I had a conference call tonight with two of my faculty members abut the new history course they are teaching. One is a young teacher from the University of Texas in Austin and the other one is closer to my age – although still younger – and teaches at a community college in Hunstville AL. After we finished our work discussion, the talk turned to music. Our young teacher is writing his dissertation on pop music’s impact on the culture in Zimbabwe. Our Alabama teacher told him that her husband was a DJ in the 70s and 80s, and they have literally thousands of vinyl records stored at their home from that era. He was so jealous!
One of my favorite memories growing up is listening to music with my sister in our little bedroom in the front of our Wood Acres home. We had a record player, and we had a handful of albums and lots of our favorite singles. I think you could get 45s (small vinyl records with one song on each side) for about a buck, and an album cost about $7. Since I didn’t really have a job until I was 15 or so, I didn’t start buying much music until then. Susan and I had The Star is Born by Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand, several of Bob Seger’s albums – Against the Wind, Stranger in Town and Night Moves, and I know I had a Linda Ronstadt album. I think I purchased that one because I had friends who told me I looked like her. The Eagles’ Against the Wind was another favorite that we played over and over. We’d sit in our bedroom on our opposing twin beds and listen to music while we talked about boys and …. and .… hell, I don’t know what we talked about. I know I painted my nails every night. Maybe that’s what we were doing.
Bob Seger – Against the Wind
I was just texting Susan about it, and she remembers that she wanted to name her daughter Esther Starr after Barbra Streisand’s character in the movie. It was the music that taught us what love was supposed to be and set the stage for who we admired and how we wanted to dress. I started wearing my hair curly after A Star is Born came out. We didn’t have the internet and the large window into the world that the kids now have. We did have HBO, but I can only remember watching Arthur about 5000 times during the course of my childhood. It seemed like a bunch of re-runs and no original stuff. To see movies… you went to the theater. Besides, my parents had a black and white TV until just last year, so nothing was in living color except the music.
Our next door neighbors, Angie and Tony, would come over and listen to music with us. We listened to the same albums over and over again. The huge digital music libraries of today seem like museums compared to our little music collection. We learned all of the words on every song. Even today when I hear one of those songs, the words and the music are burned into my brain. It was that music that shaped my teenage years and was the backdrop for first kisses, laughs with girlfriends and parking lot parties. When I went away to college, we didn’t listen to music that much. We heard it of course, but it was mainly when we were out dancing. It’s importance was relegated to ambience.
Barbra Streisand – Evergreen from A Star is Born
Daddy always reminds me of this yard party we had at our house. I don’t remember a lot of the details, but he seems to remember a lot of it. I imagine he was sweating bullets while I was just out having a good time. Our neighbor, Tony, was in a garage band. We decided it would be a great idea to have them play for a party. We lived in a subdivision that wasn’t quite full yet, and our yards intertwined. Some genius came up with the idea to get a flat bed trailer and put it in our front yard, so the band could play on it. The horseshoe-shaped subdivision became a teenage street party in no time. I don’t remember the name of the band, but I’m sure it had one. I’d love to hear it now to see if they were really any good, but I do know that whatever it may have lacked in musical quality, it replaced with loudness.
Another great musical venue was Alvin’s van. Note to Momma: I did not actually ever get into Alvin’s van. I have heard stories over the years. I know you forbid it, and I would never go against your wishes. What I HEARD about Alvin’s van was he had this great sound system. It was a brown van, and it was always full of our mutual friends. There would be a different assortment every time, but if you wanted to be cool, you rode around with Alvin in his van listening to Led Zeppelin, REO Speedwagon, Chicago and – my person favorite in his van – Styx. There was something about the sound of Styx’s Lady… when you’re with me I’m smiling …. that has stuck in my memory all of these years, and there was no better sound system than in that enclosed van.
Styx – Lady
My sister and I also went to concerts. A ticket cost $7.50 back then. It wasn’t much more than the cost of an album. We saw REO Speedwagon, the Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson, Alabama, Kansas, Boston, Styx and Kiss when they were on the top of their game. Who would have ever thought they would be old men one day? On a weird note, the first concert I ever went to was Elvis Presley. Momma took Susan and I to see him and Tom Jones of What’s New, Pussycat? fame. I’ll never forget his little tight pants. That might have been more than a 14 year old needed to see. I also remember Momma’s music. She loved Glen Campbell and Bobby Goldsboro. I even bought a tape of Bobby Goldsboro’s a few years back because it was the same one Momma played over and over when we were kids. I wanted to hear the sad sweet lyrics of Honey once again. Of course, when we went to concerts, we bought t-shirts, so we had plenty of those, too. Now, a concert t-shirt is $40. It’s ridiculous.
My teacher colleague in Alabama said she looked out the window the other day and her young daughter was tearing up the ‘dance floor’ to Brickhouse from their vinyl collection. Her kids love that old music. I guess I don’t see the draw in vinyl with its cracks and pops as compared to today’s digital mixing. But our young Austin teacher said they will pay $30-$40 for an old album these days. She’s sitting on a gold mine. When my niece was a child, she discovered her father’s albums in the closet. She exclaimed that “Momma, there’s these HUGE CDs in the closet”!I haven’t heard of any kid getting a kick out of 8 track tapes for some reason. They didn’t have the appeal of the sentimental vinyl.
I remember buying needles for our record player and having to wipe it down to keep the fuzz off. If I heard some of those songs today, I’m sure I could still remember where ours used to get stuck on scratches. We’d have to get up and gingerly move it to get it back on track…. every time we played those songs. The particular scratches and skips are what made those records uniquely ours. The little bedroom at the start of the hall floored with the unforgettable burnt orange shag carpet featured the best concert hall in town.