What kind of Music catches your Attention??
I have been drawn to music since I was very young. When I was in the 5th maybe 6th grade, my parents bought me a portable 45 disc record player. It was one of my first explorations into finding my identity with words and music. I remember watching the record player automatically drop the disc. It would fall from the stack of 45’s mounted on the central disc spindle. It landed softly onto the revolving table with an enchanting echo that caught my attention.
To hear that clicking echo from the recesses of the record player piqued my inquisitiveness. I would see the arm carrying the needle automatically swing itself over and delicately drop. The record would begin its familiar hiss and then find its mark. One of the first 45 single records I ever had was “Surfin USA” by the Beach Boys. Well, the rhythm and chords are more aptly a part of Chuck Berry’s roots and writing. The Beach Boys had to relent and give Ole Chuck some credit for his Rockin Rendition of “Sweet Little Sixteen”. Brian Wilson heard Chuck’s Sweet Sixteen and loved his play with the rhythm and the lyrics. Wilson wrote about a completely different story that revolved around Surf Culture. He modeled his words and Chuck’s rhythmic tune to his needs and history was written. Look it up and you will find that Chuck Berry was paid his due.
I started collecting music in earnest when I started the 7th or 8th grade. Right in there sometime. I was perusing the pictures and words from a giant Life Magazine. In the middle of the magazine, I found a perforated, tear out subscription card, for the Columbia Record Company. The come on was this… For one Penny You could have 3 current Vinyl Disc LP’s. You could pick em. All you had to agree to was that every month after that, you would buy another album… but at regular prices. You were able to pick a genre for your subsequent mail deliveries. That was how I received Elton John’s “Yellow Brick Road”, Santana’s debut album, “Santana” with the me’lange of Lion’s heads that melted into one another on the cover. The third one was from The band that took its name from the windy city, Chicago. I remember taping the penny to the card and mailing it in.
I found I could pick my coming albums. All I had to do was check out their little multi page circular that came in the mail every month. With a little advanced notice, I was able to explore and make my music choices. I had an array of vinyl LP’s that were getting heftier and heavier to move around. Then 8 track tapes came out. Lighter, more compact, and able to fit in the little slotted cases I found that made them easy to transport. Then Cassettes came out. Even more compact. The cassette cases were slimmer and looked so cool. My all-business briefcases of Music. I carried them into my friend’s homes and my beginning explorations into parties and dancing. You could even explore the lyrics better with the rewind button. The cadence and rhythm of the lyrics are important. Every bit as important to me as the orchestration of the varied instruments.
Then CD’s came out. Flat little discs that could fit above the visor in your Chevy. So cool. Then the internet came alive. Spotify survived and came out as the Victor of the music streaming wars. It is absolutely mesmerizing to me the power of just a few taps into my phone and what it brings me. The lyrics are even there for me. With a little poured courage, I have used those lyrics to follow along when I stood up. I’ve stood up a few times and sang my Karaoke assisted renditions of songs I love. Music is seeped into my bones.
I explore Music daily. I have my tried-and-true favorites. Something I have come to learn through the years, is this… We are all what we listened to in our young, formative years. I am a Baby Boomer, born in 1958. Every generation puts it indelible mark on the music of their time. The roots of Rock and Roll were evolving in my young years. The 70’s brought me the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. Then the disco ball and the polyester shirts and tripping the light fantastic. I remember putting my Saturday Night Fever moves on the lighted dance floors of the disco clubs in Amarillo Texas. The Bee Gees and Donna Summer set the tone.
The 80’s brought Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and Tina Turner. The 90’s brought Ricky Martin and his Vida Loca. I remember doing the Macarena by Los Del Rio at the wedding dances we attended. Will Smith was tinging the music scene and Getting Jiggy Wit it. 1998 was the year I bought Madonna’s Ray of Light Studio Album. She had just had her first child and her music was infused with hope, and what I felt was a more gentle perception of her world.
Gwen Stefani was the Hollaback Girl making her mark in the 2000’s. Eminem’s genius manipulation of his words and rhythm were evident to everyone. I started exploring Jazz makers in the 2000’s. Chet Baker is one of my favorites. He is called the Prince of Cool. Tortured Soul who could not kick his heroin habit. Finally took his life when he fell from the 2nd story window of an apartment building, he occupied in Amsterdam. He landed on his head. No foul play, just sitting on the window ledge, stoned out of his mind when he fell. His trumpet is infused with a haunting carry that brings me back to listen to him often. His just slightly off-key singing style evokes emotion in me. Miles Davis and his horn make indelible notes. John Coltrane infused his Saxophone with his spirit. It was his encompassing passion. What he lived for. He died way too young. One of my favorite Coltrane riffs is his take on “My Favorite Things”. The song Julie Andrews made famous in “The Sound of Music’.
Then through all those years of exploring the edges of new songs, artists and styles, Country music was one of my earliest foundations. I grew up on a small farm just west of Clovis New Mexico. Coming into High School, I found my friends gravitated to the “Kicker” set. I was an Urban Cowboy to the nines. Boots, Hats, Buckles, and Snuff. Bowlegged cadence to enhance my heavy-starch ironed Wrangler jeans. Johnny Rodriguez was one of those Vinyl LP’s I bought in my Columbia Record days. Along with Merle Haggard, Charlie Rich, Marty Stuart, Willie Nelson, and Loretta Lynn. I still enjoy going back to some of that Old School Country. I remember one time; My wife Lupe and I had a party at our home. At the end of the party, someone suggested we go dancing at “Chances Are”, a local nightclub. We all piled up into some cars and made a train to the club. We were lucky that a Cop didn’t pull us over.
When we got there, the place was packed from wall to wall. The country music that was playing was unusual to me. It was tinged with Urban Hip Hop flavors. Country Artists putting their Urbanesque melding of the current music flow with some old school twang. Confusing to me. It was hard to find some rhythm with my two steps. Not my kind of country. I like the older stuff. The ones with the trains, the planes, and the misery. The ones with the cheating and the spitting and the wild side. The ones where the women long for their men and try to change them. The ones where the men sing about the ladies they love and appreciate. Old School Country. Again, what I was exposed to at an early age. The music that caught my attention. The music that shaped me and helped form me into what I am today.
Coursing through all that music experience was the one I was born into. The Cumbias and the Ranchera music from my Mexican American roots. I was imbued with it as I attended the celebrations my parents took us to. I remember my Dad and Mom enjoyed putting on their dancing shoes and their “Chancliando” with everyone there. I remember trying to go to sleep, while down the hall, my Dad, his friends, and his brothers would begin to wail. The hours would be late, and they would have partaken of many Copas. Then their passion would come alive, and they would be lost in singing their old, standby Mexican standards. I would struggle to sleep, put my pillow over my head, and I would have those acapella renditions, seeping into my tired brain.
In later years, Michael Salgado’s North of the border accordion infused Tejano music was coming from the speakers. It helped me sway and swing my way around the dance floor with my favorite dance partner. My wife Lupe. We melt into each other when we entreat the edges of the dance floor. Again, what we were born into. I love music. It inhabits my daily life. Lou Reed said, “One Chord is fine. Two Chords are pushing it. Three Chords and you’re into Jazz.” As I write here… Miles Davis is wafting in the background. I guess I have it on 3 Chords right now…
I hope good music inhabits your life. Everyday… Steven