The Story of My Life: CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 6: "Hello There, Ladies and Gentlemen... Are You Ready To Rock?"

My love of music always simmered in the background, until one evening, when I was in the 8th grade. I have hazy memories of going to the home of my friend and neighbor, Mindy Flack, and hearing Cheap Trick's "I WANT YOU TO WANT ME", a current radio hit single. I liked it. However, it wasn't until several days later, while I was at Musicland (a nationwide mall music retail outlet), at the Valley Fair Mall, that I found a cassette copy of Cheap Trick's 'IN COLOR', for $2.88. I picked up the tape, scoured the track information, and saw that "I Want You To Want Me" was on the tape. I purchased the tape with what little money I had, and took it home, eager to give it a listen. I popped the cassette in on of the family cassette players, and pushed play. I was not prepared for what was to come blasting out. The song, "HELLO THERE" assaulted my aural senses, causing my jaw to drop. With each song, I was smitten by the combination of energy, melody and catchy hooks. As ironic as it may seem, it wasn't until I got to "I Want You To Want Me", that I felt any reservation. For those of you that may not know, the studio version of "I Want You To Want Me" is a significantly mellower, "bubble gum Pop" sounding song. I still liked it, but felt a little unsettled about the difference between that song, and the one that I had been hearing on the radio.

The remaining year of my 8th grade was one big musical blur. I convinced my mother into signing me up for the Columbia House tape club, which I would pay for with money earned from a paper route. To this day, I still remember many of the cassette tapes in my initial enrollment order. FOREIGNER's self titled album. MOLLY HATCHET's self titled, as well as "Flirtin' With Disaster". TED NUGENT's "State of Shock". JUDAS PRIEST's "British Steel". Over the coming months, I would continue ordering tapes. THE CARS' "Panorama", KANSAS' "Dust in the Wind", were but a couple. I would anxiously await the visit from the mailman, when two to three weeks had passed. There were even occasions where I would listen for his Jeep, and run around the block to ask him if he had any packages for my address. I could tell this annoyed him, but I didn't care. I tell you... as a Letter Carrier, at the age of 42, if I had a teenager intercepting me, looking for his eagerly anticipated compact discs, I would happily give them to him/her.

My obsession continued to grow, and as I earned money, I would grab my younger brother Richard, and would gather the dimes needed to take the bus down to Valley Fair Mall, where I could buy another record. We would make it a ritual, to ride the bus... which, on several occasions, turned into walking, as we were too impatient to wait for the bus. We would try to walk to the next bus stop, and 9 out of 10 times, the bus would pass us, in between stops. We would eventually make the long walk home, weary worn, but not caring, because I had a new record to listen to. It was the trips to the mall that usually reaped LP records. I would always check out the Musicland bargain bin, and would occasionally find some real scores. In that bargain bin, I found RUSH's "Moving Pictures" on cassette, as well as THE SCORPIONS' "Lovedrive" and "Animal Magnetism" for $2.88 each. And this was when "Moving Pictures" was at the top of the charts. In retrospect, I can only imagine that these were surplus items, and they wanted to clear the inventory, but then? Well... I didn't care. I just wanted the music, and the cheaper it was, the better.

During my 8th grade year, I became good friends with several other music enthusiasts. One such person was Nate Reading, one year my senior, and the bass player in the Kennedy Jr. High Jazz Band. I was playing trombone, at the time, and struck up conversations with Nate, who wore his hair halfway down his back, and totally looked like a rock star. He even played a Rickenbacker bass guitar, similar to what Geddy Lee of Rush played at the time. Nate was the one that really introduced me to the Heavy Metal sounds of the time. He would bring me in cassette tape recordings of bands like TRIUMPH, RAINBOW and an unknown Australian band called ROSE TATTOO. We considered Rose Tattoo to be the hardest band out there, although in retrospect, they were not very loud at all.

Another friend to share my love of music, was Mark Pulley. He and I would spend time at each other's houses, listening to whatever we had. My love of QUEEN flourished, with the help of Mark. My cousin, Chris (who was also one of my best friends throughout the early years of my life), also had a wonderful record collection, thanks to his elder brothers. I would spend countless nights sleeping over at Chris' house, listening to music. Whether it be his brother's JETHRO TULL albums, or REO SPEEDWAGON, we had no shortage of Rock. Another favorite was the live album, "Some Enchanted Evening", by BLUE OYSTER CULT. It's time to KICK OUT THE JAMS, BROTHERS AND SISTERS! On great live recordings, I would always close my eyes and envision that I was seated in the masses of screaming fans. In 9th grade, I had become a huge fan of DEF LEPPARD, thanks to their album "High'n'Dry". Def Leppard was coming to town, opening up for the Native American band, BLACKFOOT (yeah, I know... how ironic is THAT?). I was full of hope that I would be able to attend the concert, with a friend, just to have my dreams shattered, as my father insisted that I must be 16, before I could attend concerts on my own.

As I think back to those years in Jr. High, where my love of music really flourished, it fills me with a sense of melancholy. I miss the time spent with friends and relatives, where everything centered around our music listening. Time which was spent locked in a room, sitting still for 45 minutes, while you listened to a new album. Even time spent alone had a certain magic to it. I would put on my dad's headphones, out in the living room, and turn up one of my favorite albums. One such album was AC/DC's "Back In Black", which I purchased with my paper route money, even after discouraging remarks to my father, by the clerk at the store (who also happened to be one of his Murray City Police Cadets), who said the album was filthy. I wasn't one to spend much time listening to the lyrics, as my focus was usually on the music lying beneath. I would pop "Back In Black" into the stereo, pull out my tennis racket, and begin playing "air guitar" along with the pumping Angus Young guitar riffs. In more animated moments, I would climb on top of our coal burning stove, and fantasize that I was a Rock star, live on stage. At an appropriate point in a particularly good song, I would jump off the stove, closing the song as only Angus Young could. So many hours of my personal time were surrounded by my music. It was like a warm blanket, surrounding my lonely soul on a cold, Winter's night. It still is, 30 years later...