Tuesday, May 21, 2013

There's a Red House over yonder

2126 S. L Street. Sometime in the early part of 1980, the red house next to us was lived in by a guy who was in the Army, but had gone AWOL, and was looking for someone to take it over while he was off doing his thing. Since the rent was only something like $100 a month, we not only jumped on that, but spent no time at all moving all of our stuff across the vacant lot that was between this house, and ours. We lived there for about a year or so before we were found out about, and had to move elsewhere, but during the year that we lived there, an entire lifetime of events happened there; some good, some not so good, and some golden ones permanently etched into the walls of my mind. Not only did the fun and adventures continue here, they were enhanced by the befriending of a guy we knew as "Red Fred", a tall, sort of Ted Nugent-looking guy with long red hair and homemade tattoos on his arms. He knew about music as much as Dad did, if not more so, and he helped introduce me to some things pretty early on. He was around a lot, and as soon as Dad was home, the beer was flowing freely, the clouds of pot lingering around, and the stereo rolling out endless streams of tunes...some old favorites, and plenty of new and "new" stuff behold. This was an interesting time. Disco music was in its death-throes, and while that was being slowly phased out, a new phase of stuff was coming in that included power-pop, straight-ahead rockers, and full-out Heavy Metal. Here's a good example of what life was like living in that house: Red Fred lived out in Roy, and one day he came to the house with a friend of his who had just bought a new battery for his tractor. God only knows how they came up with this, but when the guy mentioned that he had the old, dead battery out in the trunk of his car, someone decided that they should give it a proper burial. That they did with Dad, digging a hole in the ground for it in a vacant lot across the alley, and erecting a little marker that said "John Deere was buried here!". Then Dad, Mom, Red Fred, his friend, and whoever else was there that afternoon, all climbed up to the top of the carport in the back yard and held a wake for the dead battery: drinking beer, smoking grass and singing all the sing-along songs that they could think of, including "Yellow Submarine", "Cover Of The Rolling Stone", "Happy Together", "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die", "Born To Be Wild" and whatever else they could think of. Things like this could never be bettered or duplicated, and still reside happily in my memory. And yet, I turned out fairly normal...whatever that word means!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Alice Cooper

Halloween of 1979. I remember going out trick-or-treating with Angie and some friends on the block, and we came home for a bit to check in, and to take a break for a little bit before going back out again to score some more candy. Dad, meanwhile, was playing something on the stereo by someone or something called Alice Cooper. I didn't see any type of female figure on any of the covers, but a guy with strange black blotches on his eyes. Dad pulled one out with an intriguing cover that looked like a big, green snakeskin wallet, and played a song about eating too much Halloween candy and having to go to the dentist as a result. All of a sudden, this got really interesting. I took a liking to it. In fact, I don't think I rejoined the others in collecting anymore sugary items...I wanted to hear some more Alice Cooper! Bob Ezrin tells the story about mishearing the song "I'm Eighteen" as "I'm Edgy"...for me, it was the song "Elected"; I thought Alice was saying, "I wanna be electric!". Sounded alright to me, if the music was any indication! I remember this one being played a lot around the house for a while afterwards...actually, my three favorites were this one, Elton John and the Beatles. Some thrilling rock-and-roll with great lyrics...what else could you ask for? In fact, I had gotten so into it, that for some reason, I found some of mom's mascara or something in the bathroom, poured in into my hands, and blotched it around my eyes. I ran into the living room to show everyone what I had done, and while Angie my Dad were in total hysterics, mom had frog-marched me right back in the bathroom, thrust my head into the sink under the cold running water, and began scrubbing my face, shouting something about what kind of lunatic I was.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Steve Miller Band

If anything, I think that this was the first music I remember hearing, all the way back to the Blue House, and maybe even before that. I remember being lulled to sleep with "Fly Like An Eagle" more than a few times, but enjoyed the stuttery Hammond organ breaks going on during the song. As I began exploring through the vinyl collection, I remember seeing some of his earlier works, clad in some pretty lysergically-colored album covers with titles such as Children Of The Future and Brave New World, and being knocked out by them. Oddly enough, I didn't hear these until much later, as Fly Like An Eagle and Book Of Dreams were still spun with regularity around the house. These had their moments, but as time went on, I grew an intense admiration for the earlier stuff, which still stands to this day; believe me, I could never warm up to "Abracadabra". Years later, Dad and I saw the Steve Miller Band at the UPS Fieldhouse in 1997, which was great fun. When they did "Rock 'N Me", and whenever they mentioned Tacoma during the song, the place all but erupted in a full-scale riot. What a night!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Black Oak Arkansas

Dad was really into these guys back in the '70s...in fact, I think I heard them around the house more than I heard Led Zeppelin. This was my first hearing of them, particularly "When Electricity Came To Arkansas". I thought it was pretty cool how it started off, with lead singer Jim "Dandy" Mangrum scrubbing away on an old washboard with thimbles on his fingers. For the longest time, I thought of the washboard as a musical instrument before I found out what it was actually used for! The back cover, though, was a little on the hideous side...yikes! Apparently, this was the first concert I was ever at, when they went to see them in Seattle, sometime in mid-1975. My mom was still pregnant with me, so maybe the sound-vibrations resounded with me. Peter Frampton and Montrose were the openers. When Black Oak Arkansas came on, it was so loud that the crowd actually moved back a bit! And in all the years afterwards, Dad said that that was the loudest concert he'd ever been to. He also had a cool yellow T-shirt with the logo from the X-Rated album, which he'd found in the basement laundry room back at the Blue House, but it got ripped off of him during a tiff with my mom, or so he told me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Beatles (i)

It's hard to pinpoint exactly the very first moment I heard these guys, but I know it was spread over various points in 1979, and I was completely blown away each time. Geoffrey is totally into these guys at the moment, so I think I know what he's enjoying. This was definitely one of the first starting points. All I know is that I heard the first side of this album and went "Whoa....!". This was definitely something exciting, energetic and fun; "It Won't Be Long" really stuck out, and remains one of my all-time favorites. I remember noting how cool how they all sort of looked alike, wore the same clothes, and had the same haircuts. This one appeared in the album collection sometime not long afterwards, and it was more of the same fun, only there was so much more to hear and discover. "She Loves You" was pure dynamite, and istantly became one of my favorites. Oddly enough, I remember my mom playing the whole thing almost in one sitting. A great starting point, but the thing that is rather annoying about this collection now is that there is nothing from George on it. Did you ever notice that? This was another one that appeared suddenly. I was transfixed on the spot while hearing this one. I couldn't believe the nonstop ocean of screams that went on and on throughout the album. And a lot of my favorites were played on this one, so I was happy with that! Dad played the whole thing one summer morning, and all of a sudden, things got really interesting. A whole new sound and direction had opened up with this album. "Taxman" was (and is) a killer opening, "Love You To" took me away to a whole new place altogether, "Tomorrow Never Knows" was from another dimension, and--you guessed it--"Yellow Submarine" was definitely a trip I wanted to go on. I remember Angie and I playing on the tire-swing at the McCarver school playground, singing this one, but also coloring the submarine blue, orange, red, green, and any other color we could think of. Okay, now, this was something else altogether. Dad pulled this one out sometime towards the winter of that year, and I wasn't sure what to expect from the Technicolor-hued album, and the guys in marching uniforms, and with matching little mustaches. He put it on, and it sounded as if they were playing in some kind of auditorium in front of people. The words and sounds coming out made it hard to believe that this was the same group of guys who were just singing "Do You Want To Know A Secret?". Dad played the entire album even through dinner, and I don't think I ate much of it as I couldn't take my ears off the stereo. When the final orchestral buildup and final chord of "A Day In The Life" happened, I just sat there stunned as the needle lifted up off the record and it was over.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pink Floyd (i)

The radio was playing one afternoon, something that was getting a little more frequent. I had just finished my lunch, and I heard it: a jumble of cash-register noises going along to a slightly unusual tempo, followed by a guy singing what I heard to be "Get a good chocolate, more pay, and you're okay!". Regardless, I was excited about this song, and it would be a little while before I heard it again and saw for myself who it was...someone called a Pink Floyd, and something about a dark side of the moon, although there was only a couple of triangles and some rainbows on the cover. Confusion aside, I took a liking to it right away, only if I had only heard parts of it for the time being. Dad only had a few of their albums, including this one with a most bizarre cover... Completely freaked me out, it did. I didn't even want to hear it, so it got filed away so I wouldn't have to look at it. A slight jump ahead with regards to our next home: one day, Dad and I went to the Sears store downtown on 13th Street, where they had the record store. I was actually more excited about this section than the toy section. Wow, just racks and racks of albums in shiny plastic shrink-wrap. I wandered over to the "P" section and found something that looked to be new: something called The Wall. Dad seemed interested, so he got it, but we never really got around to hearing it that day, yet he started playing it once I was in bed. My bedroom was just off the living room, and I would hear sounds emanating from there all too clearly. I remember hearing the sound of what sounded like a helicopter landing in the living room, shortly followed by one of the guys singing what I swore was "No dogs or cats are in the classroom". More confusion, to be sure, but I liked what I was hearing!