Oh, the dreaded reissue, the pricey box set. I’m a sucker for these things — always have been. As a kid I had to have KISS’s The Originals, though that collection was no more than their first three studio albums repackaged. I have multiple copies of many albums — each release with its own bonus tracks, liner notes, live DVDs and remastered music. If you don’t own both the Bowie and the Iggy Pop mixes of Raw Power, for example, then you haven’t really heard that album.
I’m desperate – my tank is empty. The notebook hasn’t been marked up in days. I turned on my iPod today and a tumbleweed rolled across the screen. For the first time in over a year I missed a “Why It Matters” Monday deadline, and I likely will miss another unless I publish this slop.
I’m not really desperate and empty, just distracted. Right now I am keeping such a tight rein on my emotions that there’s no room for stories of whacking off to Bo Derek calendars and grooving to P-Funk to slip between the cracks. When you hear the patented burp you know that no emotion will get past the air tight seal.
So here I sit, a bit buzzed for the fourth (fifth? sixth?) night in a row. I tried to follow my tried and true ritual this morning: Grab the portable “Why It Matters” kit, find a restaurant that won’t kick me out, put in the ear buds and start scribbling. I didn’t get anywhere. And so here I am clattering the keys, listening to The Beatles’ White Album, and I do mean album. I slipped it out of its protective sleeve, ran the Discwasher over side one, and dropped the needle.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show hardly was rock and roll’s first foray into blurred gender roles, nor was it the last. Since the dawn of rock in the mid-Fifties gender confusion has been a common topic. Here are a few songs where he was a she or vice versa or who really knows.
This is the big number fifty in my ongoing narrative, not including the many sidebars and asides. This seems like a good of a time as any for a sanity check.
I started this project with one intention: to demonstrate how important music truly is. It is a wonder drug soothing broken hearts and conjuring lost memories; binding friendships and speaking for us when we can’t speak for ourselves. It reaches across both time and space. For a lot of us it is our first unique identities — unique to us, anyway — and for some, usually bald and big-bellied and high-fiving from the front row of a Rush concert, those first identities remain with us forever.
I don’t know why my mother thought that I would enjoy Summer Science Camp, but it meant two weeks living in the Clemson University dorms so I was game. She dropped me off with one hundred bucks in my pocket, a Frisbee, the new Rolling Stone (cover story: A Kurt Loder interview with Pete Townshend), some Levis and a few black tees.
My first major breakup didn’t even involve me. My sister dumped Mike, no doubt for valid hell-raising reasons, but without considering me. How was I supposed to find my path to the Dixie Gem Garage — the hot spot for street races — without my travel guide? In whose Chevelle would I cruise The Beacon when my time came, a case of Bud next to me on the backseat? What the hell would I do without access to the crown prince of The Guys In Black Tee Shirts Who Jam? Never mind that he just lived down the street, I was sure that I would never see him again.
She dated a handful of idiots after Mike. There was Mark, who was my bus driver in elementary school. I don’t know if this is common throughout the country or even throughout South Carolina, but during my childhood the school bus fleet was driven by high school students — the same kids who annually sacrificed at least one of their own to the DUI gods. But somehow it made sense to entrust a seventeen-year old with sixty-five school children in a rolling casket without seatbelts. I don’t remember any accidents, so I suppose the school board had it right.
Hard to believe but there was a time before YouTube – before cable television and home video for that matter. We ate the music we were served and we liked it, said the crusty old curmudgeon. Live albums were an opportunity to hear our favorite music in a new way, and they still are. Here are some choice live album cuts you’ve probably never heard:
Money was tight for twelve-year-old me: allowance, what I could get mowing lawns, that’s about it. Used record stores didn’t exist, at least not in Spartanburg, and new records were expensive. Enter the cutout bin.
My first scribblings as a forty-four year old man. Sitting in an airport 6:50 a.m., legal pad and Uniball pen, Pete Townshend’s “I’m One” on the headphones. Halfway to eighty-eight, that being ten years past average for an American male. At thirty-nine I acknowledged that I was at my life’s fulcrum point. At forty it just made sense that I was going to live to eighty, then eighty-two, etc. At this rate I may be immortal.
Growing up there were three of us kids, and our first allowance was tiered 50/35/25 cents, oldest to youngest. At age seven a quarter per week was fine by me. That was a quick trip to 7-11 on my Wards knock-off Stingray for some Lik-m-aid or candy cigarettes. But when adolescence rolled around a quarter just wasn’t cutting it. I wanted records and music magazines. Those were my only vices, but they were expensive vices.