Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Songs of My Life - A Totally Self-Indulgent Blog

Blackfoot - Train Train                                                     Image result for images band blackfoot

Spirit - I Gotta' Line on You                                    Image result for images band spirit 

I'm generally not in favor of ignorance but sometimes, ignorance really is bliss. That's the way it is with me and music, about which I know absolutely nothing. Sometimes, I read my musician friends' comments about certain songs and most of them are over my head. They scorn the guitar part or hold the drummer in contempt but when they try to explain about the chording or the beat and why they are less than excellent, my eyes glaze over.

I only know what makes me happy. If a song makes me want to get up and dance, I like it regardless of the quality of the musicianship. For instance, Mony Mony  (Tommy James and the Shondells) which has been a staple "get people on their feet" song for as long as I can remember. This song is my own personal age test. The first time I hear it and don't start moving my hips or tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, I'll know I'm truly old. Yes, I know its simplistic and kind of silly but I don't care. It gets my juices flowing.

In my first years of becoming an aficionado of music, it was all about Elvis. (That's All Right, Mama.) He not only made feel-good music but it was all wrapped up in one beautiful man with a glorious smile. I wouldn't be surprised if he was also the first to get many of our pre-teen hormones stirring.

Many times, songs are associated with times and places and feelings and that's what makes them special. When I think of my first husband, I still smile at his penchant for wanting the latest high-tech toys. I believe we had the first eight-track tape player in our car of anyone in our crowd. He knew nothing about music so the two tapes he bought with it were Loretta Lynn -  You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man  and Aretha Frankin - R.E.S.P.E.C.T  We often laughed about the odd duo he chose but we listened to those tapes a million times.

He had two cousins, Jimmy and Vernon Staggs, who had a band. I went with them to practices and to gigs and loved every minute of it. Many songs make me think of those guys but their warm-up song was Honky Tonk by Bill Doggett and that is forever and indelibly "their" song.

My second husband and I fell in love to the strains of Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands because we were astonished to discover that we both loved Bob Dylan when most people in this area didn't know he existed.

Every place I ever worked or spent time in has one particular song that brings it to mind. The first song above, I Gotta' Line on You, by Spirit was popular when my parent's owned the Club Royal, THE place to go in Wabash on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights when we featured live bands.

I heard I Gotta' A Line on You the other day on the radio and I was instantly transported back to my early 20's, looking good in a min-skirt and go-go boots, reveling in the deafening music and the loud and lively sound of customers packed shoulder to shoulder, joyfully celebrating their weekend.

Oddly enough, on the same day, the radio played I Gotta' Line on You" they also played the Blackfoot song, "Train Train". Shortly after Mom and Dad sold the Club, it closed for good. I didn't hang out in the bars much then. Too busy being a worker and a Mom but then my friend, Linda, called needing a waitress. Linda managed The Warehouse. It had become the Club Royal of its era, the chosen place of music lovers and dancers and bikers and drinkers who just generally wanted to have fun. We'd made a tape of the best-loved songs of our customers and ourselves and played it while we were cleaning up. One of those songs was, "Train Train". 

I can hear the 3:00 a.m. sounds of it now blaring across a huge empty room except for us workers and a few regulars at the bar finishing up their last Jack and Coke, as well as the band roadies loading up equipment. I remember the tired sense of relief and satisfaction that another night of rowdy customers and screamed orders and caterwauling guitars and cracking pool balls was finally over. I can't even imagine how many tables I wiped down to the tune of  "Train Train" or how many glasses and bottles I carried back to the bar to its rhythms.

We associated all of our favorite bands with certain songs too. To me, Roadmaster was Stay With Me (Faces) and C.I.A. was Santana and Empire was Van Halen's, Jump and Slayer was Led Zeppelin - Rock and Roll.

The Warehouse closed and once again, I didn't go much to taverns until I got a job working second shift at a factory. Then my friend, Arlene, and I got in the habit of hitting the bars until closing time after our shift. We had a music age test then too. If we could still dance all the way through Ole Rocky Top without having a heart attack, we were still in our prime!

The staff at Market Street Grille always told us the Sheriff's Department had the jolliest Christmas parties of all. Those times are what I now consider the glory days of my working life when we all respected our Sheriff, loved our jobs and felt a feeling of kinship with our co-workers. This was the signature song Keith Walters played at those parties - Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train. If you don't remember those years the same way, don't tell me, because I like my memories as they are, thank you very much.

Of course, there are thousands of other recollections associated with songs. Some I remember from live music some from albums, some from 8-tracks, some from cassettes, some from cds. I have followed music through its various incarnations (though I have so far resisted getting an I-Pod). I haven't even mentioned the Beatles or Janis Joplin or Jefferson Airplane, Peter Frampton or the Stones or Bob Seger, or, or, or......

I admit I have fallen behind in keep up with modern music. Even songs I consider "new" like Drops of Jupiter are now "old".

If I were going to have a funeral when I die (which I'm not), this is the song I would choose to play - I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash) - is it a "good" song from a musician's professional judgement? I don't know. I don't care. It makes me happy. It captures my point of view. It brings back good memories. That's what makes it a great song...for me.

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