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A Bigger Tool Kit
In 2006, the heavy "prog rock" band Tool released their fourth full-length CD, 10,000 Days. Since Tool puts out new material every five years or so, each release tends to be a big event. The band has been touring nonstop since May 2006 with shows booked through this September, and 10,000 Days claimed the #1 Billboard slot after its first week on-sale with no advance media hype—the result of a rabid, word-of-mouth fan base eager to devour the band's latest achievement.
I was riding the train home from work that day in May 2006 when my cell phone rang. Without introduction, the voice of an old friend coolly announced, "Remember, the new Tool CD is out today." Excellent! Fortunately my wife and kids were otherwise occupied, and I hunkered down with the new CD, hoping for a set list filled with infectious, odd-timed grooves, demanding lyrics, and frequent displays of technical prowess that would spark "How do they do that?!" conversations with other musicians for years to come. (I'm a drummer myself, and Tool's Danny Carey routinely astonishes me.)
At the end of the evening I was not disappointed, but I was surprised. Along with all that I'd come to expect from Tool, there was something more, in the haunting two-song set entitled "Wings for Marie" and "10,000 Days (Wings part 2)." As best as I could tell—no lyrics were provided in the CD packaging—this seemed to be a commentary on a life well lived by someone close to the band. Thanks to one of the fan-run websites, I discovered that a complete set of unofficial lyrics generated by spontaneous fan submissions was already available within a couple days of the CD's release.
The lyrics—and some additional online digging—revealed that this two-part song is a lengthy meditation by the singer, Maynard James Keenan, whose mother had died during the making of 10,000 Days. The title of the CD—and the corresponding track—refers to her 27+ year-struggle with paralysis caused by a stroke.