11 October, 2013

Music and the Internet

I'm very thankful the internet exists.  The important part of it for me is meeting people who have similar interests.  Music has always been a very important part of my life but my tastes in music have not always been "in line" with my peers.  Being the youngest of four children (next youngest is a whole eight years older than I) my musical taste has been a little, er, off.  We had a stack of 45s around the house that, I think, came from an Uncle and others.  The majority of it was from the 1960s and I loved it.  I also loved listening to the "do-wop" stuff at my Grandparents' house.  When I got my first tape recorder as a Christmas gift; it was one of those single speaker things, my parents included an Elvis Presley "Golden Hits" cassette along with one or two others.  I don't remember what they were.  There was such a wide variety of music in our house that I could never have settled on just one niche.  Thank God!  I listened to KISS, Ted Nugent, Black Sabbath, Henry Gross, Dan Fogelberg, Seals & Crofts, Jerry Rafferty, The Doobie Brothers, Cheap Trick, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Sammie Davis Jr., The Sex Pistols, Iron Maiden, Rush...  When I got my first radio, an old clock radio, from the neighbors' rummage sale (75 cents!) A whole other musical world opened up to me.  New Wave, current (for the time) pop music and, most importantly, I found a station that had what they called "Nostalgic Rock" every Sunday morning.  I heard a lot of songs that were "new" to me and a lot of songs I may have heard only once or twice before.  Ya see, before I could operate a record player, a lot of the music I heard was coming through the AM radio of my parents' car.  There's a few songs that I MUST have heard in the car because when I hear them these days I'm instantly thrown back to my very early days.  In elementary school we didn't discuss music.  Kids at that age, back then at least, didn't really have cliques.  Sure, there were the "cool" kids but, generally speaking, everyone got along.  I joined "band" and started learning how to be a drummer.  Then came junior high school.  Cliques formed, the small group of kids I had spent the previous seven years with got mixed in with kids from other elementary schools, we started becoming moody teenagers, emulated the people we saw on TV and in magazines (no internet back then!)  I slugged on through band and became a mediocre percussionist.  Then, as if it wasn't complicated enough to fit in at that age, I joined a fife and drum corps.  I instantly fell in love with that music and spent the rest of my teenage years happily playing it with other like-minded people.  It was my first musical revelation.  In the corps, regardless of any perceived social status, everyone was there because they liked the music.  Each person did their best because they wanted to.  Not because they had to.  Those of us within the corps rarely, if every, spoke of it with anyone outside of the corps.  It was, kind of, an "uncool" thing back then.  My experiences with the fife and drum corps dovetailed with something else.  Jazz band.  Contrary to the band experience my brother had, there was a serious lack of drummers in junior high.  Me and the other guy became rather good at covering multiple parts.  In ninth grade the other drummer, Darin, talked me into joining jazz band.  I had never played a drum set before but since these were desperate times the band director took it upon himself to help me.  I went to the band room after school for lessons, fumbled around and just couldn't "get it."  The band director gave me a simple bit of advice that, unknown to him or me, would help me for years to come.  I had been struggling (and failing) to learn a drum part when the director said "Tim, nobody said you had to learn all of the parts at the same time."  I just wasn't able to read the music and use both hands and both feet at the same time.  So, he had me learn what each appendage was supposed to be playing individually.  Then I would put two together, then three and finally both feet and both hands.  It worked like a charm.  The part I was learning was for "Runaround Sue."  The director was amazed that I knew the song.  I could even recite all of the lyrics.  In high school I was in band, marching band, jazz band...  Mostly playing songs that were chosen for our parents but, still, songs that I really liked.  It was still a social no-no to admit liking big band, swing, soul, blues...  When most of my classmates were being brooding teenagers to The Cure, I was brooding to the Temptations.  This situation carried on for years afterward.  I had very few ways to express myself.  However, certain songs would make me feel a certain way and the emotions I kept bottling up would be released when I would hear some of my favorite songs.  I've always had the ability to recall a song for any given situation.  In fact, during high school and a handful of years after, I would attach a song to each girl in my life.  Girlfriends, crushes, the girls I daydreamed about.  They all had a song.  For example, the Temptations' "Just my imagination".  It was one of those 45s I mentioned earlier.  That's Karin's song.  I didn't pick that song for her, it just happened.  During my 11th grade year I had a huge crush on Karin.  She was the beautiful, sweet pom-pom girl, I was the dork.  Typical teen movie stuff.  Anyway, during Christmas break that year I put on that song and I instantly thought of her.  Despite my best efforts, she wanted nothing of me but that song still "belongs" to her.  Every time I hear it I can picture, in detail, the day it became her song.  I remember what the weather was like, I remember what my room looked like...  That is what my life has been like.  Songs attached to people, places and things.  But I couldn't discuss this stuff with anyone because none of my friends knew the music.  About the same time I attached a song to Karin I got my first CD player.  CDs were new and having a CD player was a big deal for me.  My parents went out on a limb to get it for me.  Then I discovered the CD collection at the public library.  They had lots of big band and jazz stuff.  I absorbed it like a sponge.  Then, I went in a whole new direction.  The woman I wrote about previously came into my life and during our turbulent relationship country music and the blues took hold of me.  Real country by the way.  Not the vaguely disguised pop/rock shit that's masquerading as "country" these days.  It's very true that you can never truly understand the blues or a sad country song until you've given your heart to someone and had them rip it up and throw it back at you.  The classic "You been done wrong" songs.  Stevie Ray Vaughan had more than his share of demons to cope with.  If you haven't been done wrong, you'll probably think "Wow, that guy can really play guitar!"  If you have been done wrong, you'll hear the pain in his playing.  Music was SRV's release.  He was putting all of his troubles out there for the world to see, if you were capable of "seeing" it.  I didn't at first, but after I met "Her" I got it.  Go out and buy SRV's "The Sky Is Crying" CD (Sadly, it was released after he died) and listen to the track "May I Have A Talk With You."  Either you'll get it or you won't.  Don't pay attention to lyrics alone.  Listen to Stevie.  Hear the story he's telling you, not the song.  I drove my friends nuts as I played that track over and over and over.  In retrospect I was hoping someone else would "get it" and I would have someone to talk to.  My relationship with "Her" was unique.  Nobody else would understand, nobody really accepted it... I had nobody to talk to that could help me through those hard times.  By playing those SRV songs, blues and sad country songs I was desperately trying to find someone who understood what I was going through.  I even played an SRV song ("Texas Flood" from SRV's first appearance on "Austin City Limits") to "Her" and said, flat out, "This is how I'm feeling."  She didn't get it.  Went right over her head.  She's a Top 40 person and has zero ability as far as music appreciation is concerned.  It's one thing about her that's always annoyed me.  Throw in the deaths of my Father and Brother and I was a seriously troubled twenty-something.  Music was my only release.  Even into my early 30's when I was again a professional mechanic, had my own house, things were going well... I had to crawl into music in order to sooth my soul.  Not long before the alcohol fueled breakdown I had in front of my Mother, I would put on "Patsy Cline Sings Songs of Love" and listen to it for hours trying to sooth my soul.  I was just beginning to accept the fact the "She" was not coming back.  "Crazy" was our song by the way.  Enter the internet.

The internet allowed me to chat with people who are interested in the same music as myself.  I could find songs that I was never able to find in a store.  I was no longer a slave to some corporate executive's choice of music to have in some blasted chain store.  I realized that I wasn't such an oddball.  I freely admit that I love Soul, Blues, Country, Western Swing, big band, jazz (not the Kenny G "jazz" shit), swing, punk...  I'm also old enough to not care what people think of me.  Do yourself a favor.  Stop listening to the radio.  Radio stations play shit to get listeners.  The more listeners they have the more advertising they can sell.  You're cattle.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Go find an independent record store, get a Patsy Cline "Greatest Hits" CD and go from there.  Don't think about what other people with think.  Just listen.  If Justin Bieber is your thing, go for it!  If Eddy Arnold singing "Make the World Go Away" makes you cry, then cry.  Fuck everyone else.  When you find a song that makes you feel something more powerful than you've ever experienced, embrace it.  The music you listen to is your unique experience.  If you're lucky, you'll find someone to share that experience with.  Now, get on with it.  You have a CD to find! 

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