Gordon Lightfoot: Sundown
When I was around 16 my family moved into a pretty big house in a nice kind of upper middle class neighborhood in a town in South Carolina called “Summerville”.
I know….My reaction when my mother told me “Oh well the new town we are moving to is called Summerville.” was “Are you shitting me?” and I barely escaped her whacking me across the head with the wooden cooking spoon she was brandishing.
It was a big house with a 2 car garage and a finished sun porch and a front sitting room and two staircases and it was in a normal, boring country type town in a very country type state and I was not too pumped about any of this but what could I do? Some houses develop into little microcosms for the world, at least ours did. Everyone had there own area. My room was very clearly my room and nobody wanted to spend any time in there besides me due to the omnipresent filth and darkness that I was prone to embrace at that point in my life. I guess my room would be like Paris, France. Lots of culture but basically filthy and dangerous. And like the French I was resolute that the imperialists weren’t going to dilute my culture…imperialists being my mother who like America today was all over the place and essentially dominated the house. Her particular areas of ownership were the front coffee and dining rooms that were kept immaculate and were not too comfortable to be in so nobody ever was. This made it ideal for 2 things 1: sneaking out at night and sneaking back in through the low windows as even our dog (Maggy, a dog I found dying under our Volvo one day and somehow we kept her.) hated that room. The second point was that even with a lot of people in the house my girlfriend and I could slip into that room to violently hump for 5 minutes with a much lower chance of getting busted and ergo, a much higher chance of me ejaculating.
So my mother controlled most of the house. The two traditional areas that my father would have had dominion over; the garage and the finished sun porch which was supposedly his study, were pretty sad sights indeed. My father was always traveling for work so he just wasn’t there enough to maintain control over these areas. It was like Richard the lion heart being away on the Crusades and his fickle, cruel, small minded, abusive brother John beginning to expand his power and take over. A metaphor that seems to work well for my parents. A sun porch with a large regal bookshelf full of hardcovers and time life series special additions and a big roll top desk and some awards and plaques on walls and then toys all over the damned place and Disney video tapes here and there and Capri sun boxes laying around. A sad sight indeed. He simply was not in the house regularly enough to maintain governorship of his states. The garage was no better. It was for the most part, a dumping zone. One side had a weight bench and a heavy bag and various boxes and trunks and junk piled all over and camping equipment and sports gear and more junk and then in the back of the garage was what should have been HIS ( my fathers ) very masculine tool collection, however that too was defeated by various crap deposited there for a lack of a better location. Tools were borrowed, for what purpose nobody ever seemed to know (Where is the phillips head screw driver? Oh dad I have it, I have to give the dog a bath.) and then never replaced properly. Now….up above the tool area, way up there…so high nobody even looked was a long deep shelf and what I found up there one autumn were some of the last vestibules of my fathers time in his life in which he was “cool”: those were records. Lots and lots of records. It became a habit, a secret pleasure, of mine to wait for my parents to be gone and then I would go fish out a couple of old records and actually use the turntable we had (that had been covered in dust, totally unused, ever, until I cleaned it off) and hang out in the living room and listen to these amazing old recordings. I found a lot of cool music during the hours and hours myself and friends wasted evenings away just sitting around, occasionally opening windows to have smokes or sneaking some booze from my parents stash all this leading up to what was usually rather sporty sexual endeavors in the backs of cars or SUVs borrowed from Moms or hell, outside in the park near the neighborhood pool and then one day, in November….I found Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot. Or maybe it found me.
Sundown came out in 1974, 4 years before I showed up on the scene and when my dad was graduating, unless I’m mistaken, from West Point. Its interesting to me that during a time of such intense military and ideological action by the US, my father, a very big believer in America and a newly commissioned Army Officer who would later join the Special forces bought such an amazingly neutral and unaffected album as this. It just further crystallizes the fact that sons really don’t know anything about their fathers, not really anyway.
I listened to this record alone at first and I became so obsessed with the track Carefree highway that it eventually became one way by which I could decide if I actually liked someone. To me then and now, it is just such a good song and so full of emotion I cant see how anyone could turn their back on it.
A lot of other people have real connections and memories with this song and I know a lot of those are powerful. Gordon Lightfoot is one talented damn Canadian and Sundown is a class in what music should and can be about.