You got to pay attention. Every minute. You got to look around and take note. To bugs and tall grass and paw prints and the smell of frying onions, to strangers and graffiti, to shrubbery and kindness; all the little things it’s easy to ignore. In this new year, let’s all say it together: WAKE UP AND PAY ATTENTION!
I first heard this song in Pasadena, California, at a record show. It was an outdoor af-fair, on the grounds of a city college. There were lots of dealers selling lots of pretty, very expensive things. I made the rounds and didn’t find anything I wanted. Then over in the corner of the parking lot I saw a guy who had a couple boxes set out next to his low rider. He was setting up a deck and as I walked over the first record he played was Jimmy Holiday. He had me.
He played, for the next hour, all the best stuff. He wore a T-shirt that said Los Souleros. His car, his shoes, his freshly oiled hair, everything was immaculate. Tat-tooed on his forearm was the Virgin De Guadalupe. This guy was on it.
Among the records he played was No Particular One.
I tried to pay attention. I did my feeble best. I repeated names and labels and song titles until my head was swimming and nothing meant anything. I tried but I didn’t remember much. I was hot and tired and overwhelmed. I wasn’t up to the task. I tried to pay attention but I failed.
Fifteen years later my friend Geoff Granfield gave me a cassette on which the first song was No Particular One. I paid attention for maybe five minutes. Until I was distracted by the neighbour’s dog or a bad movie or a passing motorcycle or some lo-cal colour and then the cassette got mislaid and I, dumb me, dumb idiot me, moved on.
Two years ago I got a CD from Rob Ryan and there, amongst the other gems, was No Particular One. This time, finally, I paid attention. I took out my little black book and wrote down Jesse Boone And The Astors. I wrote down the name of the song, the label, the year it was recorded. I added a couple stars and some exclamation points. Six months later, looking through a box of records in a record shop, there it was. No Particular One.
Years ago, when I lived in New York, a neighbour told me: never think you know what you want. You don’t know know what you want. The world knows what you want. Let the world, when you least expect it, give it to you. Just make sure you’re paying attention so that you’re ready to take it.
Jeb Loy Nichols.
Jeb’s Jukebox archive.