Growing up I had this record player that folded in half so you could carry it from room to room. Black plastic with stereo speakers! I spent probably too much time listening to John Denver and the Muppets because that was what my folks had gotten me. Later it was a mix of Beatles, The Who, and Holtz’s The Planets that I had removed from my parents collections that became the mainstay of my rotation. It wasn’t until I was 11, when my parents bought a huge stereo system for the entire house that music became more a communal family thing. My dad liked his stuff a little louder than the house could handle. Speakers the size of kitchen chairs vibrating the floor.
At some point the music diverged, them listening to Neil Diamond and me going more Pink Floyd and Genesis. Everything that had a keyboard playing in it became my go to music. Having spent some time learning the piano I wanted to find things that I could play along with. It took some time to hone my tastes. All those lessons my parents drove me to had me admiring Ozzy Osbourne for the simple fact he incorporated a synthesizer into his efforts.
So much about music was changing in the 80’s. Rock was more than what my parents grew up on. MTv had been around for a few years, so videos were influencing my choices as much as what the radio played. It was also so much easier to hit “record” on my boom-box than race to make sure the VCR could capture the dancing and prancing of Micheal Jackson or Tears for Fears. It sounds weird now, but with music moving to being more portable (Walkman/Discman happening between 1985 and 1990!). Listening was no longer a group thing unless we were in the car. Headphones draped over ears blocked out the world.
My parents didn’t have any limitations on what they would get us. But one of the albums my mother bought me probably had a bigger factor in my adult choices. She gave me an Ella Fitzgerald tape. My mom wanted me to try to learn a little jazz to change how I played the piano. But what happened was that it changed how I listened to voices in the music. I didn’t need loud guitars and banging drums. A soulful voice, a piano, bass, and drums showed me what music could be.
These days it makes me listen to Marillion or Richie Kotzen. Singers would express as much emotion as Holtz did when I was listening to “Mars, Bringer of War”!
I don’t listen to much music anymore. My collection continues to grow, but remains stored in the digital realm of 1’s and 0’s. The hours I used to listen to my grandmother play her organ brought us closer. Closer than anything else could. My dad is completely tone deaf, but tries. My kid brother is a pretty good singer and likes to play his guitar. Music was a shared experience even if the type wasn’t.
Don McLean wrote about how the day he heard about Richie Valens and Buddy Holly dying in a plane crash was for him the day the music died. I understand how he feels. Sometimes life changes and the way you look at things does as well. I play the piano still, but I have lost some of the love I had for it.
My parents gave me a wonderful gift in allowing me to hear as much music, with as many varieties as possible without holding back anything. The joy of bopping down the road with friends, dancing with some girl in junior high, that first song you heard on the radio when you find out about your own child, those all are locked away in my brain along with the soundtrack. I put on one or two of those songs and I hit stop sometimes before the singer can even get going.
NPR and Sports Talk Radio are now my friends. The world still spins, but just not any records.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Papa Loves Mambo.”