Sunday, December 16, 2007

With a boom box and an air guitar...

I remember my dad singing along to radio songs like Jimmy Gilmer's "Sugar Shack," The Temptations "My Girl," and CCR's "Lookin Out My Back Door." He was usually off-key and only knew half the words. He'd seen Jimi Hendrix play live when he was in college, but the harder rock of the late 60's and the the 70s' was never his bag. He was an oldies man.

However, ours was not an oldies house. Mom controlled the stereo and all she played was country music. As a kid, it drove me crazy. It didn't seem like there was a moment's peace from George Strait, Dolly Parton, and Don Williams blaring all over the house. Her personal favorites were Hank Williams Jr. and Merle Haggard. I remember her stacking their records up. One side of each record would play. Then the arm would lift the needle and move back before another record dropped. Every twenty minutes or so, you'd hear the record player clack through the routine before the needle hit the groove again, popping through the opening of another chapter of classic country.

I couldn't stand it.

I remember saving up to buy a "boom box" when I was in high school. When I had finally earned enough from hauling hay over the summer, I went to Circuit City. I agonized over all the different stereos before buying a jet black model shaped like the head of Pauly's robot in "Rocky IV." It had a tape deck and a Compact Disc Player. I had accumulated a lot of tapes by then, but no CD's. I immediately made my way to the mall to pick up Robert Plant's "Manic Nirvana" and Led Zeppelin's "In Through The Outdoor." It wasn't long before I added Public Enemy and Black Sabbath to the growing collection.

My parents were pissed.

I'd bring the boom box into the kitchen and blare my music while washing dishes. They complained endlessly. I couldn't understand how these squares who could put up with overproduced cheese-balls like The Judds and Kenny Rogers couldn't handle something as amazing as Zeppelin wailing on songs like "When The Levee Breaks." I didn't try selling them on the confrontational lyrics of Chuck D or celebratory hedonism of rock's guitar gods. It was a generational divide too far to cross.

Since those days, I've come to appreciate my mother's country legends. I've fallen in love with a lot of other musical genres, as well. Though I've made a lot of wrong turns along the way, I've had the privilege of taking some pretty interesting musical journeys. I've traveled back to pioneers like Robert Johnson and stumbled across unique talents like Kraftwerk. I've learned extraordinary lessons about love from R Kelly and Queen. I've let Fine Young Cannibals drive me crazy and raised eyebrows over Sly Stone's assertion that he's just everyday people. I've been funked and punk'd. I've attended great live shows and fallen asleep to epic double albums.


With a boom box on my shoulder and an air guitar slung across my hip, I'm here to share some dusty favorites and exciting new discoveries. I hope to cover a lot of ground here, dropping in on different styles and categories of music. The purpose of these posts is not so much to unearth obscure sounds, but rather to illuminate some of the great songs and artists who have meant a lot to me. I'll be posting about both mainstream and lesser known artists, as well as studio recordings and live shows. There will be something here for every music lover. Thanks so much for checking things out. I hope you'll come again.

"Kick back, dig, while we do it to you in your eardrums." -Parliament