When I was maybe 13 years old or so, I bought a cassette copy of Larry Norman's So Long Ago the Garden. It's a polished album, a prime example of the richness of early 1970s production values, filled with warm strings, thin acoustic guitars, and loads of reverb on the vocals. Since it's his least thematically evangelical album (although he may have suggested otherwise), I've been able to generally enjoy most of the songs even as my faith has faded away.
So Long Ago the Garden is also a discouraging album that has gone through multiple iterations over the years on various releases. Norman and others have speculated and waxed philosophical about why the album seems so disjointed—if you don't believe me, read the liner notes for practically any CD that describes it—but despite some of its perfections, it has some serious flaws. Most importantly, I believe, its biggest flaw is just how Larry never seemed to get it just how he wanted it to be, but kept on releasing weird versions of it. The story of So Long Ago the Garden, as a piece, reflects Norman's own sense of restlessness like none of his other albums do.
But I'd like to write a little about one specific song: "Baroquen Spirits." It was one of my favorite Garden songs on the cassette I bought in my adolescence. It epitomized the loneliness I felt as a teenager. I felt like someone really "got" what it's like to feel true despair and rejection. It also featured a rocking chorus and coda, bordering on 5 minutes of 70s pop awesomeness..
The cassette version was the first version I'd ever heard, so it's the go-to real thing for me; it's the standard I'd go by. Apparently the LP version also was this length, but I've never heard it. When Norman finally released So Long Ago the Garden on Compact Disc, I was pretty excited to get to hear 'Baroquen Spirits" in CD quality.
But I was bitterly disappointed. The So Long Ago the Garden CD featured different mixes of songs than I was used to, and, most importantly, "Baroquen Spirits" had been truncated to a mere 2:55. The last verse of the song, the most despairing one, had been completely cut out, the coda shortened, and the piano-driven instrumental break seemed out of place. The song on the CD didn't feel complete thematically or musically, particularly when compared with my cassette version. It disappointed me.
And with every iteration, every re-release of So Long Ago the Garden, I watched to see if the full version of "Baroquen Spirits" would show up. But it never did.
Here are the lyrics as they appear on Google, last verse tagged on without even a proper stanza break:
And if you look under the lyrics video on YouTube, you'll see that I'm not the only one who's dissatisfied by how difficult it is to track down versions of the entire song. The only place on the Internet where one can find a full-length version of the song is a live bootleg version that Norman released in the 70s. It's nice to hear the entire song, but it totally misses the gorgeous production values of the original.
The full-length CD version of "Baroquen Spirits" became one of those artifacts of Larry Norman's unique, bewildering album release practices. Once CDs came along, Norman often released four or five CDs a year, often on CD-R format. Many of these CDs were compilation albums that featured the same old songs, perhaps with one unique song thrown in for good measure. He released numerous live albums that didn't feature many unique songs at all, and then also released various bootlegs of poor-mediocre quality, all with essentially the same songs. Before these CD-R practices, I was able to keep up with his releases; once he moved to this collectors-focused business plan, I got priced out of the market. I had to grow more selective of the albums I'd acquire.
As far as I can tell, the full-length version of "Baroquen Spirits" was only released on one of these CD-R CDs: Siege at Elsinore, and even that's not the mix that appears on the cassette. I thought it might appear on Maximum Garden, but that version, although complete, was an extremely rough demo mix that literally made me wince repeatedly when I first heard it, since I hoped for the real thing. I still can't listen to it. Even the bootleg live version is better than the tightly-mastered rough mix on Maximum Garden.
So I always hoped that someone would release it to YouTube. But no one did. It kind-of floored me. Nobody had even posted a vinyl recording of it. I'd probably search for it a couple times a year, hoping for someone to upload it to YouTube, to anywhere. But no one did. On multiple occasions, I've considered taking my cassette and attempting to master it, but that cassette is mixed so quietly that the noise would be overwhelming in a digital context. And I don't have the equipment. So I haven't done it.
But, finally, somebody has done it:
Now, obviously, since it's taken so long, I'm one of the only people in the world who cares about this. If it was really a big deal to people, somebody would have posted it by now. And even this version isn't the best vocal take. So geez, Larry.
So here, for nobody but myself, is my summary of ways to hear "Baroquen Spirits" in CD quality:
I saw this link in my Twitter feed:
I read the article, skimmed the comments, and replied to it in my own Twitter feed:
This term, I've been experiencing some of the most mentally taxing teaching of my life. I have five different "preps," English 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. My more senior classes each have between 26 and 30 students. My junior classes feature a "spread" between students who are designated as "gifted" and those who are capable of work at a "Grade 3 or so" level. Simultaneously I'm trying to adapt to BC's new curriculum, which is adding an enormous amount of work to an already overworked mental space. Although I'm sure I'll get through, by my standards things are not going well at work.
Beyond this, I don't have many responsibilities. My children live far away right now. I'm in a play, though, and that takes up 12 hours a week with rehearsals with an additional 4 hours of driving each week. That play will be all done by the end of November, but right now it's pretty taxing. If I'd realized just how large my classes would be this term, I doubt I would have auditioned for the play.
In the meantime, since I'm not doing exceptionally well at planning for my classes, I'm scrambling at work. This is the sort of time when teachers should take "sick days" to catch up on rest and whatnot, but I don't feel like I can do it because I haven't planned well enough for the classes. I'd be releasing a poor Teacher-On-Call to the wolves. It just wouldn't work. But I'm going to have to, probably just after I finish report cards, which are due next Wednesday.
This is nothing new for teaching. Large classes, report cards, parent teacher interviews are the norm. However, I do believe the number of responsibilities for teachers have increased with the advent of technologies like email and the Internet. Students submit their work in a myriad of formats; I am expected to read and understand practically every email that crosses my feed, whether it's from a colleague, parent, administrator, or student. I'm expected to keep up with a website in order to keep in contact with parents. It's just too much to keep track of. I find myself spending hours at the school just trying to get the most basic marking and planning done. It's exhausting.
Many of these roles simply weren't required before the advent of technologies that normalized them. Notes home and face to face interviews tended to dominate the communication cycle. I know it would have been stressful, but I think it would feel more real, more authentic. The fact is that I do an enormous amount of digital work that could very well not pay off and distracts from my work in the classroom. I don't like it.
In response to this stress level, I've started looking into ways to not spend so much time in the classroom in order to decrease the marking and planning aspects. I like educating, but the marking feels more and more futile every year. I'd like to find a side hustle in order to keep things fresh in my life. As much as I enjoy playing at a restaurant on the weekends, I'd love to be able to do a little more.
In a couple weeks, parent-teacher interviews will take place; there's an education conference in the middle of the month on the same Thursday and Friday that open the play. And then the play finishes on the 25th.
But this too shall pass. On the 26th, I'll have nothing but work to do and preparations for Winter Break. And I've treated myself to a birthday present: a nosebleed ticket to the Leafs-Canucks game in Vancouver on December 2nd.
But this month, as exciting as it will be, as many positive, empowering things as there are to do, couldn't end any sooner.
YouTube: ephemeral ideas
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