Tom Hamilton is the guitarist/vocalist of American Babies and Brothers Past. This piece was originally published in the Aug/Sept 2008 issue of State of Mind.
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"It makes no difference/where I turn/I can't get over you and the flame still burns"
One of my earliest childhood memories is of watching The Last Waltz with my Dad and when the opening riff to this song started it was as if I immediately learned something new about being alive. Too young to fully understand the weight of the lyrics, I was still able to understand the hurt in Rick Danko's voice and the urgency with which the band played. I was about six years old.
"Without your love/I have nothing at all/like an empty hall/it's a lonely fall"
As I entered my teen years my folks split up and Mom took it hard. I can still smell her cigarette burning in her bedroom and see the smoke pass through a soft light as I noticed she had the lyrics written out on a legal pad on her bed. I had never really read through those words before that and if I had, I didn't think of them as anything more than just words to a song. This time it was different. That night I went into my room and listened over and over, studying every nuance as if that recording was a textbook.
The version from The Last Waltz makes this song take on more meaning. Makes it more than just a song to a lover. This was The Band's last concert. They were all losing someone after that night and I think it came out in the performance. Richard Manuel and Levon Helm only play the perfect notes. No fill more or less than needed and the piano never stepped on the vocal. Robbie Robertson jingles and jangles his guitar solo right through you leading up to what I consider to be the greatest use of a sax solo in all of rock music (sorry Clarence). Garth Hudson's note choice is absolutely perfect and his tone knocks you at the knees.
"Well, I love you so much/and it's all I can do/just to keep myself from telling you/ that I never felt so alone before"
There are few constants in life. Friends come and go, family members die as new ones are born. Hair Metal used to be the shit. I've lost lovers, band members, and even pieces of myself. And through all of the changes life has thrown I always come back to this song because for people like us, the song is that one constant that makes you feel like your not alone. That someone else has felt what you have felt and they made it through.
"It Makes No Difference," my six minutes and forty-six seconds of consistency.
Tom Hamilton on It Makes No Difference by The Band