ALBUMS: Building the Perfect Beast (Don Henley), Purple Rain (Prince & The Revolution), Shortstop (Sara Hickman)
MUSICALS: Cats, Les Miserables, West Side Story
SONGS: “Crazy” (Icehouse), “In Your Eyes” (Peter Gabriel), “Simply” (Sara Hickman)
The previous two posts documented my introductions to the first two of my Three Muses, those artistic individuals whose works inspire me. You met William Shakespeare and Sara Teasdale and now the stage is set to bring my Third Muse into the spotlight.
This is my story.
In March of 1991, I was working as a courier in Southern California. During the morning part of my shift driving around delivering various items to businesses, I would listen to KLOS (99.5 on your FM dial) and “The Mark and Brian Show”. The hosts, Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps, were funny without being crude. They were imaginative without being trite and I enjoyed how they interacted with the listeners without belittling them.
I was driving to a pick-up when I caught the hosts in the middle of an interview with a musician touting her second album. She spoke with a soft Texas drawl. Mark and Brian invited their guest to perform one of her songs live and she heartily complied. If I had not hit three red lights in succession and had instead arrived at my destination five minutes earlier, I would not have heard the first three stanzas of the song she chose, “Too Fast”, which goes a little something like this…
He checks his wrist
And chuckles to himself, “Half-past a freckle”
She meets him in line, just in time
For the half-past a freckle show
Lips press her flesh
With a wet sticky kiss
The smell on his breath
Makes her turn her face
As she starts to get a little sick
He hails a cab
She gasps for breath during the drive
She dives into his pants
And he looks as if he’s shocked
As if she should have knocked
I was hooked before I pulled into the parking spot and needed to know how this musical story ended. There was no way I was leaving the car until I found out who this singer was and what the name of the album was.
Four minutes later, I had my answer. She was Sara Hickman and she was promoting Shortstop.
It would take me a week to find that album in the record store. Such is the fate of the artist not completely supported by their label. Hers was an album of lost love, about what it’s like to be a woman, and the only song I know of that contains an homage to the surrealist painter, Salvador Dali.
It would take me a month before I could find her debut album, Equal Scary People.
When I had my short-lived show on the college radio station in St. George (Utah), I dedicated an entire show to her and played all of the songs from both of her albums. A few years later, while working at an adult contemporary radio station in Ramona, California, I discovered that the studio had a copy of her song “Claim On My Heart”, which is from Shortstop. I played that song every time I was on the air whether it was on the official playlist for my shift or not. It was my personal mission to give Hickman as much as air time as possible. Had I the authority, I would have placed more of her music in the rotation at that station.
It was on Equal Scary People that I heard “Simply” for the first time. This, if you recall from this post’s beginning, is one of my three favorite songs. The lyrics touch me for the same reason that Teasdale’s poetry does – it is simple, plain, and unassuming. It is also the song that comes closest to my definition of love.
It is also only one of two songs I know of where “hose whirled about the head” is listed as one of the instruments.
I own many of her other albums including Necessary Angels, Two Kinds of Laughter, Misfits, Faithful Heart, Spiritual Appliances, Absence of Blame, Motherlode, and Shine.
Like Sara Teasdale, Hickman’s music covers the gamut of love from the humorous, (“Too Fast”…see above), lustful (“Cocky Friend” from Shine), pure (“Simply”), dark (“Everything’s Red” from Spiritual Appliances), innocent (“Claim On My Heart” from Shortstop), soul-wrenching (“Eight” from Two Kinds of Laughter), and every other facet of that squishy emotion you can fathom.
Like Shakespeare, she is also a master storyteller. In addition to her songs about love, lust, and sex, she can fill any performance space with tales of heroism (“Last Man in the Water” from Absence of Blame), giving (“Aurora” from Shortstop), memory (“Sister and Sam” from Necessary Angels), strangers on a plane (“Human Wish” from Shine), and B movies (“Radiation Man” from Misfits) just to name a few.
Shakespeare, my First Muse, inspires me to create to capture the emotions we feel.
Teasdale, my Second Muse, inspires me to create to discover the emotions we feel.
Hickman, my Third Muse, simply inspires me to create.
That’s my story.
P.S. If you would like to know if I have ever seen Sara Hickman live in concert…well, that’s a story for another day.