The DOVES

 

"Pulse"

The 120 mph motorcycle spree through the stalled traffic of the rush hour metropolis…

Standing on the edge, with nothing between between you and the ground but 3,000 feet of air and a nylon canopy folded into a pack…

To feel your heart pumping in your chest, adrenaline firing every nerve in your body, dancing on the razor thin line between life and death, with no margin for error.

To escape, if only for a moment, the bland banality of a world devoid of significance, where meaning and purpose have been evacuated, and everything runs together into a homogenous slurry of mass-produced objects and images and sensations.

To go beyond the limit of fear, into an immediacy which screams with extreme danger, and enter into a mode of existence where you are truly and fully alive…

Or to sit in peaceful contemplation of such a phenomenon.

Either way, the steady drumbeat of your “Pulse” — thump, thump, thump —

is all that stands between you and eternity.

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I began writing “Pulse” more years ago than I care to say (in order to “protect the guilty”). I played a version of it for David, who drummed with me when Trena played bass, and we went by a succession of names that included The Alkleins (“al-kaline”, as opposed to “acid”), The Scanners (“we’ll make your head explode”), Wadown in Trenadad, and The Whales. His sister-in-law enthused that “it reminds me of U2”, which of course I took as encouragement. My friend Bill, not easily impressed, who I recruited into the band; and who played guitar the way Babe Ruth hit home runs — forcefully and seemingly without effort, as a distraction between more compelling pursuits — provided offhand praise. “Like that part (the B-D-A-G power chord progression). It sounds Who-ish.”

The form of the song is essentially unchanged from those days. Most of the lyrics remain the same, as well. There was a line or two I could never quite get to my satisfaction. It’s for that reason that the song never made it into our rehearsal rotation before the band went its separate ways, and I entered the “real world” — marriage (to Trena, of course), full-time job, the whole bit.

But it was a place I never felt entirely comfortable. And as Zimmerman (Bob — not the guy from Florida) so adroitly summed it up: “one day the axe just fell”.

I once played a solo gig at a coffee house during that interval. “Pulse” was in the repertoire.

When Trena and I decided to become The DOVES, we embarked on a journey to record the material we had warehoused over the years, as well as the new stuff we continue to come up with, in a manner that was systematic without being overly planned.

Five years in, and after learning so much at the feet of the master, Joey Stuckey, and improving with each new project, it seemed like a good time to produce “Pulse”. I started working on it late last year, around the same time as “The Day You Were Born” (as well as a couple of other forthcoming tracks — “Confession” and “Let Me Go”), setting it aside several times — Trena had bronchitis over the winter, which affected her vocals; we moved…

I finally got to a point where I had completed the basic tracks, and was ready to start the mixing process. Since I’m doing that myself now, there was no pecuniary urgency associated with it. After a week or so, I was nearing completion.

On June 12, with the “Pulse” project 95% complete, I arose, poured a cup of coffee, and sat at my desk to see what was going on in the world. Another mass shooting. 50 dead. Orlando.

God help us.

I read to find out what details were available. The killings took place at a nightclub. The name of that nightclub: “Pulse”.

“It can’t be…” I thought.

It was unnerving. I wondered if I should postpone, or even shelve, the project.

Ultimately, I decided that any control over events in my own life was mostly illusory. And I have none at all over events in the wider world I inhabit. I resolved to finish the song and vid, and release it to that wider world.

And allow the listener to ponder whatever significance lies in its opening lines —

“We seem so full of time, it’s hard to think that it’s running out…”

and the ones that follow.

At some point in the last few years, I noticed that my pulse was visible at the wrist. A conspicuous little palpable throbbing. Maybe it always was, and I just didn’t see it. Maybe I’m getting more wiry with age.

All I know is that it is a visible reminder — pulse, pulse, pulse, pulse —

listen to your own.

that steady beat is all that stands between each of us and eternity.