The Soundtrack of TB’s Life (The Early Years)

Quote of the Day:

“At Haggerty’s and Swami’s
Pacific Palisades
San Onofre and Sunset
Redondo Beach, L.A.
All over La Jolla
At Waiamea Bay,

Everybody’s gone surfin’, Surfin’ USA….” –the Beach Boys

In TB’s recent plea for help in the shaping of the Little Scamp’s musical future, I was surprised and touched by the response from the various realms where these ramblin’s are read. It seems I am not the first parent to take a moment away from worrying about a child’s runny nose, disdain for veggies or the boys she’ll meet in ten years or college funding, or her family history of heart disease….etc….to focus a bit of the neurosis on her development in the field of good tunage.

I was replying to an email sent by a friend of the blog just this morning on the subject as a matter of fact. Prone to digression in the outside universe the same as in the TBU, I found myself suddenly recounting the earliest influences of my own musical life. My brother is ten years older than I, and a lifelong music aficionado. We haven’t seen each other in many years, so long in fact that in my mind’s eye he is yet sixteen years old while to him, no doubt, I am but six. It was my teenage brother in the mid to late 1970’s who provided the early influences on my own musical tastes.

We would sit in his room with the black light of his closet reflecting strangely against a newly acquired STOP sign, when he would let me, and listen to his tunes. I had to stay quiet even though the music was loud. It didn’t make sense and it was hard to do, but rules was rules. By the shadowy light of shrouded lamp, Bill would hold his album covers gently by the edges absorbing all the details in the liner notes and credits. Memory fails me on whether I was ever allowed, with his knowledge, to put my own grubby little digits on them. I do know he taught me how to handle the records themselves and somehow impressed upon me the urgency of proper handling and scratch-free sound. Knowledge I was proud to have, but in the long run was of little practical use.

I remember Abby Road and Sergeant Pepper, preferring then, as now, the artwork of Pepper and the title track–always have loved a story song. Though I’m told by a friend of his that Bill was near-obsessed with the Stones’ Wild Horses, I remember more vividly listening often to Ruby Tuesday, and I still love that almost-upbeat melancholy sound. We listened to a lot of Bob Dylan and I guess Like a Rolling Stone is the tune I recall most–I definitely remember being confused by the fact there was a song and a group, but the group didn’t sing the song. Mostly about Dylan I recall that I dug the harmonica and like any sensible six-year-old,  I felt sure I was born harpist. We’d listen sometimes to Pet Sounds and The Best of the Beach Boys.  Surfin’ USA was the first non-kid/non-National Anthem song I knew all the words to–well, most of the words to. I still sing that one now like I did then, and there are a lot of parts where I go to a lower volume and unintelligible mode or switch over to the “inside-outside” part before bustin’ back out loud with “Surfin’ USA.” And more than all the rest, there was Don McLean’s American Pie–the second song I learned all the words to, all of ’em, and I still know ’em. Though I can’t say I really know what the hell he’s talkin’ about still or whether he meant the song or the group when he mentioned something about moss and a rollin’ stone. As much as the song I loved that album cover–the thumb painted in American flag.

I’d be curious, as a follow-up to the great discussion generated on the Scamp’s playlist, to see some of the soundtrack of y’all’s own early youth.

American Pie

About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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15 Responses to The Soundtrack of TB’s Life (The Early Years)

  1. Harmony says:

    Here are a couple of songs from my childhood (that are currently standing out in my mind):

    CSN ~ <a href= Blue Eyes
    CSNY ~ Teach your children
    ABWH ~ The Meeting
    Yes ~ Our Song
    Moody Blues ~ Blue World
    Kansas ~ Point of know return
    The Who ~ Love Ain’t for Keeping

    We were not allowed to touch my dad’s records, ever! I used to love the way he would flip the record between his two middle fingers and check for dust, and how he would effortlessly land the needle, with perfection, in the groove at the beginning of the album.

  2. tina says:

    i couldn’t help but smile reading your article. i’m always trying to get my 11 yo daughter into the 70s stuff. my husband has been more successful getting her into the 80s. i remember listening to a lot of fats domino, especially “blueberry hill” and “walkin’ to new orleans” when dina and i were really young, like maybe 3. he is still one of my favorite artists. i remember kris kristofferson’s “why me lord?” and bill withers’ “ain’t no sunshine”. i listened to and loved all of elvis’ stuff, and still do. i was and still am a big fan of pretty much all of ccr’s stuff and remember “have you ever seen the rain?”

    thanks for taking me down memory lane! my daughter is not quite as fond of johnny cash, willie nelson, otis redding, ray charles, ccr, elvis, fats domino, bill withers, chuck berry, louis armstrong, and many of my other favorites as i am, and i’m okay with that. she has warmed up to chicago, because her dad plays it all the time in the explorer (i think to indoctrinate her). lol! he was surprised one day to find her listening to earth, wind, and fire’s “september” on youtube. so maybe, just maybe, there is hope after all…

  3. larry says:

    I guess Becky had big influence on my childhood play list. She had an 8-track in her emerald green Grand Prix and our home stero was another piece of big furniture in the living room. Becky turned me on to Waylon Jennings, Eddie Rabbit, Alabama, Willie Nelson, Elvis ( We where in the car on Mantou St coming back from Jerry Lee’s when it was announced that he died and Becky started crying) My dad liked Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Tom T. Hall, George Jones, Merle Haggard. My personal collection contained Jan & Dean, Disco Duck, Billy Joel (Its Just A Fantasy and It’s Still RocknRoll To Me), Staurday Night Fever, Grease, Urban Cowboy (I must have loved John Travolta). The last album I bought was Def Leppard Pyromania and the first CD I bought was The Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker. Listening to some Decemberist right now thanks to some tunes listed by RSR.

  4. Jessie Lou says:

    Larry – I love that you know where you were when they announced Elvis was dead. I was with my mom on Jackson Avenue between Market and 14th Street at what I think was the Salvation Army.

    My big influence was my sister’s and their music – Smoke on the Water, BTO – Takin Care of Business; Blood, Sweat and Tears, Bread, The Beatles, The Guess Who, Seals & Crofts. The only radio station we had back then was WTIX out of New Orleans until I was in Jr. High. I also loved the Jackson 5. I had all of my lp records up until Katrina which included: Boz Skaggs, Rolling Stones, Eagles, James Taylor and Fleetwood Mac. I have good memories to alot of that music.

  5. tiny d says:

    Music is the scaffold that holds my memories together. A song/sound can take me to a place so real in time that it gives me chills. Case in point, the hum of a boat motor as the bow begins to plane and hunker into its course goes hand in hand with the smell of my dad’s high-life ponies, fried chicken, and suntan oil. Even with all of that, the memory still puts an instant smile on my face. Proving that music is in the ear of the beholder. Every time, yes every time I hear Margaritaville, I am back in the front seat of my grandmother’s car hearing her sing “that song about the salt shaker.”
    Which looking back, that must have been when the song first started getting air time.

    My dad ALWAYS had music playing in our house, which I know made my mother crazy. And I think made me the way I am today (it’s always their faults right?) He even let me play my favorite music on his big stereo in the den when he was going outside. (Wait – maybe he wasn’t the one that drove her crazy. Could it have been the two or three straight years of Grease and Annie soundtrack playing? Certainly not.) The early years were influenced of course by older siblings as well as Dad, and all that time in the car with my mom and her friends – Barbara Mandrell, Charlie Pride, etc. And since I was/am such a nerd, when I was little I would use my brother or sister’s turn table (they were never home) + all their 45s and play DJ in my living room. (My dad taught me to be meticulous with the needle as to not scratch the vinyl.) The grandmother that lived with us got a huge kick out of this I’m sure. I caught her peeking and laughing at me often, of course I didn’t understand why she did that until I had my own kids to peek and laugh at.

    Some of the tunes I was spinning all before the age of 10:

    Stormy Monday – many variations, originally by T-Bone Walker (my favorite was the recording of my dad singing with his band)

    Afternoon Delight – (embarrassing but true) Starland Vocal Band
    Jamie’s Cryin – Van Halen
    The Rose – Bette Midler (my grandmother loved that one – she often called the request line)
    Anything from the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack (not Grease and Annie – those were reserved for dancing in the den, not DJing in the living room)
    Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino
    Elvis – of course! (I remember watching the news coverage in my parents’ room on their tiny TV)
    There were so many more –

    JL – one of the hardest parts about Katrina was watching my dad go through his records. Looking at each one carefully before putting them in the trash. Heartbreaking.

    TB – I love this post!

    • Jessie Lou says:

      Nothing can take your dad’s memories though and I bet he has plenty. Good post – everyone’s memories are interesting.

  6. larry says:

    A few other memories of early play list are:

    br thinking the Bee Gees song More Than a Woman was Bald-headed Woman.
    Had my 8th or 9th birthday at Hollis Skating Rink and sweet gave me a 45 of Peg by Steely Dan. It must have been a fav of Gretchen’s.
    My dad singing You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille at baseball practice and all the kids hating it, so he would do it more.
    Staying up late on Saturday night to watch The Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack and later Solid Gold

    Tina, Nice tunes.

    • tinyd says:

      I had to go find this and sing bald headed woman with the chorus. thanks – i needed that laugh!

  7. RockStarRambler says:

    Before he became Disco Duck, got fired for playing it on the radio and went on to bigger and better things, Rick Dees was the musical director of my mornings. He was the #1 DJ on WHBQ in Memphis and our car radio stayed tuned to AM 56. On the way to school, my mom, sister and I grooved to local favorite Rufus Thomas with Chaka Kahn on “Tell Me Something Good,” belted out hits like the cover of “Fire” by The Pointer Sisters and jammed out to “Rubberband Man” by The Spinners. Rick Dees played the songs we needed to hear to start our days off right.

    At night, we listened to albums – everything from Neil Diamond to Al Green, The Beatles to The Eagles, Barry White to The Doobie Brothers. We danced in the kitchen, just like the LS and I do now. (For a while, I would ask the LS “are you ready for dinner?” She would think very seriously for minute, then respond “first we dance!” And we did. Still do.)

    Weekends were reserved for playing the stacks of my mom’s old 45s on our little red record player that looked like a mini-suitcase – did y’all have those? We played songs like “Lollipop” by The Chordettes, “The Twist” by Chubby Checker and “Mr. Lee” by The Bobbettes until we wore the grooves out.

    I love everyone’s stories and songs.

    Random Elvis story – my grandparents lived less than a mile from Graceland. My mom met Elvis in Lowenstein’s, the local department store, right after “Love Me Tender” hit. He was nice and gave her an autograph. He was in the shoe department. So, of course, the question is…

  8. Jessie Lou says:

    Did the shoe fit?

    The aunt of one of the attorneys that used to work in our office dated Elvis – her last name was Juanico and I’ve seen a story or two in old newspapers about it. That is the closest I will get to Elvis I am sure.

    That song “Fire” by the Pointer Sisters was a favorite of ours back in 10th grade when we were learning to drive. They worked the radio station letters into part of the song and we would scream out W-T-I-X when then got to that part! Or any song from Grease which we stood in line for 2 hours to see back then at the Twin Cinema which now has a gas station in its spot. Me and my best bud Joyce would put on my dad’s dark sunglasses and sing with hair brushes as we drove down Beach Blvd. Another favorite was “Magnet and Steel” – good song for best friends! Or when we were mad at each other someone played “Your a Bitch Girl” by Hall and Oates as loud as it would go while the other 3 of us laughed – the 4th was not so pleased!

  9. sweet says:

    I remember watching an Elvis concert on tv. I looked it up and it was a day after my birthday 1977. Broadcast after he had died. Apparently it wasn’t his finest performance but still was enough for me to ask for my first album. I was also born in the same hospital where he was pronounced dead – Baptist Memorial in Memphis…..thats how I introduce myself nowadays

  10. Jessie Lou says:

    Just looking back over this blog entry and realize the reason I have been singing “Bye Bye Miss American Pie” for the last week is your fault!

  11. I really enjoyed all these comments. Tina, welcome to the TBU–hope you stick around and contribute!

    BTW, I was watching Spectraman or some similar early-TBS after school show when they broke in to tell about Elvis’ death. I may need to do a “where were you when….” post. These comments got me thinking about those moments.

  12. larry says:

    Where were you when you realized every town has a Fron Tage Road?

    • well, to be precise, it’s “near ’bout ever’ town” that has one. I believe I was around Franklin Creek Road when that knowledge got imparted to me.

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