Saturday, January 23, 2010

Evolution of a Song, Part I

When I was a baby, my mom used to put my playpin next to the stereo and play classical music. I loved music. I still do. I remember that old radio with a turn-table and wooden box speakers. It was on that same turn table that we listened to The Wiz, the Muppets, and the storybook version of The Rescuers. My mom received one of those offers from Columbia for so many records for a penny, and gave us each the sheet of stickers to choose one album. I was maybe 5 if that. I picked Crystal Gayle because she had long pretty hair that almost touched the ground. My brother picked a trumpeter named Barry M-something. My sister picked John Denver. I am pretty sure my mom picked Camelot because I remember a song that I would march around to on my stick horse - er, maybe that was the Fantasticks. We listened to a lot of showtunes and broadway musicals. (You can listen too, just click on the links!)

When I was seven years old, we lived in an old farmhouse in the country. My mom taught a primary class and one night she pulled a square record out of the back of the primary book that looked something like this. She put it on my sister's Fisher Price record player while she sat on the floor. The song on the record made me want to march, and I was drawn out of my room as if by the pied piper's flute. Around age 8 or 9, I received as a gift an RCA cassette player, not unlike this one. I had two cassette tapes: Sing, and the Ghostbusters soundtrack.

I later located some of my father's cassette tapes, and quickly adopted his various music interests, including Lovin' Spoonful, The Who, Abba, and Best of Bread. I also stumbled upon Pink Floyd and suddenly I understood why my dad kept saying, "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat!". Somewhere in there I picked up a Yes cassette as well.

At age 11 or 12 I acquired a boom box. This was a big deal. It had a cassette player AND a radio! I fell in love with New Wave music. In case you didn't know, this would include A-ha, Tears for Fears, Dream Academy, and this crazy little one-hit song by Baltimora. I didn't know until many years later why one is all we got from him. AIDs was, well, still an unknown, and homosexuality was this weird thing that people talked about, but never something I believed was real.

80s music was the ultimate. It was like a musical feast with Men at Work, The Police, Thompson Twins, Toto, and a few years later New Order, Petshop Boys, Flock of Seagulls, and Erasure. Around this time we moved in next to a family with boys who wore their bangs long, and frequently swept them to one side while talking like surfers. They wore baggy Bugle Boy pants and broad stripe rugby shirts or t-shirts while riding skateboards until they could drive. They were the epitome of "cool." This was also the beginning of the Swatch era (and yes, I did own one). I guess if I had to be stuck in a decade, the 80s would be on my short list. So much fabulous technology came after the 80s that is hard to claim it as my top choice...

So sorry, we were discussing music, now weren't we? By my 14th or 15th birthday, I had received a new piece of musical technology: a stereo with a turn table, dual cassette players, AND a radio! Remember those boom boxes? I was dissecting those (out of sight at a neighbors house) and soldering the parts into other items. What good is electronic equipment if you can't figure out how it works? Terence Trent D'arby joined the music scene (let's just say that the only songs I heard were radio approved). The Moody Blues and Chicago also came to my attention, and I started to appreciate Peter Gabriel's music, although it wasn't until many years later that I started to realize how questionable many of the lyrics were.

That turntable stereo took me through the next several years. It took me through favorites including Falco, Phil Collins, and Billy Joel to select a few. At age 15 I posted several pictures on my wall and became an avid fan, and even concert attendee of the band Midnight Oil. The activist messages stirred something in this kid's heart, I guess.

I had a pretty open mind in the music world at this time, so when New Age music started on the scene, I sopped that up, too. If you don't know what New Age music is, let me give you an example, rather than attempting to take you through the lengthy list of possibilities. It was sort of that moment when Musicians started to reach back to their Irish, Native American, and Mother Earth roots all at once. I did fancy one magical group that I heard while strolling through a California wine and cheese festival with my family. My sister and I both purchased cassettes and listened to them often. Years later I found the company again and purchased music from the Elfin Music Company.

Well, that sums up part one of this journey. You'll know better when you see this title again. And what, may I ask, was your musical evolution?

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