Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Great Moments In Music History

Do you remember the first album you ever bought? Do you have a song that always reminds you of some moment in your life you’ll never forget? Do you and your significant other – past, present or future – have an “Our Song?” Is there a song you want played at your wedding or maybe even your funeral?

I’ve got a ton of them that evoke all sorts of feelings and memories. Here’s a few . . .

First Albums Ever
The first record album I ever owned was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’ Whipped Cream & Other Delights. I asked for it as a birthday present when I was 12 or 13 and, much to my surprise, my conservative, Mormon parents bought it for me. It wasn’t that the music was all that controversial – all horn stuff – but the cover sure was! A woman all covered in, what else? Whipped cream. That had nothing to do with why I wanted it, of course. I just really liked the song “Taste of Honey.”

Over the next couple of years the only albums I bought or received as gifts were either:

Bill Cosby comedy records I think I own every one of the first ten albums on this link and listened to them so much that I memorized the routines and started to mimic Bill Cosby’s speech patterns. It got so bad that one night at the dinner table my Mom said, “I think you’ll have to quit listening to Bill Cosby. You slur your words so badly I can’t understand you!”


James Bond soundtracks. The one I remember most was Thunderball. That was the first James Bond movie I ever saw and I thought the music was way cool. My best friend, Roger (Last Name Withheld to Protect the Guilty), also had his fair share of soundtrack albums and we would listen to them over and over.

Beatle Non-Mania
I was in 6th grade when The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan. I didn’t see ‘em but the next day when I got to school EVERYBODY was talking about them. I had no idea who they were and (I am NOT making this up) I really thought they were one of those Russian circus act things Ed Sullivan always had on his show. By lunch time, however, I figured out they were a band – but other than that, I had no idea what the big deal was about. At recess, a girl in my grade, Tracy (Last Name Withheld to Protect the Guilty), formed a spontaneous “I Hate The Beatles” club. Always on the prowl for a future ex-wife, I joined the club immediately. The sole purpose – and only activity – was to stand by the swings and chant “I Hate The Beatles! I Hate The Beatles!” The club disbanded after one day but my hatred for The Beatles continued for several years.

When I was a junior in high school my friend, Rick (Last Name Withheld To Protect the Guilty), loaned me his Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Holy crap! This wasn’t just a record album, it was kinda like they were telling a story or something. The title track, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Lovely Rita (who I actually met in 1991) and especially the mind blowing Day in the Life caused me to resign my membership in the “I Hate The Beatles” club.

All That Jazz
In my 8th grade general music class our teacher, Miss Baker (First Name Withheld For No Real Reason Except That She Was A Teacher and We're Not Supposed To Use Their First Names - But It Was Pat) introduced us to a lot of different music. Okay, mostly Broadway show tunes BUT one day she played Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. I’d never really heard jazz before but after hearing Take Five, I was hooked. Although I like all types of music – except maybe polka – jazz is by far my favorite and I tie it back to Miss Baker’s 8th grade general music class.

Monkee Business
Also when I was in 8th grade, Miss Baker got me into the Portland Civic Theater production of The Sound of Music. (I was Friedrich Von Trapp and had two lines: “I’m Friedrich. I’m 14. I’m the oldest” and “No, not me! It was Kurt’s idea.”) Backstage before a performance I was talking with a girl (First and Last Name Withheld Cuz I Have No Idea Now What Her Name Was), who also played one of the Von Trapp kids. She asked something innocuous like, “What’s your favorite TV show?” In a failed attempt to impress her, I decided I wouldn’t tell her the truth (that my favorite show was The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) but instead would try to impress her by picking the show EVERY teenage girl loved that year: The Monkees. As luck would have it, she replied, “Oh, I hate The Monkees!” I probably offered to start an “I Hate The Monkees Fan Club” but previous experience told me that probably wasn’t really gonna work.

Berry Pickin’
For what seems like about ten years, I picked strawberries and raspberries as a summer job. Three to five cents a pound is what they paid and I was such a slow picker that I only made about $3 to $5 dollars a day. (Actually, $5 would have been a miracle.) What often helped me to pick faster was the music on the transistor radios some people brought with them. One of those summers I heard a song that I became obsessed until I found out what it was called and who the artist was. Turns out it was Spinning Wheel by Blood Sweat & Tears. I think this was in the summer of 1969 (Bryan Adams reference intended) and was pretty excited when Roger got me the album for my 15th birthday.

Horn Bands
I loved BS&T and the next two albums were also by horn bands. I bought both Chicago Transit Authority and Chicago II. I would come home from school and listen to them every dang day. AND, just like today, I loved to play my music LOUD. My Dad (Last Name Withheld to Protect The Guilty), was a custom gun stock maker and had his shop in the basement of our house. He would come upstairs and yell at me to “turn down the stereo” cuz he was tired of hearing the “thump, thump, thump” of the music. I always turned it down out of respect (or maybe fear) of my Dad but I find it interesting that all these years later I really love to listen to LOUD music with lots of bass. (Maybe I have daddy issues.)

Get The Led Out
In high school I gravitated even more toward rock and roll and no band was better than Led Zeppelin. Roger and I would sit in his bedroom and listen to Led Zeppelin on his “8-track.” (For those of you younger than, oh say 45, the 8-track was a state of the art device which contained an entire album on multiple tracks of recording tape all in a convenient cartridge. The coolest thing was when – in the middle of a dang song – the tape would switch to the next track, leaving you with ten seconds of silence until the song would resume again!) The song I always looked forward to the most was Livin’ Lovin’ Maid. It was LOUD, had lots of bass AND it was fast! My dad could not STAND this kinda music, so naturally, I listened to more and more of it.

The Louder the Better
Grand Funk Railroad was one of my other favorites in high school – especially the song We’re An American Band. It fit all the requirements – LOUD, fast and lots of bass. I knew all the lyrics and could sing along BUT (and this is weird) I had no comprehension of what the song was really about. Back in those days I just didn’t pay any attention to lyrics - except to memorize them so I could sing along. I know this makes no sense but it wasn’t until years later as I was singing along with my kids in the car that I realized:
Out on the road for forty days
Last night in Little Rock, put me in a haze
Sweet, sweet Connie was doin' her act
She had the whole show and that's a natural fact
Might not be as wholesome a message as I had thought.

I also loved other big arena rock bands like Three Dog Night, Bad Company, Yes, The Who and (dare I say it?) The Moody Blues. Yes, I am now embarrassed about this last one (as should Shawn “Last Name Withheld But You Know Who You Are”) but the other three were still awesome. Back in the day.

Okay so I only made it through my high school years. I guess there have been more significant musical influences than I thought! I’ll leave the rest for another time. Or maybe not.

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