Tom Pitts (@MrTomPitts) is a San Francisco writer. Find more of his work at http://tom-pitts.blogspot.com/
In 1992, I was 25 and stuck in rehab. Well, not really a rehab, but an Arizona ranch posing to be a rehab where we baked under the merciless sun outside of Tucson, cut off from the real world and our lives. I was told that there’d be music up there, that there were musicians—even the old drummer for Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band was at the ranch hiding out from a massive coke problem. That’s what I was told. The pitch for a rehab facility, I found out, is not unlike the pitch for a time-share.
There were no musicians at the ranch, nor instruments. Bob’s old drummer had relapsed and left. I was told, upon arrival, that I wasn’t even allowed to have a guitar. Weeks and weeks into my stay, they brought onto the ranch a renowned therapist who was rumored to have been simultaneously seeing Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and that poor drummer from Guns n Roses—not my punk rock heroes, but real live superstar mega-fiends just the same. I was vicariously star-struck. It took some string pulling and some extra cash, but soon, I, too, was seeing the rock n roll therapist. In his wisdom, he determined that I needed access to a guitar. “Get this boy an axe, Stat!” is the way I’d like to remember it. His first assignment? Go and write a song about my addiction. As corny as that sounds, I came up with a pretty hip tune.
In our next session, I played it for him and, when I’d finished, he said, “Hey, you know who you remind me of? John Prine.”
I said, “Who’s John Prine?”
He was both astonished and disappointed. He went about getting me a cassette of John Prine Live and I drank it up. It was like reuniting with an old friend. 18 tracks into my new discovery, I hit the song, That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round. It was the most unpretentious thing I’d ever heard. It crystallized my view of the world. Its easy blend of pain and humor, framed in the joyous simple key of G, put my world back on its axis. Prine perfectly married the harsh reality of abuse with the whimsy of hope in just a few lines. It was a complete palette of emotion and I knew then that I’d never be able to write anything as good.
The song made me feel well-adjusted again. Everything under the unforgivable Arizona sun was in its place, imperfectly, where it was supposed to be. It was okay with John, and it was going to be okay with me.
♬ Listen to That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round ♫
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