I am coming to you in the midst of a three-week home renovation that my wife and I are totally over. As repairs and changes are being made in our home, I have been banished with our two very nervous dogs to live in my music room that is crammed with crap from other rooms, so that is why I have not made a blog entry in a very long time. And, this entry could very well be the last in a couple of weeks as well.
Now, in preparation for this whole endeavor, I decided to “cut the fat” from my CD collection that had gotten completely out of hand lately. You know you have a problem when you remove over 400 CDs from your collection and still have twice that many left. The only thing that has come from this is that I am now only going to purchase vinyl just like in the old days.
Perhaps the biggest reason for this decision is that I simply feel more invested in the music when I listen to vinyl. First, the experience requires me to physically change sides more often than a CD. Next, the sound is warmer coming through my “Close-and-Play” speakers from vinyl than it is from the CD. And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, I can actually read the liner notes with my old eyes. It seems that I need a magnifying glass to read the lyrics on a CD. Hell, I’m even going to streaming instead of downloading (Yeah, I know! I am a holdout on that. I just prefer to hold control over my music since radio playlists and algorithms seem to totally ruin my listening experience these days. I long for the days of the DJ being a music expert AND entertainer. Am I old or what?).
So, what is about music that I love so much? I mean, I have a baseball and basketball card collection that is pretty cool but just takes up so much space that I really no longer appreciate it. Plus, all you can do is look at them, although when you are a kid you do figure out ways to play games with them. I actually had developed a basketball league in which I drafted players to teams, much like fantasy sports leagues these days, but use dice from board games and Dungeon and Dragons to determine points scored by players. I did that for my pre-music days, which meant I was doing this from ages 10 to 14. Now, I am holding onto those cards for my boys to show their kids. Of course, I have to store them here.
But, the boys and I all agree that collecting music is so much more interactional. You can listen to it in addition to treating the covers as you would a baseball card. Then, there’s the whole emotional response elicited by the music, depending on when that piece entered your life. And, the younger you were, the more intense the response is. For some reason that scientists are just beginning to understand music and your emotions become entwined in a dance that is life-long.
Over the years I have noticed how certain songs actually transport me back to a specific time in my past. How when I hear KC & the Sunshine Band’s “Please Don’t Go,” I remember slow dancing with a girl at a Christmas dance in high school. Or, hearing “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers, I remember my buddy Mike Bond and me doing a silly “radio” show in my bedroom on New Year’s Eve 1975. Or, the memory of watching my cheerleader neighbor Lori Dunwiddie doing a cheer routine to “Free Ride” by the Edgar Winter Group. Or how Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” reminds me of the dorm party that got so out of hand when 50 people were crammed in our dorm room and when that song came on my party tape, two Ball State football players spilled out into the hall doing Adam Ant video “dancing” down the hall that we all got busted. Or how I am reminded every time I hear “Pour Some Sugar on Me” that my older son would turn to me every time MTV would play that video and say, “Dad, they’re playing our song!” when he was just three years old.
And, I know this happens to all of us, because I am constantly reading social media posts from people from my past putting songs on along with their memories those songs invoked. But, it’s not simply the memories.
As a former athlete, I used music to get ready for a game or a meet. Now, the control freaks that I had as coaches never understood how our age group could possibly need that in a pre-game ritual. So, I had to be sneaky about it. Initially, I thought listening to hard rock was the best way to get ready for a basketball game or a track/cross country meet. But, as I found out, that was like caffeine, just a short-term jolt. For basketball, I found that funk and early rap music really fit the flow of the game, which was completely out of step when you’re from a farming community in the late-Seventies. Additionally, disco and later dance and new wave music was best for running, since those are rhythmic races. But, if I had to run in the four-by-four hundred meter relay, I needed punk rock or metal, something full of aggression.
I remember the night that I listened to “Rapper’s Delight” before a basketball game against a rival city school. All of a sudden I felt in sync with the game like never before. I seemed to be walking on air that night as I lit up a friend of mine from that school for 20 points. The best part of the night was he kept trying to get in my head by calling me “Caspar.” You see, he was an African-American and I am a translucent, blonde-haired white guy who was frustrating this guy so much that he turned to name-calling. After the game, we hugged and he asked me what got into me. I just told him “Rapper’s Delight.” And, he just cracked up and asked me what I was doing listening to HIS music. I told him I was tired of Willie Nelson. Every time I see him to this day, he asks me what rap music I listening to today, laughs and shakes his head. You see, I went to that city to play against his teammates more than I played with my own teammates because they were better players. The downside was I really didn’t build a good rapport with my teammates and coaches, which hurt me. I see that in retrospect.
Of course, I have millions of stories which are entwined with songs, as we all do. I just wish people would take their music-listening experiences back to a communal level. Hell, even dances are beginning to be a solo event instead of a shared one. I believe that is diminishing the whole emotional aspect to music. While the whole Walkman craze of the Eighties was exciting, I distinctly pining for the communal experience of blasting music out of your dorm window while playing football in the bowl outside. Now, you stream your music for yourself and it’s a solitary experience. Perhaps, I am a romantic, but I want my music to breathe in the air. Sure, my listening habits may bother my neighbors, but it could lead to a conversation.
And, those conversations could lead to a mutual understanding. And, conversations could drown out those echo chambers that we tend to exist in. I know, romantic.