Johnny was rolling a skinny little joint from the stuff he had bought on the street. (When would that boy learn?) His old lady, Susie, reclined in her usual spot, with that huge smile that said so loudly, "I'm fucking miserable, but you'll never know." (She put a shotgun in her mouth 10 years later, to the day, and tore that smile to pieces.)
I was hanging out at their place 'cause I'd been invited over several times prior and had found a reason not to go. It was pure guilt that brought me there that night. I was getting depressed with their sham marriage and bad dope.
But one thing Johnny could always do was find the new music and make me listen to it. I mean, listen; not just let it swirl around me like the cloud from that horrible little excuse for an illegal drug: He'd make sure it went in my ears and stayed there until I got it.
He'd been the one to first play Dylan's Blonde on Blonde for me. He'd introduced me to Phil Ochs' Pleasures of the Harbor. There were several others, but tonight, it was Little Stevie Wonder.
"I don't really like that Motown stuff," I said, as I popped another beer to try and get high on something. Those little hairpin weaves of his sure weren't doing anything but giving me an idea for a whole new sort of War on Drugs.
"I think you'll like this one. It's a bit different from what he's been doing so far." And he lit up some incense, rolled another useless number and put on Innervisions.
It was 1973. Nothing that Stevie Wonder did prior to this or after this ever compared. In fact, there would not be a Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean or Raphael Saadig had it not been for this album. Of course, there would not have been this album if it hadn't been for Marvin Gaye, but that's another story.
He had done Music of My Mind and Talking Book, and those had already taken him out of the Motown frame of reference, since he was arranging, writing, producing and performing the whole thing by himself. But Innervisions was more sophisticated. It had a way to call to you and put you in those songs like nothing he'd done before (or since).
Too High was the first song. And it actually took me where that damn ragweed I'd been smoking had failed to do. Someone on here said the "true drugs are taken trough the eyes:" I think the ears can work pretty well in this regard, too.
Living for the City turned out to be the hit from this album, and it's good, but by far not the best song on Innervisions. Of course, when was the best song on an album or CD the hit? Maybe Kodachrome by Paul Simon?
The fourth song was Golden Lady. Oh, hell: Here it came now. That visceral flowing into the music like a Van Morrison trance listening to Jackie Wilson.
A couple of throwaways, and the sadness of All in Love is Fair, followed by the incredible infectiousness of Don't Worry 'Bout a Thing.
Later in life, I'd spend months trying to teach some folks in a band just how to play "Don't Worry 'Bout a Thing," and some nights we almost got it right. Those nights, I'd always remember that night in '73 as we defiled that marvelous music with that carpet lint we were smoking.