The Story of My Life: CHAPTER 5

"Two Things That Changed My Life (part 2) - MUSIC"
an excerpt from my life story,

The second thing that changed my life was music. For those of you that know me, this should come as no surprise.

It wasn't until the 8th grade that I fully came to the realization that I loved music, but my love of music had really begun to take shape early in life. I have two very vivid memories involving music, that date back to my formative years.

The first of these memories happened on a cool Winter (or possibly Autumn) morning, when I was downstairs in my bedroom, which I shared with my older brother. I still remember the smell of the heat duct, and the smell of burning dust, that only can be associated with a 60's/70's era furnace. Roberta Flack came on the radio. The song was "Killing Me Softly", and I remember being totally moved by the song, as well as the atmosphere. Something in that song spoke to my very soul, touching me in a way that I had never been touched before... at least by something inanimate. Every year, as the furnace fires up for the first time of the Fall season, I still associate that smell with the beautiful sounds of Roberta Flack.

When I was 6 (in 1973), our family took a trip to Canada. We went to Banff, Calgary and up through Glacier National Park. When driving through Montana, we were passing by a lake, when "Something", by The Beatles, came on the radio. That song has always remained one of my favorite songs, and to this day IS my favorite song from The Beatles. I can't hear that song without remembering that first time that I had (knowingly) heard it.

Throughout my grade school years, I had a definite attraction to music. I grew up in a household where music was usually playing, in one way or another. My father had always had a love for music, and his record collection proved it. I still remember that record collection that was tucked into a box, on the floor of the living room closet. I would open the door, push all the coats to one side or another, and pull the box out. I would thumb through the dozes of LP records, looking at the records that I found most intriguing. There were several that attracted me, simply by the artwork. SANTANA's "ABRAXAS", with the buxom, naked woman on the cover, was one. THE DOOBIE BROTHERS' "TOLOUSE STREET" was another, although I am embarrassed to admit that my initial attraction to both records was the inappropriate (for a boy my age) artwork. In addition to the gratuitous nudity that drew me to those two albums, I also found fascination in CAT STEVENS' "TEASER AND THE FIRECAT", most probably because of the cartoon characters on the front of the record.

We had a small record player, that I would use to listen to these albums. During these years, I would explore the various LP records, finding myself attracted to certain songs. We had an old THREE DOG NIGHT album, that featured their hit single, "ONE". I loved listening to that song repeatedly, although I would lose patience with the rest of the album. Another album that I found amusing was "WHIPPED CREAM & OTHER DELIGHTS", by HERB ALPERT and THE TIJUANA BRASS. Whether it was the provocative cover (with an attractive woman, wearing nothing but an extreme amount of whipped cream) or the catchy Jazzy instrumental songs, I cannot say.

Another album that I was proudly drawn to, was "TRILOGY", by EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER. This Progressive trio did some of the most innovative music of the 70's, but my mind didn't think that way. I simply fell in love with the pretty melodies, on that record... especially that of "ABADDON'S BOLERO", an instrumental song that was featured in the era's laser shows (which played at the Hansen Planetarium, in Salt Lake City). On one occasion, I took the record to school, where I gathered a couple friends around the record player in the "Media Center", to listen. The Media Center was essentially our library, but according to the militant librarian, Mrs. Turpin, we would refer to it as the Media Center, because of all the media related devices that the library had to offer.... such as the small turntable. I dropped the needle on the record, eagerly awaiting the reaction of my friends. Over the years, I would gather with friends to listen to music. Sometimes we would utilize the Media Center at school, sometimes we would gather in each others homes. To this day, I still associate many bands with some of the individuals that I grew up with. Doug Larson and I would listen to Queen and Foreigner. Mark Pulley and I would listen to Queen, Rose Tattoo and Angel. My father would incessantly listen to the likes of Bread, England Dan and John Ford Coley, The Eagles, James Taylor and America. Our vehicles were usually equipped with 8-track players, or at the very least, an FM radio.

The 8-track players of the era were inherently frustrating. One year, while on vacation in Yellowstone National Park, I was particularly taken with FLEETWOOD MAC's "RUMOURS" album, particularly the song "GO YOUR OWN WAY", featuring an incredibly striking guitar solo by Lindsay Buckingham. I would listen to the song, and then patiently wait for the track to play back through to the song I loved.

[[With 8-track players, your album was broken up into four tracks, each usually containing 3 songs. Sometimes the order of the songs was mixed up to reduce empty silence at the end of each track, and sometimes the songs would simply fade out, then fade back in when the tape had switched to the next track. Another common problem was that of the "warbling" sound of a bad tape. The music would sound as if it were underwater.

Each media format, over the years, has had inherent problems. By far, 8-tracks were the worst. LP records have the problem of dust, fingerprints, scratches or being warped by heat. Cassette tapes seemed to have a knack for getting "chewed up", if you had a player with dirty tape heads. Even today, in the 21st Century, with mp3 files (and other forms of compressed digital media), we lose some of the sound frequency range, in addition to the warmth and personality that came with earlier forms of music media, specifically LP records. I attribute the recent wave of LP record releases to the fact that people have begun to crave the "personal" nature of early forms of music media. In the 21st Century, everyone listens to their music "on the go", usually with an iPod (or other mp3 music device). People rarely take time to sit down and enjoy music, like we did back in the 1970's and 1980's. Even today, as a 42 year old adult, I will usually attempt to buy a vinyl LP, as long as it has some form of attached media that I can put on my iPod. Many records are sold with a digital download, or in some cases, an actual CD copy of the album.]]

As much as I loved the music that I was listening to, at the time, I didn't seem to be conscious of the wave of music that was growing in popularity amongst my peers. When in 8th grade, KISS seemed to be all the rage amongst my class mates. I paid no heed. Part of it may have been due to criticisms that my parents had about the band, or part of it may have been that I simply didn't care. Part of it may have been because of the afternoon in Ms. Smith's class, when a classmate of mine, by the name of Stephanie Mills, brought her KISS "DESTROYER" album, to listen to with the class. We were working on a class project, and the music was played in the background, while we did our work. I had to talk to Ms. Smith, so I got up and approached her desk. On my way to Ms. Smith, I inadvertently bumped the record player, causing the needle to skip across Stephanie's record. I have never been so intimidated by a girl, in my life. She was the class "Tom Boy", and one that I wouldn't have wanted to run into, out by the flag pole. From that day on I was not only scared by Stephanie Mills, but felt the need to look over my shoulder, just in case the Kiss Army was coming after me.