It must have been one of the last times I would be able to spend with my friend Ronnie before he headed off to the army. It was a cool night with clear skies above. We had been out to grab some fast food and then came back to his parent's duplex to spend some time.
Looking back on that night it was very special. We had just gotten some new albums that turned out to be a few of my favorite albums as I grew older. We had purchased Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty". This album has always fascinated me. It is recorded totally live. Sometimes the performance is recorded during a concert while other songs are recorded on Browne's bus or in hotel rooms before or after a concert. I always considered this one of the most original concept albums ever recorded and it is good. Every song on it is a keeper. The subject matter of some of the songs may be questionable but the songs themselves are masterpieces. I thought Jackson Browne was pretty good before Ronnie played this album for me but I fell in love with Jackson Browne after hearing this album.
Ronnie also played me a new Harry Chapin album entitled "Dance Band On The Titanic". The title song was about a boy who joined the band for the maiden trip of the titanic and tells the story of the ship sinking while the band stayed on board and played as it went down. Incredible song like all of Chapin's songs.
I think that the reason that these two albums had such an impact on me was that in my memory it would be the last time Ronnie and myself were able to spend any alone time together to relax like we use to when we were in high school.
We sat and talked about life and about the past. Memories were recalled of things we had done in the past. Some of the things were just downright stupid and some of them were pretty impressive. We were able to smile and laugh a bit at some of the things that had happened and it was a good feeling. I think I was realizing how much the two of us had in common and how much we had been through together in such a short period of time.
I remember it was very quiet in that house. I am not sure if anyone else was there or not. We had the door closed as we were talking and listening to music. It was a time for the two of us. Ronnie was and is very intelligent and he always seemed to have a plan. I never had a plan. My life was day to day , whatever happened would happen, but Ronnie was different. He had goals. Some of them were pretty lofty goals be he had them. My goal was to get out of high school, marry Barb and start a career in engineering. Looking back on it, both of us made a pretty good run at our goals for life and pretty much accomplished them.
We talked about the songs on the albums. The words to the songs on the albums. Ronnie believed as I did that words mean things and there was so much more to a song than just the music. Lyrics is a form of icing on the cake of a song. It tells a story. The story in Dance band was a tragic story but a heroic story as well. Would Ronnie and I go down with the ship? Yes, I think we would and Ronnie agreed. One verse has the chaplain of the Titanic giving orders to fill the life boats and he says "Women, children and chaplains first..." We laughed at that part of the song then discussed that it probably wasn't too far from the truth.
We were laying on the floor as we listened to the music and talked. The records were spread out over the floor as we decided which albums to listen to. Music has always been a huge part of my life and it was the same with Ronnie. Ronnie had introduced me to a lot of bands that I probably would take years to discover on my own. Electric Light Orchestra was one of those bands and we listened to the Eldorado album that night. The words in some of those songs are rather conflicting but we worked on the words anyway.
When we were younger we would play the music very loud during the summer months when we had to stay at the house to baby sit his little brother. On this night though, we played the music at a volume that allowed us to talk in normal voices and still hear each other. The talk turned to girlfriends present and past. Ronnie had no plans to get married at this time in his life but my plans were beginning to be pretty well laid out as I had married Barb and had begun spending my life with her. Ronnie liked Barb. He liked her a lot and that made me glad.
Peter Frampton had released his incredible live album the year before and now we sat and listened to his follow up studio album. We both agreed that this album was a huge disappointment.. Of course after you have released one of the all time top selling live albums in history, you can expect it to be rather difficult to follow up on that. The songs were not bad but not that great. Still they were able to bring about talking points between the two of us. Music can do that. It can bring people together and bring good friends even closer together.
We talked about our parents swearing that each set of parents did not like the other set of parents kid. Over the years I think both of us learned a little on that. Ronnie's mom and dad like me a lot. I am not sure why but they do. My mom and dad like Ronnie as well. Maybe it is because they were able to see how much each of us leaned on each other during those difficult teen years.
As the evening continued we kept finding ourselves listening to the new Jackson Browne album. That album had such an effect on that night. It gave us so much to talk about. It brought up the past and the future and the present. If it isn't Jackson Browne's best album then I don't know what is.
We talked about Ronnie being in the Army. He was enjoying for it. He wanted it as it was part of his plan. He would do good in the Service in the years coming up and would meet a wonderful young lady named Janet and become her husband. Janet was not in Ronnie plans the night we sat and talked quietly, but someone like Janet was in those plans. We didn't know who she was yet or what her name was, but there was someone in the future that Ronnie was waiting for. That someone turned out to be Janet and Ronnie loves her.
As the evening wore down, I think both of us knew that this would be one of the last times that we would have an opportunity to be serious and have fun and just talk and listen to music. I did not want to leave I don't think but it was getting fairly late and I had to be at work in the morning. We listened to "Running on Empty" one more time together and then I walked out to my car and drove home.
Both Ronnie and myself have been fairly successful in life. He has been a little more successful than I have but both of us have kept jobs and still have the woman we love. We also still have that close friendship that is somewhat rare in a lifetime. A person is really lucky if he can come across three friends during a lifetime as close as Ronnie and myself were. I still have a copy of "Running on Empty" and without a doubt every time I listen to part of that album, I get a picture of Ronnie and me, laying on the floor of his bedroom with our heads in our hands and smiling and talking.
It was a wonderfully quiet evening that meant so much over the course of a life time. It was an evening I will never forget.