1980. it’s not often i have listened to this song since four decades ago when i recorded it. i was a mere 20. listening to it warbling now, in the way that only old cassettes can warble, has been a mixed bag: this cassette master, with little studio experience, with reel-to-reel recording, with no auto-tune for my young nervous soprano-ish voice, with too-sweet flute lines and picked guitar, measures-too-long-instrumental-interlude; i am catapulted back.
it is shocking to hear the innocence. it is shocking to hear the pain. if my wednesday post this week was too much, i would hasten to add that this will be as well. this is a song about stripping a young woman of choice, of what should be the blissful love of first intimacy, of no justice, of no opportunity to process. it’s the story of sexual assault in the late 1970s. it’s the story of sexual assault any time. it changes everything. every trajectory. it’s my story.
NO BALLOONS is a song of the times. especially for someone who listened to john denver, james taylor, carole king, joni mitchell, bread, loggins and messina, america, england dan & john ford coley, the carpenters – the A-team of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-interlude-chorus. simple melodies, simple instrumentation, simply written, simply sung.
i can’t believe i didn’t write it in the vein of led zeppelin or kiss. it should have been a screaming heavy metal song, full of pointed weapons of anguish, of power-stripped anger. instead, it sounds like a sweet love-gone-bad song, “you take away my hopes, my dreams, you give me no balloons to fly.” only it’s not. it’s about no air. no breath.
“and now with my eyes closed, i no longer see the pain in yours or feel it in mine…” and that was a product of the times as well. i closed my eyes and silenced my voice. i stopped feeling it. or did i? “and i cried as long as the rain lasted and when it stopped i stopped.” was it really that simple?
until this week i really never thought i would share this song again. after all, the song is 40 years old; i’m an alto, perched firmly on the tenor shore. but somehow, between the #MeToo movement and the swirling-around-us-in-the-world-contention and public court battles in recent media and the lack of regard for those who truly need help or healing and my aunt’s texted article and the weeping inside of my younger-self and my silenced-silence, it felt like it was time to be vulnerable and candid and believe that our muddy-boots-narratives might make a difference for someone else.
we each have a story, a timeline, an arc that takes us through this life. things we want to remember in detail, things we desperately want to forget. things we have lived boisterously out loud, things we have lived in despairing silence. the tapestry that holds all these threads together is the soul of our experience, the way we can hear others and truly listen, the empathy we can employ in a world that seems to cite MeFirst instead of UsTogether.
i wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone. i’m pretty sure that every day since those-dark-days-in-the-late-70s i have both been affected and have effected because of them. i have made choices and non-choices, taken action and had reflexive reaction. i have searched for answers.
but i also know that my heart was blown open. i am not standing on a different rung of the ladder, too high up to understand or remember, too discurious to ask, too blinded to see, too discriminating or apathetic to care.
i am next to anyone who needs me to listen, really listen. i am next to anyone who needs me to jump and catch their balloons before they have flown too far to reach.
NO BALLOONS ©️ 1980 kerri sherwood