Do you remember when music mattered? Let me correct that, do you remember back when we were younger and we thought that music mattered? Back when we took such things seriously. Now, we just take ourselves seriously in different ways, this blog for instance.
This past month the big hoopla in the music press was the re-issue of the Beatles catalog in conjunction with some sort of video game thingy. For me, my music awareness began in 1978 with The Beatles. I’m not sure how exactly it began, but somehow I found my big bruddah’s Beatles albums after idling away a Saturday afternoon watching “Help!” on one of the UHF channels. For some reason they struck a chord with me, and flipped some primal switch of music awareness. So I dusted off the giant console stereo in “the front room” (the one room in the house with the “nice furniture” that no one ever sat in, because it was supposed to always be ready for company that never came) and started playing my bruddah’s Beatles albums. At the time, he just owned the 2 greatest hits double albums (the red one, and the blue one) but it was enough to get me started.
And like everything in my life, as Mrs. 20 Prospect can attest, when I get into something I get into it with all my being. I spent hours sitting in the front room, with the cheap, giant plastic head phones plugged into the stereo listening to the Beatles. I saved my Christmas and Birthday money, and began spending it on records at Twin Fair, while Mom and Dad shopped for groceries. Such is the beginning of adolescence. I went from hanging out in the toy aisles, looking over the Revell model ships, and airplanes, to flipping through the bins of record albums looking at the cover art.
My family noticed my sudden interest, and encouraged it. Someone bought me an illustrated book about the Beatles, and my ravenous hunger for obscure knowledge was fed. I came to know everything there was to know about the Beatles, and their catalog. Which albums were issued by Parlophone in the UK, and the differences in the US Capitol records versions. Even at 10 years old I was already developing my snobbishness, and searching for the “authentic” versions of these albums. In fact, because I couldn’t get the original UK version of Revolver, I didn’t buy the album until 2001. If that’s not Catholic self denial, I don’t know what is.
So I was kind of excited when I was driving 20 Prospect Jr. to his guitar lessons last year, and he heard the opening hook of Taxman on the radio and wanted to know who it was. I handed him the CD, and he played it in the living room for weeks. A few months later I took him to Cheapo Records, and picked out a copy of Rubber Soul. Eight years old, and he’s already following in his Daddy’s footsteps.
By 5th grade, I had begun to establish friendships with kids from school who lived beyond our neighborhood. No kids on Prospect besides me went to St. Joe’s, and during “the troubles” of 1978, I had stopped hanging out with the neighborhood kids. (That’s a story for another post). I introduced my St. Joe’s friends to The Beatles too, and we’d walk home from school to my house, hang out in the front room, listen to my Beatles records and play Chess. This vital biographic information explains much about my later difficulties obtaining dates, or holding conversations with girls.
Yes, we were so awkward, and square that for the 5th Grade talent show we dressed up in suits and ties, and played “air band” on stage to “She Loves You”. It helped that my haircuts from age 4 until age 19 were pretty much taken from John Lennon circa 1964. Thankfully, this was before the advent of video camera’s, and as far as I know, there is no photographic evidence of the event. Not that children of the 70’s need to look hard to find embarrassing photo’s. Any photo of the 70’s and early 80’s is embarrassing by definition.
Sigh… so where was I going with this? Oh right, the Beatles re-issues came out last month and I picked up A Hard Days Night, one of the albums that I had been lucky enough to get the original Parlophone version of back in 1980, and I listened to it for the first time in almost 30 years. My goodness, but those Liverpudlian’s sure could write a pop song. Hot damn, that took me back.
As the years passed, and I grew more and more awkward, my musical tastes expanded. My Big Bruddah took me to a Grateful Dead concert in the 6th grade, which pretty much ruined me for hippiedom. Sorry, but even at age 11 I could see what total losers the Dead Heads were. Jeez, what a trip that was though. I’d like to know how much second hand pot smoke I inhaled in the Rochester War Memorial that night, it was such a blur.
No, that hippie crap was not my thing. Instead I discovered the Kinks Greatest Hits in 1979, Neil Young’s Live Rust in 1980, and in 1981 Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits got me through my first “breakup”. I hope that 20 Prospect Jr. will someday know the sweet sorrow of listening to “The Boxer” with the lights off, pining away for some 8th grader that dropped him for a bad boy whose musical tastes leaned more towards Kiss & AC/DC. (Curse you Sam Magavero!!!!)
And the advent of girls in my life, as something other than an annoyance, led me in whole new musical directions. So did the arrival of cable TV to Prospect Avenue, and my first glimpse of MTV and the original veejays. Ugh, this was almost worse than that Hippie crap. No, my pretentiousness had already been cemented in place at an early age. No Top 40 krep, or Stoner Heavy Metal was going to work for me. And in Western New York in the 1980’s those were the only 2 flavors that Music came in. Insipid Top 40 Kasey Kasem Krep, and Stoner Death Metal.
I did the only respectable thing I could do. I retreated into bloated, self indulgent “Prog Rock” like Rush, Yes, and the Moody Blues. In some ways this is even more embarrassing than playing Chess to Beatles tunes at age 12. But for a Generation X kid who grew up being force fed Baby Boomer nostalgia by the dominant media culture from an early age, I suppose it was inevitable. Yes, by age 14 my entire generation had been brainwashed into believing that the 1960’s was the pinnacle of Western Civilization when the enlightened flower children had made love not war, and all of the world had been redeemed by Rock and Roll, or something like that. I forget how it goes exactly, it’s been a while since I heard Don McLean’s “American Pie” on the radio.
By the time I graduated from High School, I had at least stumbled into U2, and the Police, which offered me some alternative credibility, and coolness. Well, as much coolness as my J.C. Penney wardrobe, and braces could muster. And then came college…
To be continued…