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Going soft

  • By Clay Neely
  • |
  • Nov. 30, 2021 - 5:33 PM

Going soft

Clay Neely is co-publisher and managing editor of The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at

Things that don’t lie: your mirror, your bathroom scale and your record collection.

Personally speaking, I’ve always believed the greatest music of our time was created between 1965 and 1975.

For years, I loved searching for obscure bands from that era that never made it. In turn, I’d share these finds with like-minded individuals, hoping they could return the favor.

It was also convenient since a lot of those “never were” bands eventually were appreciated years later and would often reunite to play venues that didn’t require binoculars or a second mortgage to get a ticket.

You often had a chance to get a beer with the group, maybe talk a little while backstage about their lives and allow them to share some war stories and wisdom with you.

It also teaches you a lot about time. Some of those same long-haired, slack-jawed guys on the back of the album cover went on to great success in their second lives. One of my favorite punk rock drummers went to law school and eventually made millions in real estate.

His name is Lucky, so it works.

Somewhere along the way, you search for music that fills those gaps when you’re not in the mood to blast "Deep Purple In Rock" for the umpteenth time. You might be driving home late at night, and quite frankly, your ears have had enough.

So, I found myself listening to ambient works by Brian Eno, maybe some Roy Harper, Buffalo Springfield or Fairport Convention. Soon, it was Debussy, Satie and Dvorak.

The key to creating good music is ensuring you have a mixture of light and shade. Yin and yang, all that stuff. The heaviness hits harder when it’s broken up by some atmosphere. Music needs to breathe – it can’t be a one-way street.

Heavy music is something you must attentively listen to. It’s not background music. It’s the one doing the talking.

But the more subtle, ambient compositions allow you a chance to listen to yourself. It’s a much more introspective experience.

Now into my mid-40s, I’m hyper-aware of any signs of “getting older.” This is most often restricted to physical idiosyncrasies including sleeping patterns, ear hair, indigestion and wondering how I’m going to feel when I get out of bed in the morning.

But there are much more subtle forms of aging.

Nowadays, my idea of the perfect gift is a book. I don’t really care what it’s about. If you think it’s interesting, that’s enough for me.

And you know what goes great with a book? Going to bed around 10:30 p.m. And while I still love mountain biking, taking long walks with my dog ranks pretty high, too.

During our walkabouts, I can catch up on a podcast or listen to music uninterrupted. All the while, Spotify is watching and recording my listening habits.

This morning, it hit me in the face. I’m no longer occasionally dabbling with classical, ambient or atmospheric music. Every single playlist “designed for me” by Spotify was a compilation of these mellow sounds.

Sure, they were all different, but the message was clear as day – "this is what you’re into now, and it’s not Black Sabbath.”

My uncle grew up listening to my rock heroes, and I teased him as I watched as his record collection slowly grew to include those same, softer artists that I enjoy now.

Life is short, but the possibilities contained therein are infinite. So the more I listen, watch or read the same thing over and over, the more I realize I’m probably missing out on something else.

Personally, the hunt is just as rewarding as the catch. I’m just chasing different sounds these days.

I don’t think I’ll ever lose my love for those heavy pioneers, but I’m in a different place than I was 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

And that’s okay. Because when I do drop the needle on one of my old favorites, it will still hit just as hard.

Clay Neely is co-publisher and managing editor of The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at