My 30 year high school reunion is coming up. Its odd because just yesterday I was six and me and my sister were at my Aunt Rose’s house listening to Muskrat Love by Captain and Tennille. Wow! that was a terrible album…But, I own it because it reminds me of my Aunt Rose. She exposed me and my sister to some absolutely terrible music but at the same time, she had some greats like Barry Manilow and who doesn’t know who Lola the showgirl is and where Barry fell in love with her. Admit it, even as a straight male, you’re singing that song in your head. You can’t help it. I still flip through records and remember people and places and things. I don’t have as much time as I’d like to do it but when I get the chance and I’m not completely annoying my family members, I put on those old records and they immediately take me back. They take me back to my uncle Bob’s room at my grandmothers house where he had these gigantic speakers and he was listening to Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers. Even though Donald Fagen only had one good album (The Nightfly), I owe my appreciation for his and the smooth voice of Michael McDonald to my Uncle Bob.
I think more than anything I am thinking of my son, who is off at basic training in S. Carolina right now. He’s a true music fan and Simon and Garfunkel and Johnny Cash and Al Green are some of his favorites. When he was younger, we would listen to music together and as his tastes developed in different directions, I stuck to the 70s and 80s mostly, still enjoying various artists and genres but sticking close to home and the memories attached to the songs I love. There were those times as a small child that I listened to The Imperials and I closed my eyes and in my mind, I stood and watched an eagle fly, spread his wings and soar across the sky, how gracefully he flew. There was the time, me and Jerry Lamb listened to the 45 record in his room, Convoy, over and over. I bet his mother was about to flip out if she heard “10-4 rubber ducky” one more time and there we were, both of us listening to Convoy and I know, secretly just there, hoping that Sandra Wilson would come outside her front door so that we could go out there and compete for her attention.
I remember hearing Stanley Clarke’s Album “Let Me Know You” on a trip to Monterrey Mexico at my Uncle Beto’s house and actually realizing how much I enjoyed jazz. Gino Vanelli and his Brother to Brother album, every song is gold on that album. Every song on albums like Def Leppards’ Pyromania, Bryan Adams’ Reckless, Prince’s Purple Rain. I could go on and on from popular music to the classics from Journey that now stop people in their tracks to sing along and reminisce.
I’ll do my best to remember and I know that after I save this, more will come to me. I remember my brother, Robert, coming home with Boston’s Third Stage. The insert in the cassette cover was so cool! and every song was awesome. We played it on his little jam box that he had unscrewed the back from and cut the speaker wires and run wires into my dad’s old Radio Shack, wooden Realistic Speakers. Those speakers sounded amazing! I adopted much of my brothers musical tastes as well. I have just about every Pat Metheny album because of my brother bringing home First Circle. He was a Rush fan too and over the years, I’ve picked up every Rush album for my son, even the bad ones. Wait, are there any bad ones? Maybe, I don’t know. It’s not about the music, Its about the art.
Back then, we listened to Friday Night Videos. MTV hadn’t come on the scene and the only time to watch videos was on Friday and Saturday nights and if you were a headbanger, you had to stay up extra late to watch Headbanger’s Ball…but, if you were a headbanger, that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem because you were, of course, a natural rebel. After MTV, VH1 came along and I started to appreciate Lionel Ritchie as a solo artist a little more and smooth jazz became part of my repertoire when picking up the ladies. I can’t even begin to count how many times, I popped in the cassette Collaboration by Earl Klugh and George Benson, doing my absolute best to get the girls swooning. I will admit, Collaboration worked a little better than Larry Carlton (one of Mark Bairrington’s favorites). I hear a Larry Carlton song and I think about you Mark. Good stuff. One of my favorite Commodores albums, “All the Great Hits” has the song Painted Picture on it and Man!!! that’s a great song.
When I would visit family in Corpus Christi, I acquired musical taste for Sade from my cousin Velma and in the 80’s, of course, spending time with my cousin Pam, we couldn’t go without listening to Don’t Disturb this Groove. I actually now have The System on vinyl because, of course, its another memory I need to make sure I don’t lose track of. my cousin Ronnie would allow me to go with her on her occasional trek to Craig’s Record Factory and it was like Heaven in that place! The music that came about in the late 80s and early 90s was deeply appreciated. I can’t even think of most of it because I was in a bit of a fog most of the time. I do remember, cruising around in Manny Chapa’s lowered Toyota truck, with some sort of short in the radio that buzzed louder when he hit the accelerator. It didn’t effect our ability to thoroughly enjoy The Cult’s Fire Woman, She Sells Sanctuary. I’m telling you, if you haven’t listened to those songs and music from Poison or Motley Crue in a small cab on full blast, you just haven’t appreciated the music to it’s fullest. Of course, you have to be enroute to Elizabeth’s By The Sea, Vernon’s or Bobarubas or just cruising around the Dallas/Rio parking lot because you’re not quite old enough to get into the clubs.
I could also go on and on about the memories attached to the music. Like how whenever I hear Summer of 69, I remember Bryan Stewart driving like a maniac, or how absolutely spotless Rod Bryans car was and how he was meticulous in keeping his music just so when we listened to Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight” in his back room, or listening to The Outfield’s Play Deep with Mark Willmann. How can I ever forget listening to shock heavy metal with Boozer Pennington when he first came home with a cassette by a band called W.A.S.P. Talk about rebellion. I guess it wasn’t a far stretch from listening to AC/DC’s Back in Black with Scott Brewer in his little jacked up Toyota, so completely hammered that he had to dump me off at the back of my house and my throat was scratchy the next day because I actually became Brian Johnson in the front seat of the truck.
Riding around in cars, blaring music, being completely irresponsible with alcohol, that’s just what we did in small town West Texas in the 80s. Am I proud of it? Of course not. Did it happen? Hell yeah it happened and it was the best time of my life. I remember the first time I heard Crazy Train at Larry Abney’s house. Man! that rocked. We also listened to Quiet Riot that day. Honorable mention goes out to Keric Clanahan and Erik Wilson for letting me experience a group called The Meatmen and a song called Tooling for Anus. What the hell was that about???? Oh yeah, one more, Shawn Holliday, Chad Redwine, and myself and I would say maybe a few hundred other people can’t go through life without hearing a Duran Duran song and thinking of Mindy Kniffen. Mindy…from the bottom of my heart, I apologize for Shawn when he threw your Duran Duran cassette out of the back of the bus window. I can’t fail to mention, Patrick Guzman. We were all in his front yard, he was washing his car and me and Victor and I think Patty was there too and he had Pass the Dutchie playing at full volume on his car stereo. I remember cruising around with Shawn Holliday in his Camaro and listening to Til Tuesday. A couple years back, I had to pick up the CD “Voices Carry” and wondered, “why did this sound so good back then in that car and now…not so much?” The answer…because I was hanging with friends and family and people I cared about. That’s it. The music was background noise. Whether it was Russ Taff, Keith Whitley or Aerosmith or Def Leppard or Chris Botti or ZZ top or Ozzy, We were building memories. I figure I better enjoy those memories now because with all the spray aerosol deodorant I’ve used over the years and all the Sweet-N-Low that I put in my tea every day, who knows how long my mind will stay sharp.