September 30, 2020:
Here's a true story you may not believe.
It's circa 1973, I'm at home listening to my head radio when I should be in high school. Since childhood I've had a very advanced capacity to imagine music precisely, down to nuances of individual instruments in the mix. Usually these are well-known tunes I've heard a million times and am simply replaying in memory. Recently I'm also composing my own original songs this way, listening to them in my head. Snippets or riffs or full compositions, arrangement complete.
Today I'm hearing a snippet I find compelling. I've heard it before. On the radio, I expect. The real one, not my head. It's a male and female duet, I like their voices together, a "country rock" kinda thing, acoustic, just a flatpicked six-string and the two voices. Maybe Neil and Nicolette? Could be. Hard to say. There's just one phrase, a strong one, melodic and emotional: "Please... stay... I WANna hear you play..." That's it, all I hear, but I hear it over and over, on auto-repeat.
I like it and am intrigued. I want to know what it is. I think if I hear the whole thing it'll become a favorite. So I ride my bike down to Tower Records by the Sports Arena to listen to tracks.
Of course, this makes no sense because Neil and Nicolette isn't for years yet. But there I am dropping the needle on Neil Young tracks searching for the thing.
No luck, so I ask a behind-the-counter guy. "Who's a Country Rock duo?" He suggests Gram and Emmylou. Well that makes sense, although at that time I haven't yet known of them. I sample a bunch of tunes, thinking, Wow this is cool, I love this, meanwhile the voices are kinda right, but this ain't the song.
It's disappointing to give up. But I have to admit defeat because it's not there. The tune though stays in my head, so that from time to time I try again, more or less randomly. Ten years later in Hollywood I ask at the huge Tower Records on Sunset. I even sing the snippet. Still no luck. When some previously unreleased Gram and Emmylou tracks are released I buy the CD from Amazon, thinking, Maybe it was a bootleg I heard? Playing through somebody's opened window? Still no luck.
Nowadays we could google the lyric. Go ahead: you'll get a surprise. Or just play the YouTube clip I've embedded below. Back then there was no Internet and although the snip turned up in my head radio from time to time I never found it.
Then in 2000 I'm in a theater loving Almost Famous when — there it is!! Holy moly, that's the song!! Pete Droge is singing it dressed as Gram Parsons, with Elaine Summers as Emmylou Harris, at the start of the Riot House sequence. That's it!! I've never heard the whole thing before and it's as lovely as I expected it would be. "Please... stay... I WANna hear you play, the small time blues, that's all we've got tonight..." And I'm feeling goosebumps and shivers because it's so pretty and I've been curious about it for so long.
Well — awesome! Now I can look it up. It'll be on the soundtrack record. Mystery solved! It's a Gram song, then?
And also, WTF???
It's a Pete Droge original, and although I've been hearing that short snip in my imagination since the early '70s it wasn't until nearly thirty years later he wrote and recorded it, and it made its debut for the first time anywhere in Cameron Crowe's movie.
I sometimes believe music is free in the ether, waiting for "writers" to tune to its frequency, where "writers" are only channelers, deserving no personal credit. This is the ancient Greek theory of inspiration — to be "inspired" means to be inhabited by the spirit of Apollo, who dictates. I've heard Keith Richards say something similar, many times.
At least, I think I have. Maybe he hasn't said it yet 'cos he's waiting for it to come through to whatever head radio channel he tunes to, and I just somehow happen to have received it first.