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Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Obsession With Rock

When I attended grade school, we were bussed to the high school for performances of the junior and senior class plays. That was indeed a rare artistic treat for us, but, even more importantly for me, high school students would perform music between acts of the play. During my seventh grade year, a couple of students played Everly Brothers tunes, and, I'll never forget them doing "Carousel" by the Hollies. I was knocked out and knew immediately that I wanted more and more rock music in my life. Soon, I began spending all my allowance on rock records and guitar lessons. A musical addiction was born, fueled by popular bands like the Beatles, Stones, and Young Rascals. Excited, I just couldn't get enough of my favorite songs and musicians. When my class became sophomores, we started a band and played music for school dances, and, of course, between acts of the class plays. We had no idea if we were very good, but we thought we could play a reasonable rendition of any popular tune as did many others in my small Ohio town. Money from performance allowed the band to buy better equipment, and we soon started attending real, nationally touring rock concerts. The Dick Clark Caravan of Stars brought many of our heroes to our hometown- Jackie DeShannon, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, and Peter and Gordon to name a few. My first two big out-of-town rock road trips were to see Jimi Hendrix in Cincinnati and the Doors in Columbus. After that, music became my passion: yes performing a little, but record collecting and DJing much more. I had found a lifelong friend in my music, one that remains with me to this day. So what did this obsession do for me besides take my money? I believe I learned a lot about cultural identity, compassion, tolerance, diversity, and beauty through my musical indulgence. In the '60's and 70's songs were being written about every social and political situation. I took it all in and became a student of popular culture. Now, I realize many would say drugs and sex go hand in hand with popular music. And, I would have to agree; however, life is about choices and I believe the individual who dotes on negativity will find just that kind of ugliness in the music he consciously chooses. I like many songs about these subjects myself, as long as they do not encourage misbehavior or downright depravity. How can I like "Mother's Little Helper" by the Rolling Stones or "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye? A drug song and a sex song? I think no subject should be taboo for the artist, and I depend on the consumer to consider the lyrical and musical quality of his purchase. The owner of the song is free to use the music as he/she pleases within certain governmental restraints, but I don't believe minors should be left alone to open a modern "Pandora's Box" of modern music without proper warning and without competent adult supervision. In the same respect, I, personally detest music which glamorizes suicide, death, and hatred. Quality is not that hard to judge, and, yes, Mom and Dad, you can find obscene lyrics and objectionable content information before you buy. Look for it- books, internet, record stores. For me music is beautiful and alluring. All kinds- Big Band, Vocal Standards, Rhythm and Blues, Blues, Classic Rock, Jazz, Country, Popular, Alternative, Folk, World, Spoken Word, Comedy. I can spend hours scanning all the racks in a single record (cd) store. I have learned the necessity of tracing favorite songs to artists, writers, labels, and producers. Music provides invaluable history lessons, expecially lessons in American identity: Cincinnati King Records, Detroit Motown Records, Memphis Stax and Sun Records, Chicago Chess Records, Muscle Shoals and New York Atlantic Records, New Orleans Specialty Records to name a few. Vibrant, seminal songs can put you knee deep in a Southern Swamp or walking through a big city ghetto. I beg youth to journey musical trails and find original renditions of everything. How enriching! Music is very functional for the body and soul. When applied as needed, it lubricates the human form and emotions. Therefore, I need to hear many different types, styles, and rhythms in my song collection. Is this a Blues day or a Rock day? Trial and error with practice makes perfect when dealing with selection matters. Soon, I usually find a groove that fits and I let the music take me. Yes, I believe I do surrender when conditions are right. My goal is to get in the middle of the rhythm and stay there until healed. Sam Cooke wrote, "I'm gonna stay here until it heals my soul, and it might take all night long." Inuendo maybe, but much more.... My biggest concern is hearing my music collection as close to recorded perfect as possible, no extra gimmicks, equalization, or add-ons. I want the studio's product to sound exactly as the engineers, producers, and artists intended. Since I don't have thousands of dollars to spend on my system, I rely on the best quality equipment and recordings I can afford. I know when the sounds of an album are special, and few ever experience true audiophile heaven. These days many recordings are produced very loud with a lot of compression. I like to hear something new in my recordings each time I play them- depth, presence, vocal and instrumental delivery. I've spent lots of money on music since my grade school days, and I still love to find treasures that put magic back into my ears. Maybe I am a dinosaur musically speaking, but I hope to listen until the end. Maybe you could share some recordings I must hear before then. I would be glad to let you know some of my favorites in a future entry. Until then, let the muse take you where you want to go.
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