Like a lot of people, I think, the romantic entanglements of my teenage years and early 20s were colored by a lot of unexpressed, misunderstood, or just plain repressed emotions — guilt over feelings that weren’t supposed to exist, or relationships that ended badly, or simple longing for what (and who) I couldn’t have. I walked around in denial a lot of the time, and every so often my subconscious rewarded me for it with a dream that would force me to confront my feelings. The damn things stuck like cobwebs — they’d linger for days. I hated it.
This is the state I was in throughout the spring of 1998, when I first heard Largo, the all-star (sort of) Dvorak tribute (kind of) assembled by once-and-future Hooters Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman. (If you’re curious, I’ve written more about the album here.) There were a number of songs that stood out for me, but the one that really resonated was “Largo’s Dream”:
I’m sleeping at the moment
I’m dreaming and you’re in it
Running down the Little Bighorn
In your platform shoes
I was on the wrong end of a surprise breakup at the time — no closure, no real goodbyes, the kind of thing that can really mess you up if you aren’t ready for it. It would put me under a shadow for years, but I didn’t know that yet; I was still just trying to make my way back to the surface. I made a cross-country drive with a friend while all this was going on, and I have no doubt I was unbearable to be around; hearing “Largo’s Dream” always takes me back to the sunny skies and dark emotions we traveled under in Colorado. Not really Little Bighorn territory, but close enough for a memory. And then there’s this:
Are you trying to get to me now
Like I’m trying to get to you?
It’s a perfectly simple, perfectly pure question, and it made me ache just to hear it. The song’s subject is really pretty specific, and it has nothing to do with my particular situation — like the rest of Largo, it references the families and promises broken by American slavery — but with David Forman’s yearning vocals set against a lovely, plangent piano figure and some typically bewitching synth shenanigans from Garth Hudson, it feels both universal and intimate. “Largo’s Dream” was a source of comfort for me, countless times.
Like the song’s melody, I moved in circles; my feelings, like that piano, came and went in waves, in a destructive cycle I willfully repeated until it had claimed a cost it still shames me to contemplate. And yet I still love this song unreservedly — although it reminds me of a very difficult time, it leaves behind a surge of bittersweet, almost nostalgic warmth.
Sort of like a dream.
David Forman, “Largo’s Dream” (play)