Wednesday, April 25, 2012

That's All Right

Funny thing, magic. Impossible to predict where or when it'll strike. It's just there or it's not. There's no way to force it into existence.

Except that's not quite true. As evidence, I submit the first Elvis Presley single.

The story's famous. Elvis, Scotty and Bill were having trouble getting a good take of a different song, so producer Sam Phillips suggest they take a break. Elvis started fooling around, Bill followed and then Scotty, and Sam came running back to ask what they were doing. "We don't know," came the reply. "Well, back up," Sam said, "Try to find a place to start, and do it again."

They did, and "That's All Right" was born.

One spin and you can hear it all. The ease with which these three guys play, the sense of fun and adventure, the overwhelming joy and most of all the unbridled passion—if this isn't the actual birth of rock and roll, it sure feels like it. Listening, you're aware that this is one of those rare moments of spontaneous creation, when pure beauty enters the world out nowhere, simply appearing out of the blue. That is magic.

Only...that's not how it happened. It's unclear how many takes they had to go through to get to the finished version, but it was at least the third and possibly far more. That spontaneity? It's not really there. Or, rather, it is there, but it's the product of hard work combined with natural talent, rather than sheer luck. It's three young guys who'd been playing together night after night for weeks, looking for something new, something that had never been heard before, not outside their own heads at least—searching for their own sound, trying to make what was buried inside them come out just right.

Listen to the first few takes. It's good. It's really good. But it doesn't feel like getting hit by sweet lightning. It's good stuff. But it's not magic.

So they kept at it. And they kept at it. Until they found the magic. Until they were able to create magic.

When someone blessed with that much natural talent and ambition finds like-minded partners and they work and they work and they work until they find that new thing and together they bring it all into existence and it's not only every bit as good as they were hoping it was, it's as good as anything ever...

...that's magic.

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