rod Stewart’s version:
Which do you prefer? Forget the videos. Close your eyes. Just listen. Which do you resonate to the most?