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The Music That Moves Me

February 12, 2012

Music VideoI don’t listen to ‘popular’ music on the radio much these days. I don’t particularly like most of the songs – there are too many whiney girl and soprano-voiced boy singers who can’t possibly have enough life experience to be singing about the things they’re singing about, there’s too much repetition in the melodies and not enough meaning to the lyrics, you can’t really sing along – or dance – to them, and there’s nothing particularly memorable in either the electronic harmonies or the words. Unfortunately (to me, anyway) most of it seems like just a lot of noise created as a background for ‘music videos’ of half naked guys gyrating around outrageously dressed women (or vice versa). I suppose I just don’t “get” it.

70s Songs CDI much prefer listening to ‘golden oldies’ stations, and I own an impressive collection of 60s, 70s and 80s compilation CDs that I rotate between the CD player in my living room, the one in my writing room, and my car (where I like to turn the volume WAY UP while listening to them – particularly in the summer, when I can roll down the windows and annoy the heck out of those young whippersnappers who drive around with ‘rap crap’ blaring out of their pimped-out Hondas).

Lawrence Welk ShowMy very earliest memories of music come from two sources: my eldest brother and sister (who are eleven and nine years older than me, respectively) who listened to early rock and rollers like Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and, of course, ‘the King’, Elvis Presley; and music-themed TV shows – featuring conductors like Mitch Miller, Lawrence Welk, and (particularly on New Year’s Eve) Guy Lombardo – that our whole family watched religiously every week.  I suppose you could say I had a rather eclectic early musical background.

Lofquist's Record Bar (Oakville)

Lofquist’s Record Bar, downtown Oakville

By the time I’d reached my teens, everyone was listening to ‘top 40 hits’ on AM radio.  I bought my first transistor radio in 1966, at Woolworth’s, for $9.99. It was about the size of a deck of cards, ran off a 9 volt battery, and came with a single white earphone (which I don’t think I ever used; unlike the ‘current generation’, no one in the sixties walked around with wires perpetually dangling from their ears). Everyone went to Lofquist’s Record Bar (on the main street in downtown Oakville) to review the weekly CHUM Chart (the top hits on CHUM AM, 1050) that was posted in the window, and then listen to them in the tiny soundproof booths in the basement before buying their own 45 rpm singles.

45 rpm InsertEveryone owned a record player – either a tiny one that that only played 45s, or a dual purpose one that played both 45s and 33 rpm LPs (if you had one of these, you also had dozens of the little plastic inserts that fit into the 45s so they would fit on the spindle).  The first records I bought were ‘Eve of Destruction’ (the lyrics of which are still eerily appropriate) by Barry McGuire (his only hit record), ‘Red Rubber Ball’ by The Cyrkle (another single-hit group), and ‘Snoopy and The Red Baron’ by The Royal Guardsmen (yup, another one-hit wonder).  For several years my sister and I amassed a fair collection of 45s (she probably still has some of them) by groups like The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Mamas and Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Animals, Buffalo Springfield, The Turtles, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Herman’s Hermits, Steppenwolf, and many more.

1969 Freak Out Festival PosterBy the late sixties FM radio had become the voice of the ever-growing ‘youth movement’ and artists and bands emerged who had something to say about what was happening in the world.  ‘Protest’ songs about ‘the establishment’ blended with ballads about life and death, war and peace, segregation, and the search for truth, justice, and freedom from tyranny (of all sorts).  Gatherings like the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock (or our local equivalent – the ‘Freak Out Festival’ held at Rockhill Park near Orangeville (Ontario) over the Labour Day weekend of 1969 and 1970) brought together tens (or hundreds) of thousands of ‘hippies’ for weekend-long parties fuelled famously by ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll’.  It was a time of change – both in culture as well as in music.  If you were a teenager in the late sixties and early seventies, you’ll remember the songs of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendix, The Doors, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Joe Cocker, and many, many more.  Their music still resonates with those of us who were part of the ‘counter culture’ of the time; it’s probably the music I still listen to most.

Emerson Lake and Palmer Album CoverThe music and the message shifted slightly as the seventies merged with the eighties and groups like Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind and Fire, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Boston, Foreigner, Journey, Jethro Tull, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Meatloaf came on the music scene with songs that were often operatic in scope.  You really had to listen to the lyrics to understand what they were singing about.  There wasn’t a lot of ‘fluff’ music during that decade (unless, of course, you count the unfortunate ‘disco’ era – i.e., The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, The Village People, multiple ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtracks – which brings back memories of big hair and polyester leisure suits that I think we’d all prefer to forget!)

Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal – I just never got it!

I missed most of the eighties (at least as far as popular music was concerned) – I was busy raising kids and listening mostly to Sharon, Lois and Bram, Fred Penner, Raffi, and Alvin and the Chipmunks (although we did have a nice selection of Disney-themed cassettes in the car, too).  A number of the artists and groups who’d been popular in the seventies continued into the eighties, but I’m sort of glad I was ‘out of the loop’ with respect to the ‘pop’ era (Michael Jackson, Madonna), and the whole ‘heavy metal’ and ‘new wave’ stuff.  I’d catch it occasionally on the radio, and simply tune out or change the channel (and I still can’t stand listening to most of it – I found it to be either too sappy or too ‘hippy-hoppy’ or just too LOUD for me to take seriously).

As I eased into my ‘middle years’, I began listening to more ‘mellow’ music (and musicians) – like Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, Celine Dion.  But I still go back – time and again – to those compilation CDs from the days when music spoke to the soul – when it wasn’t so much about the rhythm or the rhyme, but about the time and the place.  Here are some of my favourite musical memories – songs that, when I hear them, literally transport me back to another era.

  • Help! - the Album‘She Loves You’/’I Want to Hold Your Hand’ (The Beatles): I was the first one in my Grade 7 class to own the records; a dozen girls would gather to dance around the ‘rec room’ at my parents’ house while listening endlessly to these two songs.
  • ‘Help! – the Album’ (The Beatles):  I went on my first ‘real’ date with a boy (Brian F.) to see the movie, and immediately went out and bought the album (I now own the entire set of re-mastered Beatles CDs).
  • ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (The Animals): I thought it was an odd choice for the last dance at my Grade 8 graduation, but I danced to it with my very good friend Larry W. (who died unexpectedly in 1972).
  • See You In September’ (The Happenings): I clearly remember this playing over the school’s loudspeakers while everyone cleared out their lockers on the last day of school in Grade 11.
  • Record PlayerPretty much anything by The Doors, Cream, Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge: these songs bring back memories of my first ‘private’ bedroom (I’d shared with my sister until the summer I was 14).  I owned a blue and white ‘portable’ record player, maybe a dozen LPs, and I would dance around my room and sing (loudly, and off key) into a brass candlestick holder that I pretended was a microphone.
  • ‘Hush’ (Deep Purple):  this was a sort of signature song for the ‘gang’ I hung out with in 1968; someone was always putting it on the stereo in Carl L.’s basement.
  •  ‘Don’t Look Back’ (the song and the album by Boston): this got played dozens of times while a close-knit group of friends renovated Jim G.’s house on Deane Avenue.
  • ‘Hold the Line’ (Toto) and ‘More Than a Feeling’ (Foreigner): I loved to turn up the volume on these two in particular while I zipped along in my 1975 V8 Firebird (man, that car could FLY).
  • Surrealistic Pillow Album Cover‘White Rabbit’, ‘Somebody to Love’ (Jefferson Airplane): the ‘Surrealistic Pillow’ album (released in 1967) became my absolute favourite for a time in the mid-seventies.
  • ‘Holding Out for a Hero’ (Bonnie Tyler): as my first marriage fell apart, this became a sort of ‘theme song’ for me; I bought my first-ever CD just for this song (and then had to go out and buy a CD player so I could listen to it).
  • ‘Amazed’ (LoneStar): this song epitomized my feelings for the guy I would (eventually) marry; it seemed to be playing every single time we went out for lunch together (at Monaghan’s Bar and Grill) in the ‘early days’ of our relationship.
  • ‘I Got You Babe’ (Sonny and Cher):  this was the ‘first dance’ song at my (second) wedding (and, yes, I still get teary-eyed every time I hear it!)

Music is a very powerful emotional trigger, and there are dozens of other songs that immediately elicit memories of different people, distant places, long ago eras … and I’ll never stop reliving those experiences through them. The music is as much a part of my history as the photographs and other memorabilia I’ve collected over the years.

I do wonder if my kids (and all the others of the ‘new generation’) will feel those same kinds of connections to the music and the artists that they listen to.  I suspect not.  The groups seem to come and go fairly quickly (whereas artists from the sixties and seventies are STILL touring – filling casinos, concert halls, and stadiums regularly with ‘baby boomers’ who still can’t get enough of what they have to say), and while music ‘defines’ a generation, our children haven’t had the kinds of monumental, life-altering experiences we had.  In one way, I suppose that’s a good thing (less trauma, less drama), but in another way, it’s a shame, because they’ll be missing a key connection to their past when they reach … the other side of 55.

Music Doesn't Lie

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13 Comments
  1. Nancy permalink
    November 12, 2012 2:34 pm

    You mention our local “Freakout Concert” at Rock Hill Park in nearby Georgetown – when in fact it was just northeast of Shelburne, (Whitfield). Were you actually there, or any of your readers? I would love to hear about the Freakout in 1969, 70 or 71. (It was held three times until a Supreme Court rulling closed them down.

    • November 12, 2012 4:02 pm

      You’re right – I was likely thinking ‘near Orangeville’ (but for some reason typed ‘nearby Georgetown’ … my mistake). I attended in 1970 when The Guess Who headlined. It was a pretty awesome weekend (as I recall).

      Margo

      • September 2, 2013 11:54 am

        Do you have any photos of the park during those days. I was there a few weeks ago and it’s in very bad shape now.

      • September 2, 2013 11:57 am

        The only photos I have are of a few of us sleeping or sitting in/around our tents. I haven’t been back since the concert.

  2. February 17, 2012 2:14 am

    So true. I’ve been in the lowest, darkest spot and music has lifted me. I use it to calm, to inspire, and the dig deeper and finish what I started. Thanks for the good beats.

  3. Sharon permalink
    February 13, 2012 5:40 am

    This post is appropriate timing considering the Grammy Awards were televised tonight and there were some performances by artists from the ‘good old days’–Beach Boys, Glenn Campbell, Diana Ross and Paul McCartney. None of these performers are spring chickens but their music still brings the audience to its feet. Thanks Margo for reminding me of the enjoyment musicians gave us back then and the memories that their music still invokes.
    Sharon

    • February 13, 2012 8:20 am

      I caught the Beach Boys and Paul McCartney on the Grammys – WOW! Good to see some of the ‘old guys’ can still belt out a tune! I relive so many moments through their music.

      Margo

  4. February 13, 2012 1:05 am

    so true!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the soundtracks of our lives are deep, memory filled, evocative and rich. thanks for the wonderful post.

    • February 13, 2012 8:21 am

      Perhaps its because music speaks to one of our five key senses – sound! I can’t drive without something playing on the car stereo.

      Margo

  5. Cathy permalink
    February 13, 2012 12:13 am

    That was awesome Margo! I am in awe that you can remember so clearly the moments in your life that are so connected to certain songs. Perhaps I haven’t tried hard enough to bring my memories to light. I love your last quote from Jimi Hendrix. So appropriate.

    • February 13, 2012 8:23 am

      Just sit quietly and listen to the songs from your youth – it’ll come back to you!

      Margo

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  1. When I Was Your Age (Part 2) « The Other Side of 55

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