Sunday, February 05, 2006

My Life In Music

A week ago trusty getto “tagged” me with a meme about music that I had first seen over at mean girl’s. I had been praying this meme would pass me by, but I like trusty too much to blow him off. Instead this meme has been haunting my thoughts for over a week now. The damn thing is way too open ended. Look at it:

1. Tell us of some songs in your life that remind you of a person, place or a specific event in your life. The kind of song that everytime you hear it, it will always, no matter what, make that person, place or "thing" pop into your head instantly. You can write as few or as many "songs" as you want. And it can be a song or two songs or a whole album.

2. Give a brief description of the person, place or thing it reminds you of.

3. You can choose to tag people or not. Whatever you want to do. And you can tag as few or as many people as you want.

4. You don't have to link the songs or the lyrics unless you want to.

5. If you play, you have to leave me a comment so that I can come and read yours.

Music is an enormous part of my life. I have been listening to music since fifth grade when I would stay up past my bedtime listening to the late night DJ on the Top 40 AM station. Where would I start? I have over 400 albums in my CD library. How could I possibly pick just a few songs and have it mean anything? Besides I have always been more of an album guy. I have compromised by picking just a few albums that hit the highlights of either phases in my life or changes in my musical tastes. Here we go:

Star Wars: Original Soundtrack Composed and Conducted by John Williams, Performed by The London Symphonic Orchestra
I have never owned a 33-1/3 LP album. For most of my life, I wouldn’t have had anything to play one on. I started my music collection on cassettes and have naturally migrated to CDs. For Christmas 1976 I asked for and got a little monophonic cassette player and the album my folks bought with it was the Star Wars soundtrack. I listened to it over and over again. I am such a dork.

The Best of Abba
In my middle school years, I lived in the Philippines where the cost of living was pretty low. The Base Exchange sold albums basically at cost for about $5.50. Since my allowance was only two dollars a week, that was a lot of money. Off-base, cassettes sold for 25 pesos, or about 3 bucks. Immediately, my purchasing power nearly doubled. I would spend hours in the off-base music shops carefully selecting what to buy with my allowance and my saved Christmas and birthday money. One of the first tapes I bought was this ABBA compilation.
Look at the track list carefully. It does not match any of the ABBA compilations listed on This one was the Philippine licensed version of a Polydor album from early in their career. I of course now have the definitive ABBA Gold compilation on CD, but this was one of my earliest forays into what would become a love of cheesy music.

'70s Preservation Society Presents Disco Fever
I bought this out of nostalgia late one night in the early 90s when I was left unsupervised watching VH1 in the presence of a credit card. During 8th and 9th grade, my school had dances nearly every other week. This being the height of the disco era, kids really danced at school dances. I had a pair of tight navy polyester pants with matching vest that I wore with a variety of silk print shirts. Fortunately I do not think any photographic evidence of these outfits survive. This particular album has the best variety of songs and artists from the disco era that I have ever seen. Only Donna Summer is missing and that is a minor quibble. When my entire CD collection was stolen in 1993, this was one of three albums the burglar left behind. I thank God for that because this album is truly irreplaceable. Every song on it takes me back to my hormone ridden days of dancing with girls I barely knew in a dark school gym.

Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson – Waylon and Wille
Records in the Philippines were cheap, but nowhere as cheap as in Taiwan where copyright laws were completely unheard of. Any intellectual property could be bought for the price of production. Record albums on the thinnest vinyl imaginable sold for about a quarter. My parents took a vacation there and came back with a suitcase filled with about every country and western album in print. At about the same time I had a best friend that was opening me up to the incredible smuttiness of country lyrics. For a 15 year-old, I became unnaturally familiar with the works of all the mid-70s pop/country greats: Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Charlie Rich, Charlie Pride and others. The greatest in my mind though were the “Outlaws”, Willie, Waylon, and Kris Kristofferson. I am a lost son of Luckenbach, Texas.

Foreigner – Double Vision
In 1979 I moved back to the States and the disco era came to astoundingly abrupt end. In my new environment, I became a rocker. I listed to 98Rock in Tampa. I wore softball sleeve concert tee shirts to school. I grew my hair out as long as my dad would let me. I got tinted prescription glasses to try to look less dorky. Pretty much to no avail. I knew the words to “Hot Blooded” by heart. My coworkers at Wendy’s would goad me into singing it over and over again acapella. I knew they were laughing at me and not with me. I didn’t care. I RAWKED.

The Clash – London Calling
At my high school, the seniors sold records to fund their annual Grad Nite at Disney World. I bought this Clash album on a whim because it counted as a double album but only cost two dollars more than a regular album. That impulse purchase changed my life. Once I heard the raw power of The Clash’s music, I would never listen to music the same. Their energy and anger electrified me. I obsessed over everythin Clash related. My future wife found my devotion to them annoying. I had this pin I wore that was preppy pink and green with an AK-47 centered between the words “The Clash”. She would steal the pin form me because she thought it was tacky. She is perplexed that they are now even more popular and influential than when we were in school. Now my son listens to The Clash as well. Great music never dies.

Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy
I’ve never even owned this album, but I listend to it dozens of times. The Georgia Tech Student Center had a study lounge called The Music Listening Room. It had tables and sofas and armchairs clustered around groups of headphone jacks. You would go in and pick out albums from an enormous library and the DJ would play them first-come, first-served on whatever listening station you were sitting at. I spent hundreds of hours in there exploring about every musical genre that even mildly intrigued me. I tried everything, prog-rock, Zappa, New Wave. I kept coming back to the singer-songwriters. Warren Zevon’s macabre tunes just floored me. This is the sharpest, smartest, sickest songwriting ever recorded.

Billy Joel – Piano Man and Eagles – Greatest Hits
Before we were married, my wife went to a college about 200 miles away from Atlanta. On weekends when I would drive up to see her, I would pack a tray of cassettes for the eight hour round trip. I wanted stuff that I could play loud and keep my mind off the monotony of the road. These two albums were in the tray more often than not. A lot of other albums were in heavy rotation: Glass Houses, 52nd Street, Hotel California, The Long Run. To this day, when I hear a song from these albums, my finger reflexively hits the volume up button.

Lesbian Favorites: Women Like Us
Tampa has a hippie-dippie community radio station WMNF that plays a wide variety of styles. I listened to them in high school for their after-midnight punk rock show. When I moved back after college and would work on Saturdays, I would listen to their two hour Women’s Music Show which featured feminist musicians and political discussion. I did it mostly to annoy an evangelical Christian coworker, but the music grew on me. It exposed me to a lot of artists I never would have heard of otherwise. Years later I ran across a mention of this album and had to have it, mostly to get the Two Nice Girls track. Rather than buy it from Amazon (since there was no way a local record store would stock it) I paid a few extra bucks and bought it mail order from Ladyslipper Music because it seemed the right thing to do.

I hope this rather thin slice through my music collection has totally baffled you. Music is too important to pigeonhole and categorize. Good music is transcendent.

I can’t bring myself to tag anyone with this meme because it is just too powerful. It has made me think and reflect on music I love in ways I haven’t in a long time. You may not realize it, but these are some of the most personal and revealing thoughts ever put on my blog. I will be posting a lot more about music in the future. You have been warned.

Easter Egg notice: The images link to more information about the artist or the album.


trusty getto said...

Excellent response! Some of those are truly legendary records, like the Clash, Billy Joel, the Eagles and Foreigner. I vividly recall Hot Blooded (too vividly, perhaps) which my buds and I used to sing all the time. I had that on vinyl.

Thx for the added info, particularly about Foreigner. I didn't recall that Mutt Lange produced them, nor did I know that Jones produced Van Halen's 5150, a song from which made my list.

Oh, and btw, you can feel free to blow me off anytime - everyone else does ;^)

Your Mother said...

there is nothing better than the Outlaws when I'm needing to mellow out and think happy thoughts. I was raised on that kind of smutty music and I still love it. Nice list. K

Anonymous said...

Growing up in Oklahoma, I listened to top-40 and spurned country music completely. (Although I'd be lying if I said I never watched the Porter Wagoner Show) Then when I went to college in the northeast I eventually got a little nostalgic and started listening to Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt. I watched Austin City Limits every week on PBS. When Jerry Jeff Walker and his band Asleep at the Wheel played in Cambridge (their biggest hit, do you remember it? "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother"), I was really excited to see them. (I love that band name) Now I am at peace with "classic" country music--including the Outlaws and Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton--but the new stuff, I know the names of the performers but I've never heard any of the music. (Garth Brooks, Tricia Yearwood, Lyle Lovett--I have no idea what their music is like).

Impetua said...

Oh Lordy, I didn't think anybody -- let alone some guy such as yourself -- remembered Two Nice Girls... I had the honor and the privilege of seeing them in person once or twice in my misspent freshly-out youth. Now that I am post-gay, (still gay but no longer waving my rainbow flag; Pride Weekend is the same weekend as Father's Day and my father-in-law's birthday so I never get to go) I occasionally get a little misty remembering "Speed Racer" and "Last Ten Dollars"...

J.Po said...

Zevon IS totally awesome. Consider this perfect evening in the early 80s, three nights before my wedding:

- numerous beers and dinner at the Cask & Flagon in Boston
- bleacher seats in Fenway Park (before it was trendy and home-equity-line straining to do so) for Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd's major league debut
- cross Landsdowne Street to catch Zevon at the Metro.

Oh. My. God.

Excitable Boy will get you rocking, but his previous album is my favorite - particularly "Desperados Under The Eaves."

Good list, though...sounds like much of the stuff on my playlist during my stint as low-power FMDJ in my college years...(well, maybe not Abba)

You are absolutely on the mark, though - everyone has an album and/or a song that makes time stand still for a moment when you hear it. If anyone makes a movie about me, it'll be boring as hell, but will have an outstanding soundtrack.

yellojkt said...

I saw Zevon right out of rehab open for Jackson Browne. I think I was the only one in the audience who knew who he was until he played "Werewolves of London".

Anonymous said...

I got caught by your meme and wrote my latest blog entry on my top music choices. I used a slightly different format.

Either you have to stop doing this, or I have to stop reading your blog. You have great ideas to copy.

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