Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Beatles (ii): The end of an era

December 9th, 1980. Something seemed very strange that day when Dad came home from work. He seemed to be very distraught about something, but it didn't seem like it had simply been a bad day at work. The only thing I remember happening next was that he fell to his knees, was hugging me tightly, and in tears about something. And then the next thing he told me really took the rug out from under me: John Lennon, from the Beatles, from the band whose works I'd really been enjoying for the past year or so, had been shot and killed yesterday.
Wow, talk about how everything within you just ceases, as it starts sinking in. I remember seeing an article about it in the newspaper that day, and although I didn't read it, that's when I felt that it must be true if was in there. It was pretty quiet in the house the rest of that day, and there wasn't a lot of partying going on in the house after that. The holidays were coming, but that seemed to be the only thing on anyone's mind.
This was the first time I'd ever felt anything like this. It really did feel like a death in the family. A couple of weeks later, after the cloudiness around the house had disappeared a little, I remember sitting by the Christmas tree, as Dad played some of Sgt. Pepper and some other things, but it just didn't feel the same anymore. The magic and wonder that had once been attached was now gone. I found it highly depressing to listen to, for the time being. The loss I felt hung over me for the next few months.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Creedence Clearwater Revival

This was one that I heard in its entirety one afternoon when it was just mom and myself at the house. Not only was it not yet another K-Tel conglomeration of dross, but something amazingly good, and one that I immediately took to right away. Just some straight-ahead rock tinged with country and swampy bayou influences, with one killer cut after another. Greil Marcus' liner notes on the inside sum it up perfectly: Because of the total absence of gimmicks, posing, and prettifying, their records stand up better today far better than almost anything else made at the time. Of course, "Lookin' Out My Back Door" is going to hook in any four-year-old, and I was no exception. To this day, when I hear this album, or any songs that are on it, I fondly remember that sunny afternoon, with the snow melting outside, and the only things in the world that mattered to me were my family, our dog, our cats, our house, our friends, and the great times we were having.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

New sounds, new formats!

This was around the time that the old Zenith Allegro stereo system was retired to the back bedroom and succeeded by a whole new stereo system that Dad bought at the old Sears store downtown on one his days off. I got to go with him there, check out the albums section, and then ride home in a taxi with him as he had a number of big cardboard boxes with him containing something interesting.
It was an LXI receiver with two speakers. I don't remember when he got the new turntable, but I do remember when he got this new contraption called a cassette deck, with these strange little cartridges that had two holes in them that played when you loaded them into the player. And this is what I first remember hearing on this new format...
Dad still had the collection of 8-Tracks, but they were also relegated to the back room, so in order to hear those, we had to go into the back bedroom, which was not terribly often.
Dad also would tape-record things onto cassette, mostly with a microphone placed near the speaker of the TV set; it was kind of funny if he were recording a comedy show off of Showtime or something, as he would also pick up the laughter of himself, mom, Red Fred and whoever else was there, which made it more funnier, whenever I got to hear the recordings. Although I wouldn't get familiar with this format until a couple of years down the line, this is where I first saw and heard them.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

K-Tell Hell (slight return)

With the summer over and Angie back in school again, I was home during the day with mom and our German Shepherd, Sadie. Mom would often slap albums on the turntable for our enjoyment, if not a way to keep me entertained and not in front of the TV all day. For some odd reason, she always seemed to grab the K-Tel and Ronco compilation albums, and play them all the way through. As noted in a related blog, a lot of the stuff was garbage, but there were also some gems to found amongst the trash.
This was one that had a few good cuts among some other stuff I'd just as soon forget about. My favorite cut on this was "Wildwood Weed" by Jim Stafford; I had a very vague knowledge of this one being about a bunch of good ol' boys discovering a certain green, leafy plant growing on the farm (such was my upbringing). This was followed by Golden Earring's "Radar Love" and Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama".
This was another one with a couple of tolerable cuts on it; I always found it amusing they put Dr. Hook's "Cover of The Rolling Stone" on here with its cartoony references to drugs and groupies next to things like "Funky Worm" and "Love Train". One song on here that I absolutely detested was Clint Holmes' "Playground In My Mind", with the dreaded chorus about "My name is Michael, I got a nickel...". Mom would always say, "That's Mikey's favorite song!", just because it had my name in it, but this was farther from the truth than you could imagine. After the last number of months of quite an interesting mix of stuff I'd been hearing lately, this song was nowhere near being any kind of favorite!
I wrote about the Fun Rock album in the last blog, but after hearing "Gitarzan" by Ray Stevens, I found the album by that name in Dad's collection. There was a picture of Ray himself on the cover, but I remember thinking that he was Alan Alda from M*A*S*H!
One last related album that came our way was something called Merry Snoopy's Christmas, a sort of compilation of songs by The Royal Guardsmen and other stuff that was kind of tied together to make a Christmas-themed album. I don't remember much of it apart from the opening cut, "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron", which quickly became a favorite.
Lately, some of Geoffrey's favorites have been cuts from some of the other K-Tel albums I have since picked up for cheap along the lines while on vinyl hunts over the years. Some of his favorites are cuts by Ray Stevens, "Mah-Nah-Mah-Nah", the Pink Panther theme, and "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" (he got excited about it when I told him that the song was about Snoopy!).