The scratched record: Mirage
Camel's second album, from 1974, when progressive rock was the bomb. A band and a style that I've stopped loving, but that 10 years ago tickled me a lot.
Camel is not the music that breaks your normal being. You like quantity, but you can think of something else while listening. In the conversation someone mentions the name; you jump: "Ohhfff, good picket that one!", and you keep drinking your beer. Not like when they say "Radiohead" and you want to die. One day at the university, in a class as boring as the professor who taught it, while my eyelids and I struggled to resist the damp breeze that at two in the afternoon, just a moment after you finished lunch, the Loma attacked from Aróstegui on various fronts, but above all using, from the sea, the corridor that San Lázaro street offers, I amused myself by making a list of the progressive rock bands that I liked the most, in order of preference. I remember that behind Camel I only placed Genesis. However, I have a special affection for this album. It's pretty high up in my strawberry archive of life-changing-music moments. I tell you.
I was on my way to college one day from Caimito. It must have been in fourth year because I had classes in the afternoon session. I was angry. I don't remember now the origin of the anger; perhaps I had argued with the old men before leaving my house. Either way, the source of the anger is not important when you have ridden on a half-full P14 at what is supposed to be the first stop, and then, two later, all San Agustín is ridden at noon, with 30 degrees of temperature and 70% relative humidity. On days like this, anger is like energy: it is neither created nor destroyed, it is transformed. It matters little where it came from.
Mounted, crammed into that P14, I had one of those moments that more or less everyone has ever lived in a bus: the moment I can't take this country anymore. If you go beyond the instant you are saved ― you enter a transcendent state where you see yourself sweating the fat drop and vainly trying to be touched by as few people as possible ― and you end your trip without further problems, but while it happens you are a completely unhappy, from where the Latin i begins to where the Spanish zeta ends. The reverse, the negative of this moment is in the canyon of the Yumurí river in Baracoa --which is the most beautiful place in Cuba-, when they tell you, while you bathe with the water at chest level, transparent that you see your feet basically, that for 70 pesos some ladies bring lunch to the river; lunch including fresh tuna steaks and ladybugs. One spends one's life in the vast region that these two instants demarcate, although just when they are happening it seems that there is no more solid ground outside those muddy borders.
I couldn't pass it. I interrupted my usual route and got off at La Lisa, before crossing the bridge, with the idea of taking the 222 from the beginning, sitting down. The idea was good in principle. And it continued to be so when, no longer leaving P14, I saw an empty one leave, with free seats and everything, well, according to what the only person at the stop told me a minute later - a girl waiting for her boyfriend -, another bus had just left before. The downside was that, when I decided on 222, I bet everything on it, I gave up other routes, because the stop was not on the main avenue. But she still had time. The idea stopped being good 40 minutes later, when there was already an important queue, of which I was the second, behind the girl and her boyfriend (who had already arrived), people kept appearing and no sign of 222.
It was a critical moment, in which I reached a peak of rage and helplessness. Everything inside, it is worth saying. If I left the queue and went to try my luck again on the main avenue, perhaps, with the wind in favor, I would arrive 15 or 20 minutes late for the first shift, but it would still be possible to ride the assistance, which was the only thing that mattered; but if 222 arrived at that moment, she could arrive on time for the start of class. I decided to go. I told the person behind me to be guided by the couple with the one in the queue, but after 40 steps I came back. My heart was not ready that day to see, from the road, how the 222 was going for the second time, while the wedding couple greeted me from the window, settled in the premium seats of the vehicle. I did not want to take that risk in favor of my emotional stability.
There it was, defeated, having lost my pulse with the event, when I put my headphones on for the first time that day.
I had copied Camel's discography a few weeks before, from the music archive of one of those nostalgic and very tender rockers, with whom you can spend hours talking, and they tell you that nothing like the '70s, and that Hendrix or Hendrix, that Frank Marino he is the best guitarist of that time. He had recommended the band to me and I listened to him. That day at the stop he had already listened to his first three albums several times. Not many, but enough to know the exact moments in which Andy Ward's drum box was going to interrupt, with the impudence of a gossiping neighbor, with those uncomfortable lashes, the punctual passage of the bass and the kick drum in the intro of Freefall, the initial Mirage cut (Janus Records, 1974). While this was happening on my Chinese MP3 player, outside I seemed to have two nervous tics: one in the right foot, marking the time on the sidewalk, and another, the most visible, in the head, which tilted sharply every time the stumbling came. through the box. The bus arrived 30 minutes after Freefall, when the album was almost over and I was no longer going to be able to score a card in the first shift, but the anger had passed.
For me Camel was always Mirage, even though I listened to the band's entire seventies stage in those final years of college, but nothing hooked me like this plate. There are passages that I loved that now don't tell me so much, like the pastoral sound of Andrew Latimer's flute in Supertwister's solo, or when they speed up time at 3:45 from Nimrodel / The Procession / The White Rider and they hang around waiting for that beautiful melody brought by Peter Bardens' keyboards at 4:22, or the pauses from 2:34 on Earthrise. But there are three episodes that do continue to give me butterflies, and what they have in common is the sudden change, the pivoting, the surprise. One is the Freefall intro I was talking about. Another arrives at minute 7:00 of the third track, when we are following Latimer's sweet guitar solo and everything is happiness, greenery, the magician of light rides on his white steed and his warmth as a wise and good old man wraps us up; But suddenly there is not so much oxygen in the atmosphere, the black clouds of Mordor cover the sky of Middle-earth and Sauron brings out his army of orcs. (The analogy is not free. The topic is about Gandalf. In the Canterbury scene they talked about these carvings, that's why when the Sex Pistols arrived and said: "Let the Queen rot! Long live anarchy!" The pepillos they went crazy). The same resource is used in Lady Fantasy, almost at the end of the song and the album. You are half hypnotized, on the outside you do anything, but from the epidermis inwards you fall asleep, meek, and the soft voices of Doug Ferguson and Latimer are your quilts, while they say: “[I] Saw you sitting on a sunbeam / In the middle of my day dream / Oh, my Lady Fantasy! / I love you ”. Brief pause, end of rapture, guitar jab and rapture. To nod, to shake and to get into the invisible mosh wheel.
It must be said, however, that progressive rock does not work without nostalgia, with a few exceptions, as usual. Camel and other bands of the genre will always have to be conjugated in the past tense. They are tied to a time, they do not have the present. It's not that they haven't transcended. I'm not talking about that. I suppose they did (although, here among us, I am not very clear what “transcending” is), but, in any case, they traveled into the future carrying their long hair, their bell bottoms and their Hammond organs. Not like Billie Holiday, for example, who, singing Strange Fruit, will destroy you the same on a 40's vitrola as on an iPhone XR, although no longer blacks hang from the southern trees. Or like Dylan, who could get a side cap and a gold tooth right now, which would still work when he said: "How does it feel to be on your own?" Of that I speak.
This is a short record, it goes in a mess. Take my advice and listen to him now that life is behaving so badly. They tell me later if their tantrum has subsided.
Carlos M. Mérida
Oidor. Coleccionista sin espacio. Leguleyo. Temeroso de las abejas y de los vientos huracanados.