If this essay doesn’t out me as a geezer I’ll have to take shots of Geritol with my tequila to get it done. I discovered an online source of “free” music, as much as I want to listen to, but to own it or put it on my MP3 I’ll have to buy it, and I only have thirty days of it free at that. I’ll bug out in a few weeks, because right now all it’s doing is serving as some sort musical marathon down memory lane.
When I was fourteen I got my very own eight track tape player complete with turn table and really large speakers. If you’ve never cleaned a lid in the dust cover don’t worry about it. But the eight track tapes were carried around in what looked like cases for musical instruments. Mine would hold sixteen tapes, four rows of four, and anytime I went anywhere I would have this great inner debate as to what would go with me, and why.
Kansas-Leftoverture- 1975- This album was met with wide spread glee among those of us already sick to death of disco and top forty. “Dust in the wind” from the album “Point Of No Return” followed and both of these albums seemed electric and alive. I listened to them both last night and I could sing along with the lyric to each song, but the music wasn’t the same. I remember it being much better.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – The Roaring Silence- 1975- I once listened to this one nonstop. The song about the dolphins and the song about Babylon thrilled me. So last night I cranked up the album and it just seemed, well, lame.
Alan Parson Project- I bought four albums from this band from 1975-1979. This was cutting edge stuff all weird and mysterious. Maybe it was the pot, I dunno.
Wings- Venus and Mars-1975 We all fell in love with this one and everyone had their own copy. It seemed, back then, to be some fairly happy music but now it just sounds…old.
I can remember how important music was to us back then. Only those of us with really great taste and those of us who were really cool listened to the music we liked best. This was ageless and timeless stuff we had, and only we had the cutting edge technology to bring it to life, with our eight track tapes and their suitcase carrying cases. We discussed endlessly the meaning of the lyrics, when had any of us been less stoned the meaning might have been more clear- to sell eight track tapes. There was a very narrow spectrum of acceptable music, and anyone who listened to anything else might as well become a leper.
But even our little world was changing. I dated a girl who loved Barry Manilow so I snuck off one day and bought the eight track tape to take with us on our first date. I would have listened to the sound of a bird dog being cut in half with a butter knife if it meant I was going to get sex, and she and I had been trying to get together for a while. When we broke up later that year she walked up to me in a crowd of people and said, “Here’s your Barry Manilow tape.” I still remember that evil smile on her face, and despite the fact it was one of those total humiliation moments that only High School students have, I thought she was totally hot at that very moment.
In 1977, ABBA came out with a song, “Take A Chance on Me” and I got hooked on it like a pound of meth had been injected into my soul by Rachel Welch. Of course, I couldn’t go to the local music store and buy it, I had to sneak off to Albany Georgia, sixty miles away and get it. I hid it in the trunk of my car when I was at school, and spent years denying I owned it. I almost got caught listening to it one day, someone turned the tape player on and ABBA was in there and I told them it belonged to some woman. Yes, music was that important to us.
Yet, there are still some old songs who speak to me. The back to back offerings from Jethro Tull, “Songs From The Woods” and “Heavy Horses” send me back to days spend near the Chattahoochee River. Pink Floyd’s “Animals” still is my favorite work by that group, and I still have a copy. Peter Frampton’s “Do you feel like I do” is still one of the best live songs, ever. Some pieces of music are irrevocably connected to events in my life. The album “Close to the Edge” by the group ‘”Yes” will always trigger memories of the time I spent with a very young woman named Francis. I was nineteen, she was eighteen, and we had nothing at all, but each other. I miss that woman and sometimes I wonder if she still remembers me.
Like a sniper hunting memories, I went through a long list of songs I barely remembered, and then sang along with, the lyrics suddenly fresh and new again. Straight and sober, and now with the mind of a writer, I sat and returned to the days of pot and Black Jack bourbon and each song was from period of my life, each year represented by someone’s else’s art, someone else’s dream, and the best any of us could ever hope to do is co-opt that dream, and make some small part of it our own.
Heartbreak, pure love, lust, poverty, adventure, tragedy, lust; all the timelines of my life mirrored in what song I was listening to at the time of the event. This song was hers, that song was near me when I moved there, this song, oh I haven’t heard this one since I lost her, and this one, yes, the beginning of this time.
I do not have the urge to own any of this music again. I likely won’t listen to any of it, ever, again. I have visited my past. I have paid my homage to my dead. I have held them close once again. But let it be the last time, please.