It was back when I was a teenager that I first saw the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The story impressed itself upon me deeply. I could relate to the main character, who became my personal definition of an anti-hero, and his fight against a system that appeared to be doing good but may have been a tad misguided. Although his methods may not have been correct, his actions brought hope to the struggling people around him. I still identify with the main theme of freedom of the human spirit. But more than the plot or message of the movie, today I’m thinking about the intro music. It was the first time I heard the unique, beautiful sound that is the musical saw.
Somewhat related but not entirely, there’s a song intro which I absolutely love. I think part of what I like about it is that it reminds me of a musical saw. The other part I like is that it’s music straight from the soul of John Frusciante. Here’s a clip of the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing “Don’t Forget Me” live in France. The song itself is alright, but I’m much more taken by the intro and guitar parts. I’ve been known to watch the first 1 minute of this video over and over — you can see the peace and love on John’s face as he’s playing.
it’s hard to take this and grin and bear
the frustration i feel is beyond compare
a case of misconception, are you not who i thought you were?
caught up in a reflection, was i in love with a blur
i hate to say that my ideal was just a dream
i hate to say that you’re not what you seem
my words get twisted, there’s no outlet for vengeance
one day i’ll see a Fury, revenge instead of remembrance
that’s a sad fate for any vessel to accept
i’d rather take my chances, and dodge the doubt that has crept
slowly but surely, like a tortoise are these thoughts
they wind their way through my mind, little vats of poison waiting in pots
i dread the day they become overfilled
because i know that’s when my anger will be spilled
in the meantime they sit, smoky and steaming
the me inside me is silently screaming
so i let this venom take shape on this paper
these thoughts and these words disappear in a vapor
i’m left with the serenity i was granted at birth
but still i’m drained of joy, living a life without mirth
i could say that i’ve only let myself down
i jumped in high water and i wonder why i drown
my hopes were unreal? no, i don’t believe this
i can’t shake this feeling that something’s amiss
too many voices, clouding my decisions
i have faith in no man, only in my visions
i know for sure things won’t be this way forever
i’ll stand up straight, alone but together
i’m searching for release, let these dramas fall away
the roles that i’m playing just won’t heel and stay
the show keeps on and on, and I’m beginning to get tired
there’s quicksand at my feet and I’m hopelessly mired
so while i’m stuck and sinking, i’ll take a moment to think
how can i take this bullsh*t when i feel i’m on the brink
there’s a door in front of me, one I’ve never seen before
i can almost reach the handle, i’m almost at the core
i recall the outer layers, where i’m a slave to human habit
in the forest out there, i’m nothing but a rabbit
but the further i go in, the more clearly i see
that those games of who-rules-who, are all in essence “me”
destroy your weaker selves? seems like a simple solution
but what are the repercussions of this psychic pollution
strength to overpower others is not strength when you really look
strength is flowing on, despite the rocks, with the wisdom of a brook
the aim of this endeavor is to achieve continuous motion
wave and trough through your existence, know the persistence of the ocean
the ripples on it’s smooth face can be caused by one small action
be aware of what you do, know there will be a reaction
Serendipity brought me back to John Frusciante. Although I was a fan of the free-spirited energy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in the 90’s, I hadn’t listened to their music since then.
It wasn’t until I started making Spotify playlists that ‘Pretty Little Ditty’ reappeared. Overcome by a wave of nostalgia, I went to YouTube to watch a live version. There’s this great video of Flea and John, foreheads pressed together for a moment, playing with what can only be described as brotherly love.
The emotions that arose were so deep and real that I was compelled to watch more Chili Peppers videos, if only for the purpose of hearing John’s soulful playing. It was then that I discovered everything that’s happened in John’s life in the decades since I’d last tuned in. Like many who walk off the beaten path, what Frusciante experienced during that time was truly life-altering. Some might say that it’s a miracle he’s still alive.
(to read more about John’s life, see his wiki)
“I used to always see things in the outside world as being ‘the enemies of an artist.’ I don’t see it that way anymore. To me, everything an artist needs is inside of himself, and it really doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world. Nothing else matters. You don’t need to have things perfect, you don’t need to have a lot of money or a beautiful girl. If your job in life is to create, you can find inside yourself what you need to make beautiful art and beautiful music. But you might have to clean yourself out, spiritually or physically. You gotta constantly purify yourself, living in the city, around human beings. There might be people close to you who affect you inside yourself in such a corrupt way that it screws with your ability to do what you do. But if you make sure that the people who are close to you are good people who are there for you and love you, you can create your temple everywhere you go.”
Not only did I become interested in hearing what he’d been up to musically in the years that had passed, I also had a growing interest in him as a thinker. His originality of thought pointed towards a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of music and existence that I found compelling.
“Music is not something that you are in control of. It comes from somewhere else. If you’re that middleman between the cosmos and the real world on Earth that the music comes through, you are very lucky. When you record music, it’s not your job to try to control anything. It’s more about being in the right place and flowing with the energies that are in the air around you and with the people that you are making the music with. The second that someone thinks music comes from themselves, and that they are the ones responsible for it, is when they go off track. The most important thing you could realize is that you are the least important part of the whole process. Music is going to be made whether any one artist is here or not. If John Lennon or Jimi Hendrix had disappeared, music still would have gone on, changed, grown, and been the beautiful thing that it is. You take away the music, all you have are the individuals, and they don’t mean anything. The individual is nothing, it’s the music that’s in the air all the time that’s important, and you have to be humble in the face of that.”
In reference to the media and their fascination with image, he had this to say:
“It’s not because Jimi Hendrix looked the way he looked. It’s not because Jimi Hendrix danced the way he danced. Or because his name was f**king Jimi Hendrix. It’s like these things are just meaningless, yet the way the business uses these media tools has perpetuated this idea that what’s important is that he’s the greatest guitarist ever, and he’s Jimi Hendrix, and there’s his picture, that’s him. And it’s like, you know, the only real picture of him is his music.”
(to read a synopsis of this July 16, 2008 interview, click here)
His solo work is just as riveting as his life story. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to anything that has had the evocative power that John’s music has had on me. He’s a natural artist with a real penchant for melody and arrangement. Here’s a song from his album “Curtains,” called “Anne.” Currently one of my favorites, the album has simple but beautiful acoustic guitar.
For someone who once aspired to be a writer, I don’t write very often anymore. Normally I have really good excuses. By “really good excuses” I mean the same excuses most writers or artists tell themselves when they’re not following their inner inclinations to express themselves. Not having enough time is a common one. Taking a break from writing is another. Working on another project certainly sounds like a legitimate excuse. There isn’t actually anything wrong with the excuses I’ve just named off, with one exception — when these excuses are a cloak for a different excuse entirely. I’m talking about that nefarious Doubt that lives somewhere, if only for a moment, in each human’s mind, that delights in disguising itself as facts and realities. You know the one. It tells you all the reasons why you can’t possibly write, and how, if you did, it wouldn’t be that great, or how there wouldn’t be any point. It’s this Doubt that I’d like to uncloak and banish. For myself and for other writers out there, it’s essential that this Doubt be downgraded to a mere passing thought and be relieved of it’s duty as Commander of your creative impulses.
Part of what makes us unique is that we each have a different viewpoint — each terrible and beautiful experience we’ve lived is a facet of our being that, when used as a filter for the universal energy that flows through us all, paints a particular picture that no one else can replicate. Authentically expressing that energy is part of why we exist. The other reason is so that we can affect one another with our energy. In light of that, why should we not express ourselves? Laziness, lack of motivation, or shyness are no longer valid excuses. Instead, we’re charged with a higher purpose. Yes, you are as well. In my opinion, it’s this: Exist to the fullest, be the best you that you can, and share your life/love/story with the people around you.