Since determining that running would lower my cardiovascular risk and that it was actually good for my wonky knees (running is associated with a lower risk of ostearthritis or hip replacement, see here), I’ve been trying to do it regularly.
It has become therapeutic in many ways, aiding sleep and reducing stress levels. And, unlike my bike riding adventures, I have yet to fall and injure myself running and I don’t get dirty looks for not wearing a helmet.
I’ve even contemplated running 5 kilometers, although not as part of any formal exhibition: just a personal , private goal. To this end I have for the first time recently run 4 kilometers.
Listening to music during these longer runs greatly helps the time pass and sometimes I am able to find songs which fit my running cadence, albeit not through any systematic analysis but through mere serendipity. I let my entire musical collection (nicely streamed by Apple music) be my running playlist and this ranges from the Talking Heads to Thelonius Monk to Bach.
This morning’s run (the second time I reached 4K) I was aided by two songs: one by the king of surf guitar, the other by the kings of psychedelic jam rock.
Dick Dale and Miserlou
Although, Dick Dale was huge in the early sixties, he did not register on my musical radar until I watched Pulp Fiction and in its dazzling opening scene and was jolted by Dale’s staccato machine gun guitar riffs alternating with his plaintive trumpet solo on “Miserlou“.
I immediately strapped on my Strat and began trying to emulate his unique playing style.
Here’s Dick and the Del-Tones performing their version for the movie “A Swinging’ Affair”
This version contains none of the rhythmic power and electrifying guitar attack of the single and the band appears to be on tranquilizers. To make matters worse, Dick doesn’t play that magical melodic moaning trumpet solo which contrasts so brilliantly with the pile-driving reverb-drenched guitar riffs on the original version.
You can see some of the power of the left-handed Dale in this live performance of Miserlou from 1995 but alas, no trumpet solo.
Dick Dale, remarkably, is still touring and playing well at age 80.
As fortune would have it the beats per
minute of this song is 173 which fits my preferred running speed stride cadence perfectly.
The Other One (Not Cryptical Envelopment)
The next song to aid me on my run was a live performance from the Grateful Dead’s 1972 European Tour which is 36 minutes long.
I was slow to revere the Dead but when I first listened to their live album Europe ’72 I was hooked. Instead of studying in college, I spent way too many hours playing Sugar Magnolia (and Blue Sky, et al..) thereafter.
The Other One highlights their free and wild improvisational style. While running I could focus on what Keith Godchaux was doing on the piano and that takes me to a psychic place in which I feel no pain.
Please excuse my hubris but I am convinced that I could have done a good job as the Dead keyboardist. It’s probably a good thing I never got that gig, however, as it carries a very high mortality rate (not to mention that I’m a much better cardiologist than keyboardist.)
As Billboard pointed out in its obituary on the last keyboardist, Vince Welnick (who committed suicide by slitting his throat at age 55 in 2006):
Welnick was the last in a long line of Grateful Dead keyboardists, several of whom died prematurely, leading some of the group’s fans to conclude that the position came with a curse.
Welnick had replaced Brent Mydland, who died of a drug overdose in 1990. Mydland succeeded Keith Godchaux, who died in a car crash shortly after leaving the band. And Godchaux had replaced the band’s original keyboard player, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who died at 27 in 1973.
Last week a very good Grateful Dead documentary (Long Strange Trip) was released on Netflix. I’ve been somewhat mesmerized by what I’ve watched so far. For example, at one point, Phil Lesh reveals that Jerry Garcia asked him to join the band as their bassist even though he had never played the instrument. (If only he had asked me!)
N.B. Miserlou is a very old folk song with a scale that sounds exotic to Western ears: the double harmonic scale
The song’s oriental melody has been so popular for so long that many people, from Morocco to Iraq, claim it to be a folk song from their own country. In fact, in the realm of Middle Eastern music, the song is a very simplistic one, since it is little more than going up and down the Hijaz Kar or double harmonic scale (E-F-G#-A-B-C-D#). It still remains a well known Greek, Klezmer, and Arab folk song.