The first girl I danced with…
It was awkward. I
Remember her laugh – young, fearful, hopeful –
A great exploration about to begin.
So much human jungle ahead.
A 12-year-old’s giggle, a gold prospector’s shovel,
Brush, pan to dip to let the water sieve through, in nugget anticipation.

We touched, always tentative, my arm around her waist.
There was music. There were other stumbling dancing couples.
Our dance was short. Then we were on our way.

I remember her name. Not the music.
Not what happened next.

She’s long passed. Cancer got her.
Pretty sure she married in those 40 years – had kid-nuggets– found her way
Through the jungle. I honestly don’t know.

Our story was barely a pan-dip.
The laugh. Her waist.
Her waste.

My cloud

Released 25 September 1965 and becoming a number one hit, Get Off of My Cloud was a smash hit for the Rolling Stones.

I was somewhere in Skokie Illinois, at some beauty parlor on the south side of Dempster, just a couple blocks west of McCormick Blvd, in some mini / micro mall of some kind. It was definitely a beauty parlor, because I was with my mom, who was probably getting her hair dyed red.

I remember seeing this 45 rpm record disc with this blue cascading label design going round and round some measly turntable set up somewhere in that shop. My mom was 34ish, and I was about to turn 4ish. I guess I remember the music, too. I guess.

I remember this image so well, mainly because, whatever day it was, and it seemed like a cool brisk late fall day, it was the very first day of my life where I became self-aware. It’s my first memory of anything. Watching this spinning label go around and around a turntable, it was somewhat hypnotic—that and the pulsing drums that are so prevalent throughout the song. Those pulsing, pulsing drums. The vortex created by the label as it spun. And of course, Mick’s vocals.

I live on an apartment on the ninety-ninth floor of my block
And I sit at home looking out the window
Imagining the world has stopped
Then in flies a guy who’s all dressed up just like a Union Jack
And says, “I’ve won five pounds if I have his kind of detergent pack”

I said, “Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around ’cause two’s a crowd
On my cloud, baby”

The telephone is ringing
I say, “Hi, it’s me, who is it there on the line?”
A voice says, “Hi, hello, how are you?”
“Well, I guess I’m doin’ fine”
He says, “It’s three A.M., there’s too much noise
Don’t you people ever wanna go to bed?
Because you feel so good
Do you have to drive me out of my head?”

I said, “Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around ’cause two’s a crowd
On my cloud, baby”

I was sick and tired, fed up with this
And decided to take a drive downtown
It was so very quiet and peaceful
There was nobody, not a soul around
I laid myself out, I was so tired
And I started to dream
In the morning the parking tickets were just like flags
Stuck on my windscreen

I said, “Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around ’cause two’s a crowd
On my cloud”

Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around baby two’s a crowd
On my cloud

Hey, you

It’s a song of blight, troubled sleeplessness, crass commercialism, and the outside world shoving itself down our throats, with the response that two’s a fucking crowd.

It’s an introvert’s song; It’s MY fucking cloud—MINE!

The early 60s, well, all of the 60s, a huge cultural shift was taking place in the Western world. Rock and Roll was bred from gospel and the blues—hell, it was stolen from the African-American experiences and it reflected a loss of innocence, disillusionment, and a way to ease the suffering so common in human existence. Song lyrics became reality-based…and love-based. Years earlier Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit pioneered this approach. In the 60s, Civil Rights were in the ascendancy. American involvement in Vietnam was increasing. It was a confusing fucking time…for anyone over 4ish.

This morning, I listened to the song as I drove to work, and noticed something interesting. The first four bars are only drums–Charlie Watts’ drums. Charlie was 24 when they recorded the song in early September 1965. So, I realized that it was Charlie Watts’ drums that signaled to me the beginning of my self-awareness. My sentient brain was shaken awake by Charlie Watts, who passed away yesterday at age 80.

Do I owe him a debt of gratitude for those first four bars? Do I owe the designer of the London Records 45 disk label that honor for its mesmerising look as it spun around and around that turntable inside that cheap beauty salon on Dempster?

I’m gonna go with Charlie, because his work brought me into the world that day. The song foreshadowed so many things present today, over 55 years after its first release—a world where I’m 60ish, there’s climactic blight, sleeplessness induced by social media notifications, Bill Hick’s long ago but still relevant insistence of stopping rampant commercialism of everything, and, again, social media’s maddening negative impact on our privacy and sanity.

Rest in Beat, Charlie. The world you brought me into is a tough one, but the reality is, my cloud is still my cloud and I work daily to keep my introverted ass inside of it.