11. Song No. 111: “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” The Allman Brothers Band
Eat a Peach, 1972
I. LOVE. This song. So freaking much. I’m trying to publish these pieces as alphabetically as possible but I just couldn’t focus on anything else until I gushed about all the ways this song makes my heart sing.
In August 2008, my husband and I weren’t even married yet, much of our 20somethings’ social life orbited around a friend’s house we affectionately called The Ranch, and we finally saw the Allman Brothers pour music from their instruments for three face-melting, hallucinating-Grateful-Dead-album-covers-in-the-stars, absolutely transcendent hours.
I feel so personally cheated that I not only have described so many of my favorite bands with the nebulous retronym “classic rock” but also will never get to see them perform live. So when the opportunity arose to experience an Allman Brothers concert years ago, hubs and I jumped at the chance, a well-thought-out transportation plan be damned. (It is worth noting that despite my track record of dating guys whose musical tastes were a significant contribution to our compatibility, I ultimately married the one who really only shared my love of classic rock, because a writer kinship apparently mattered more than most matters of preference.)
That night was one of the most viscerally electric experiences of my life. We drank. We chattered endlessly. We ran around barefoot in summer-evening gras as if the urban expanses of both Camden and Philadelphia weren’t standing in stark contrast just beyond the venue’s walls. We made fast friends with total strangers in ways introverts only do when they’re at peace with their surroundings. We danced like we were in documentaries about the ’60s. We saw things that were never there and always there. We witnessed the Allman Brothers cover Led Zeppelin and I thought I was going to die of happiness on the spot, knowing in a brief flash of sober certainty that this would be the closest I’d ever get to live Zep. And we did it all in the company of those people who are so important for a few years and then go their separate ways, leaving exactly when they’re supposed to so you part on good terms that polish all of their accompanying memories with the magic of a well-told story with a natural ending.
Social media has a nasty way of making people feel obligated to stick around well past the intended lifespan of their time together, and I think that’s a terrible thing to do when impermanence is a natural phenomenon with nothing to fear. There will always be people whose stories have another path that leads away from yours: Hanging on when you should be letting go interrupts your respective journeys and only dams up the flow your lives were supposed to follow. Goodbyes hurt, but so do well-meaning attachments that yield mutually inhibited growth. And I think songs like “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” beautifully emphasize that rather unwelcome reality by recasting it as the much more palatable mindset of making the most of the time we have, whatever its plans for us are.
I’m just a few days into an alphabetical exploration of my music library but it’s already been a treat rediscovering long-forgotten songs. Having a wildly beloved favorite pop in to say hello, however, is an ecstatic reunion every time. And that’s exactly what hearing this song is always like.
“Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” is just about one of those most perfect songs, as far as I’m concerned: I love the lyrics, I love how it sounds, I love its message, it is packed with wonderful memories preserved in musical amber, and it sounds like eternal summer. It is truly one of my favorite songs, and lines like “With the help of God and true friends / I come to realize / I still had two strong legs / And even wings to fly” blow right past my knee-jerk aversion to religious imagery in music while the wailing chorus’s variations on time moving like hurricanes, the pouring rain and faster things has always hit me as more an empowered realization than, say, Pink Floyd’s regretful observations over a missed starting gun amounting to a stalled-out decade. It’s a fitting tribute to emerging from the shadows of grief to seize life in honor of those lost too soon, and the importance of finding what matters in every moment because each one has its own lesson to teach.