Part One : watching the sounds in my head

Not all of my records managed to make it into my audio life. Sometimes a cool album cover remained just a cool album cover. Still, between my father’s classical, my mother’s jazz, and a few other eclectic choices thrown in, I was enjoying a nice variety at an early age.

As much as I happily enjoyed wasting hours in front of the speakers listening to Chopin and Stan Getz, when I came across Rock ‘N’ Roll Over by Kiss things kind of changed. That record, I think, was one of the defining moments of my life. That and Radio Ethiopia by Patti Smith.

I am sure there is a strange line that leads from my discovery of those two albums when I was seven years old to most of the musical choices I have made in the last forty or so years. 

There was always something about classical music that I never quite got, although I did really enjoy listening to one of my father’s albums. It was one filled with Bach’s organ music, and it seemed to have, at least in my ears at the time, a little more depth, a little more power than other composers I had tried out. But it was records like Leon Redbone’s Off The Track or Santana’s Abraxas that I would gravitate towards more often. Although, admittedly, with the Santana I think it may have been more so I would have a good excuse to look at the album cover.

My black magic woman.

There are also some very mellow and relaxing memories I have of lying on the floor and listening to Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies, or Fort Yawuh by Keith Jarrett. It occurs to me, now, how I always loved the third track on that Jarrett album, “De Drums”. Perhaps a telling musical fortune cookie buried in my past. Drums actually came up a few times before they actually entered my life as a playable instrument in front of me. Oh how I loved listening to that “God Of Thunder” drum solo, and I know I annoyed anyone within listening distance many times while playing pick-the-needle-up-and-drop-it-back-down-at-the-start-of-the-song on Led Zeppelin, Coda, track seven; “Bonzo’s Montreaux”.

Another record that played a big role in my childhood was my father’s copy of Hollywood Be Thy Name by Dr. John. Another fortune cookie here perhaps, since I’m now pretty much living in Hollywood, a place I never thought I would be.

Dr. John’s 1975 release, discovered by me in 1978, provided me with comfort and solace and visions of better things to come. The good Doctor pretty much faded from my musical life by the next year but then returned in full force about ten years later. Not with his later albums, I pretty have no idea what the good doctor got up to after 1975, but with his earlier releases.

Seventeen years old and discovering the albums Gumbo, Remedies and Gris-Gris. Those albums definitely put a few spells on me.

But we’re not quite there yet.

We’re still lying on the circular 70’s carpet on the living room floor, headphones on, record spinning, hands holding the album cover; and wondering what the hell is going on with this Kansas album, Leftoverture. Wondering about Feets Don’t Fail Me Now, Herbie Hancock’s 1979 offering. Listening to Bob Dylan and wondering if I’d ever be “Tangled Up In Blue”. Listening to Cheap Trick and wondering where the hell is Budokan, anyway?

I don’t think I was influenced by anyone other than my family until I was twelve or so. One aunt had shown me Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, the other had given me Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, and the Beatles. And my grandmother? Well, with her it was pretty much Nana Mouskouri.

Then there was the Jazz.

There was a lot of it.

I mean, sure, there could have been a lot more, but there was definitely enough to explore. From the first time I encountered the style, I was finding things I loved, and things I didn’t. It’s not that I ever hated any, it’s what happens with all music. Some things don’t hit like other things do. I mean, I love listening to Pavement, but really can’t get my head around Guided by Voices. So I never got into the whole Miles Davis thing, for example. Well, mostly. I do love listening to L’Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud and Porgy and Bess and Kind Of Blue worked for me as well. As much as I have tried over the years, I never understood the song “Bitches Brew” until I heard Nomeansno do it on the One album in 2000. I have not given up, though. I still give Miles a spin on occasion, and perhaps one day I will be musically in the right space.

I was into Mose Allison; and now there’s another note connecting past and present as I listen to the songs spinning in memory. Lyrics moving around a big romance in the city, and a glittering town. I’m thinking the song had been singing to me like a fortune teller; about moving to the California glitter town of Los Angeles. Of course, it could be some random musical coincidence, but I like to think of it all tying in to a great sonic conspiracy.

Music is as circular as life. It goes around, it comes around, and even though hindsight hits like four on the floor sometimes, I still like to think that there’s a meaning in the madness.