Monday, June 25, 2012

Seminal songs in my life

I wrote this a few months ago. I was watching That Metal Show. I'd never seen it before, but it was interesting to see people from the bands of my past on the show. Metal, Hard rock, all the bands I listened to, I never saw them in interviews. Sometimes, in an interview in text in a rock mag maybe but not live on a talk show. Weird.

But it was fun. And it got me to thinking, and searching. I hit YouTube. I looked some bands up.

First Corey Taylor of Slipnot fame said he wishes some people would just stop making what they call music, just because your dad is somebody doesn't mean you should put out the kind of junk you turn out. That led me to looking up Rebecca Black. From there I checked out Slipnot (I know the band, just wanted to refresh my memory), which lead me to other bands of the type, to other bands of a related time, and so on, until I hit Marilyn Manson, then a song cover called Personal Jesus, by him. I remember when the original came out by Depeche Mode. Then found it by Johnny Cash.

Johnny lead me to stumble upon Gang of Four and a new album. That was refreshing. And it lead me to see a video by Chairlift called Amanaemonesia, which was beautiful and scary, in a weird way.

That led me somehow to the band, Japan with members David Sylvian, keyboardist Richard Barbieri, bassist Mick Karn, Sylvian's brother Steve Jansen as drummer and a later addition to the band with guitarist Rob Dean. Japan started up as a group of friends, who all studied at the same school (apart from Dean). I have Japan's video "Oil on Canvas" which is one of my favorite video concerts of all time.

That made me reflect on other bands from the 80s; then from, whenever. And I started to think, what songs were epic in my mind, what do I remember when I think back? What sticks out? What changed me? What did I listen to so much it burned into my brain?

So, here's my list.

First there were the first songs I knew. Those were from my mother who had some 45RPMs which she played when I was a kid. Every so often she'd pull them out and play them. Over the years I got sick of hearing them. Then, decades later, I found myself somewhat nostalgic about them.
  • Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
  • Cool, Clear Water
  • The Bamboo Shack
  • Hawaiian Wedding Song
  • Cindy's Birthday (by Johnny Crawford from The Rifleman (my sister's name was Cindy))
Then came the songs I later chose.

My first album was Ian Whitcomb, "You Turn Me On" which I got from my older brother's singer, Tom Owens, from their band, The Barons. I had found a High School graduation ring in the dirt and my Grandmother said I should take it to the local corner store (which was in the middle of the block and literally about 200 sq feet. The man said he would hold it for thirty days in case someone asked about it (I found it outside his store). He said if no one claims it, it's mine. Thirty days later no one had claimed it and, it was mine.

My brother later had to change the name of his band to, Cindy and the Barons, when they found there were already two other bands in Tacoma called, The Barons. So they added my older sister, who was fourteen, to play keyboards. She looked good and played well. I thought it was pretty cool, my older brother and sister had a band. My younger brother and I would try to listen to Batman on TV, then other shows on Thursday nights until 10PM. The band practiced in our Dinning room and the entire neighborhood would come out of their houses to hear the band, so they must have been pretty good.

So, "You Turn Me On", was the first song I owned. I was also into classical music and the new synthesizer stuff. I had a Reader's Digest form of Classical music, multiple vinyl discs with many, many composers and pieces of music on it.

There was Walter (later Wendy) Carlos, with at the time, his, "Switched on Bach" album.

Morton Subotnik's "Wild Bull" synth composition was and still is, brilliant. I had also picked up some experimental music which I cannot now find anywhere but it was fascinating stuff.

Then there were the pop songs: Jackson Five (so many songs), The Cowsills (Hair), The Partridge Family (and their show, loved them, hated The Brady Bunch; also, loved Addams Family, AND The Munsters but not as much as Addams which rocked).

Later my older brother traveled and left his record collection with me, so suddenly I had albums in my possession to listen to at any time by: The Rolling Stones, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Frank Zappa, Music from Big Pink (The Band), Simon and Garfunkle, the Beatles, and on and on. So I got a musical education that none of my friends got.

My first consciously purchased record was an important album for me, Black Sabbath's self titled, Black Sabbath. Magical. I spent a week listening to it on codeine while I had a bad case of bronchitis and was in bed for a solid week reading, Dune, by Frank Herbert. Amazing week.

After that came High School and music was really a big part of my life, as it is with many young people. Especially when I got a car just before 12th grade started. So I'm going to try to remember what songs, artists and albums really affected my life back then by trying to simply remember what I can remember; being a good indicator as they had burned into my mind.

And so here it comes....
  • Led Zepplin, yes the band, there IS no one song.  (Huge Influence)
  • Deep Purple, Smoke on the Water, Highway Star, so many others, Machine Head album mostly
  • Three Dog Night - many
  • Elton John (his first few albums)
  • Cat Stevens (his first few albums)
  • Gordon Lightfoot (Sundown and later The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald)
  • Jonathan Edwards (Sunshine)
  • Alice Cooper, "I'm 18", and "Dead Babies"
  • Country Joe and the Fish "Give me an F"
  • Heart - many songs
  • Chicago "Saturday in the park"
  • The Tea Set (Ma Belle Amie)
  • Simon and Garfunkle (Huge Influence)
  • Paul Simon
  • Jethro Tull
  • Donovan (everything he did, I had the biggest album collection of his that I ever ran into)  (Huge Influence)
  • King Crimson
  • David Bowie
  • Black Sabbath
  • Pink Floyd (Huge Influence)
So those are the ones that I can remember that affected my life and ended up being included on the journey through my life with me. Some produced songs that were "our song" for relationships I was in, some marked events, some kept me sane, some kept me partying. But all were great songs to me.

I sold all my vinyl albums during a summer while I worked at the old Tacoma Tower Records store. The one that was down by the old Ross store on 38th street, not the newer one also now gone, by the Tacoma Mall entrance intersection. I had thought CDs were going to wipe out the value of vinyl, much like I got stuck with 8 tracks when cassettes arrived. But vinyl wasn't 8 track. Later I also had Laser Video Discs and sold all of them too, but I kept one as a memento.

Now I wish I hadn't sold my albums but I had a great amount of fun with Mikey as we spent the summer being dealers together at the record conventions. Years later I stopped by a record con in Seattle at the Seattle Center and found a dealer that had a bunch of my old Donovan albums. MY exact albums I used to own, not just similar albums. I had to smile and since I had no money at the time, I just moved on. I would liked to have bought them back, though. But I now have them in their digital format, so that's something. Though not quite the same, is it?

So there it is, that's some of my experience. Give it a thought. What songs can you remember without looking any up, that must have affected you, if you can still remember them now?

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