Memories and Music

Posted: May 2, 2016 in Childhood Memories, Music, Rock Music, Things I Love
Tags:
spindle

Weird, but a lot of my readers won’t know what this is.

I was talking to a friend the other day about how much not only music has changed over the past 40-50 years, but how much we buy and listen to it has changed as well. After we talked I began thinking about music and how I became so involved in it, and my mind went back to the early 60’s, when I was just a young whippersnapper . . .

Mom and Dad always had records around, but they were by guys like Dean Martin and Al Martino. Then my sisters started bringing records home by Elvis and artists like Gene Pitney, Bobby Vinton and The Four Seasons. Of course, The Beatles arrived and changed everything, but I began to get really immersed when one of my sister’s boyfriends, Dave, started bringing 45s to the house and playing them for me. Not only would he play the 45s, he would describe the group to me and give me background he’d learned from music magazines and other sources.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

If this isn’t it exactly it’s pretty damn close.

In those early years I listened to everything on Mom and Dad’s massive stereo. It was one of those giant wooden ones with the lid that popped up, revealing the fascinating array of knobs and buttons with which to adjust the sound and volume.

Anyway, I was endlessly fascinated by Dave talking about the people behind the music, so as time went on I got into it more and more. I’d lie in bed listening to WLS radio out of Chicago every single night, just soaking up the sounds and imagining what the bands and singers looked like. I recall DJs like Larry Lujack and Wolfman Jack, and lying there the music just seemed so magical. It also, in my mind, came from exotic, faraway places.

That’s why I disliked music videos so much. They told us what to see, not what our imaginations could create. After MTV the song brought to mind the video, and that was sad to me. But back to my childhood . . .

As the late 60’s came along, so did my teenage years. Sometime around then I began buying my own records, and in the beginning it was always 45s. I remember going to Central Center with my father every other Friday to get  haircuts. I’d go first, and then I’d walk down to Woolworths where they sold records. They had a display where they’d have the Top 20 singles and I’d always go there first, followed by the “New Releases” section.

woolworths

Yep. Like this.

The 45s cost 79¢, and I usually had $5.00 that I had saved (I used to get an old guy’s mail that lived in Bourneville and he’d pay me a whopping $5.00 a week!) so I had to choose wisely. That’s six 45’s every 2-weeks for you non-Math folks out there. Sometimes I’d only buy 3 or 4 records so I could buy a Coke Float and Grilled Cheese sandwich over at the Woolworths soda fountain and bar. They has those cool stools and everything and I loved it.

Then I’d walk back up to the Barber Shop, meet Dad and head home. I could not wait to get there, take that record from the wrapper, drop it on the little turntable in my bedroom, close my eyes and let the music take me away. Man, you couldn’t beat the late 60’s groups like The Rascals, Tommy James and the Shondells, The Four Tops, and of course The Beatles and others.

Later, around the time I got my driver’s license I believe, I started buying albums, or LPs. See, in the early 60’s albums were basically one hit song and a bunch of filler tunes. The songs were all independent of each other. The Beatles changed all that by making concept, or theme albums. On these albums the songs were all connected, like on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Because of this you wanted the entire album, or at least I did.

I bought most of my albums back then at Hart’s department store and places like that. If I really wanted to buy stuff out of the mainstream I went to Columbus and visited places like the gloriously named Magnolia Thunderpussy to find hard-to-get music. Up through the early to mid-80’s you couldn’t find alternative bands like R.E.M. and The Replacements in regular department stores.

alice

Great LP cover. On a related note, I sat at a desk like this at the old Twin Elementary.

And kids today will have no concept of this, but there was nothing better than taking the cellophane off of an album and reading all the information on the back. It was even better if it was an album (usually a double album but not always) that opened up like a book. Often the lyrics were contained somewhere, either on the back of the album itself or maybe on the actual sleeve in which the record was contained. Posters could be in there, and some albums were really unique, like Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” LP which opened up like an old school desk. Cool. I’d spend hours going over everything on an album jacket, over and over and over.

eightSoon, LPs were pushed aside in favor of 8-track tapes. You couldn’t put much information on an 8-track, which sucked. 8-tracks had four sections and when the tape went from one to the other it made this clunky sound as it switched over. Sometimes, if the tape was dragging, you had to press a matchbook or something between the tape and player to tighten it up. I bet everyone who owned a tape player has done that a few times.

Next came the cassette. The cassette was even smaller than the 8-track, which led to even less information on it. Of course the CD followed, and by then you could go straight to a song without listening to other songs on the album. I remember hearing kids say, “Hey, play #4!” Hell, they didn’t even know the name of the song, let alone the background of it or, God forbid, the lyrics.

Alas, nowadays everything is downloaded from the internet and a lot of people don’t purchase the entire album. That’s sad because a lot of the time you have to listen to a song a few times before it grows on you. With an album you put it on and listened to everything, then you flipped it over and listened to Side 2. There was no fast-forwarding unless you wanted to get up and move the needle, man.

On a related note, LPs have made a pretty significant comeback. The sound is just different, and somehow better.

Bottom line, technology and the subsequent downloading of music has led to young people missing out on the depth and breadth of the music and the musicians that created it, you know? Nobody gets into the “Deep Cuts” anymore. And now that I think about it, isn’t that sort of describing the state of music today? That it’s lacking depth and breadth? It’s all tied together. Yep, it’s all becoming clear to me now.

Sigh.

Aw, maybe I just sound like an old guy lamenting the way things used to be. Then again, maybe not. I really believe that most of the changes have been for the worse. Advances like autotune, digital recording, even multi-tracking have cheapened the whole process.

Bottom line though? Even though I mostly prefer the older methods of recording and listening, I still love a lot of today’s recordings.

Why? Because it’s music, man. I couldn’t live without it.

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