Friday, October 6, 2017

Messages from the past

In a moment of self-indulgence, I took a ten-minute break late this afternoon to dig out the first record I ever bought, Beatles VI.  I have loved rock and roll for as long as I have memories--longer, in fact--and according to my mother I was barely seven years old when I started begging her to let me have my own records.  She told me that sometime after I was ten, and when I had the money, she would let me. 

For some months before that birthday, I went through trash cans in my neighborhood and at nearby stores and pulled out every bottle that would earn a deposit.  I hid the bottles in holes I dug at the back edge of our property and in hard-to-reach sections of our garage.  When my mom finally relented, I dug up all the bottles, washed them, bundled them into bags, and turned them in for deposit at our neighborhood Li'l General store.

I had enough money to buy an album. 

I got permission to walk to the nearest record store--about a mile away--and did so.  I studied all the albums for as long as they would let me, because the store was air-conditioned and because every LP was a thing of beauty, an arcane object of rare and shining power.  From the moment I started the trek, though, I'd known that Beatles VI would come home with me. 

It did.

No one would let me play it when anyone else was around, so the eldest boy of the family we were living with and I would sneak listens in the garage, and in the wee hours of the morning I would play it on the family turntable, the volume so low I could barely hear it.

I played that album for years and years, on every turntable I could access, until I was nearly 17 and bought my own little stereo system--the best I could afford--and I played it more.  I loved that album.  I still do, though I recognize it is not objectively great music.  Starting with "Kansas City" and moving to "Eight Days A Week," the Beatles delivered pop power I loved.  Love still.

Over time, of course, the album started to wear out.  At multiple points in "Eight Days A Week," scratches led to small skips in the music.  I remember listening to them on my hot (to me) new stereo at 17 and thinking that someday I would own a new copy, one without scratches or skips, and that someday I would own a stereo so great, so perfect, that I could hear every note of every artist's work perfectly, and that someday I would not have to sacrifice audio quality simply because I loved an album.

The album started to decay, and I used duct tape to hold it together.  A friend tried to take it, and I used a label-maker--fancy stuff!--to put my name on it.  Later, I put the whole thing in a record sleeve.

And the whole time I played it.

All of that came back to me today as I listened again to the first two tracks, as "Kansas City" and "Eight Days A Week" came to me through an amazing sound system, on which I heard every note, but also every scratch and skip, on which I could have played any of my several flawless CDs containing both songs. 

I listened again, and the music teased all of these memories from me and bathed me in them, even as I sang along and loved the music yet again.

This time, though, when the record hit the scratches and skips, the little painful bits and the moments of silence, I heard something else. 

I heard love.

I heard my love for the music, the love that led me to paw through trashcans and endure mocking from my family and fight for every chance to listen to music and to play it loud and as many times as I wanted. 

I heard that love loud and clear, and it was fine and true and filled me with joy. 

May I never lose it. 


Mark P said...

Good to know I'm not the only person not streaming music.
I think I'm about 10 years younger than you so my first vinyl album was ELO's Out of the Blue which I got for my birthday. I still have it and occasionally listen to it,
I was fortunate that I was allowed to listen anytime until my father returned from work.
Later on I had my fathers old deck when he upgraded so could listen whenever I liked.
I still I have my fathers deck from the 60's which when I can justify spending several hundred pound on it's refurbishment I'll get working. Apparently it's now a collectors item as it is driven by an idler wheel rather than a drive band. It's good to know that I have that from my father as well as his extensive classical music collection.

Mark said...

That is very cool. I will stream music on rare occasion, but I do prefer to own my media.


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