We used to have to work for things. And I know this gets old. I know this is no different from when I was a kid and my Old Man would say things that began with, “When I was your age,” but either way, it’s true.
We used to have to work for things.
Nothing was this easy. If a song came out or if a band came out with an album, we had to save for this. We had to wait for this. I remember saving up for a tape and walking across town to a record store. Now, when I say tape; the younger generation might be lost. They wouldn’t know what a cassette tape is.
But me? I remember.
I had a Walkman. I had cassette tapes. I had to save for this. I bought albums. I had a record player. I had mixed tapes, which took time to make because I had to create a compilation of my favorite songs. This way I could listen to them in a special order.
Things like this are done by the push of a button now. There is no effort in searches. There is no discovery. There is no thrill like the one I had when I would buy an album or tape and rush to listen to it. There’s no thrill or sense of personal victory. I remember the perfect separation that came when I wired music to my ears. I could listen. I could separate myself from the world. I could lock the door and let the music do its trick.
I don’t know what these kids feel about music; and at the same time, I’m not taking anything away from them. Instead, I want to offer something.
I want them to feel what I felt. I want them to feel the amazing sense of discovery. I want them to feel that amazing realization that comes when you hear a song; and then almost automatically, you need to know every word. You need to know everything about the band. You need to know when their next concert is. You want to know everything. You want to know what the songs mean. You want to understand the lyrics and know them by heart.
The effort I put into this was enough to create a source of wonder. This was enough to somehow illustrate my life with a soundtrack. And like you or maybe like anyone else, I had my favorite songs. I had my favorite bands. I would sing alone and sometimes scream the words while the volume was turned all the way up.
What would we be without music? What would the memories of our youth be like without the songs we listened to? Would we remember the summers the same way or the winter, the spring or the first shot at romance?
My first make-out session happened during the fall when I was in the 7th Grade. The action was far from intense and nothing happened. What I mean is nothing went too far, which wasn’t for a lack of trying. Music television was still a new thing. We laid on the couch for a while before she made me walk her home. I struck out. I remember hearing the song “I’m On Fire,” by Springsteen. And not that I was a fan, but that’s not the point.
I can remember road trips from my young crazy life. I can remember them down to the clearest detail. In fact, I can see them because of the music we played.
I remember the songs that were like perfect anthems for my crazy rebellion. I remember the songs that absorbed my broken heart and the sad times; also the rough times and the crazy times as well. I can remember my teenage life.
I’d climb out the window and step onto my roof. I’d climb up onto the top of my house with headphones on my ears. I had a cigarette and a drink. My eyes were red and wild but there was something in my heart. There was something in my head. I needed a way to make sense of everything.
I was living in a world of confusion. Nothing made sense to me. No matter how I tried, I always struggled to sort things out.
I did not have the language to express my thoughts or my feelings. But that was fine. At least, I had music. I sat on the roof of my childhood home and listened to bands such as Pink Floyd. I listened to Hendrix and sometimes, The Doors. I remember the first time I heard the song “All Along the Watchtower.” or “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
I watched the sun come up over my little town and all the while, I heard music that changed my heart.
I remember when I found the brilliance of different musicians. I heard from different genres, which in fairness, I was more of someone who enjoyed the more classic albums. However, I had my share of heavier selections. Sometimes, I needed something fast and aggressive. Sometimes, I needed something that hit me with a rush of adrenaline.
My point is that I had to work for this. I had to collect my favorite albums, which gave them value to me. Perhaps this is why the music was so important. I didn’t have any downloads. I didn’t have the ability to go online. The only lines I went on were the lines at the store.
This was before technology took over the world. This was before cell phones. We didn’t have computers in every home, or least of all, my generation hardly had televisions in every room.
We didn’t know about websites.
We didn’t have the internet. We didn’t even know what the internet was. And I get it. All things must and do change. I get that we’ve advanced. I get that the world has been updated several times since my youth. I remember when 8-tracks went to cassette tapes and cassette tapes were replaced by CD’s and now everything is downloaded. Everything changes
The Old Man used to make fun of the music I listened to. He’d tell me that it’s not music. And he’d say that he knew music. He’d tell me that he grew up with music and whatever it was that I was listening to, it wasn’t music to my Father.
Then again, my Father was born at the end of the 1920’s. He was born out of The Depression. His teenage culture was different from mine. Come to think of it, my Father signed up for World War II as soon as it was legally possible. My Grandmother signed for my Father to join the Army Air Corps. I believe the year was 1945 into 1946. The top of the Billboards were sung by people like Perry Como, Eddy Howard, The Ink Spots and Frank Sinatra.
But dig it, I can enjoy all types of music. I can enjoy swing music. I can appreciate some of the sock hop music from the 50’s. I can enjoy Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock and even Richie Valens. Maybe not everyone agrees, but I dig his version of La Bamba. And I’m fine with that.
I can say that technology has blessed us with search engines. Anything you want to learn is available. We can literally find whatever we want. Information is always a click away.
Search engines can show you anything you want to see. But something a search engine cannot do is connect us to live, visceral experiences. I can search for a song but nothing connects me to the song without the threads of experience.
For example: Ever hear a song and find that it takes you right back to a certain time. You hear the song and it takes you to a time in your life where everything was pivotal.
You could have gone left but instead, you went right. You could have gone home, but instead, you stayed longer to watch the sun come up.
Or wait, no. Perhaps I am confusing this with my own reflections.
What I mean is I don’t want to spoil this with my own projections.
No. Not at all.
My aim is to give a feeling, My aim is to make you think. I’d like to remind us all that there was a time when not everything was so intense. The world was less offensive and even if we were divided at times, there was always a commonality that could bring us back together.
I have songs that bring me together. I have connections to bands like Van Morrison who sang “Into The Mystic” and “Sweet Thing.” I remember when i first heard these songs. I thought to myself, “This must be what love feels like.”
What I am about to share is something that I have shared before. The song comes from a movie called Zabriskie Point. This is an instrumental, which is played by Jerry Garcia. Someone posted a video of this song and added one of their old home movies to this.
I can relate to this.
I look for this video when my heart hurts (like now, for instance) and then I hit play.
Eventually, I close my eyes and let the music do what it does.
I call this my emotional penicillin.
I can remember when the world was less technical. There was no such thing as social media. People actually talked instead of texted or emailed. We had parades in my town, We always had them at the start of little league baseball season.
The world was a real place. My family was still alive. I was young. Mom made a mistake and got a perm, which was a little funny. She curled her hair because it was a fashion at the time. She hated it but hey, it was only hair and fortunately, the curls grew out.
We had three dogs. We had a little house on a street known as Merrick Avenue. Life happened here. My life. And without the depth of sound and music; perhaps my memory of this time would not be so clear.
“Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love,
the things you are, the things you never want to lose . . .”