Shake It Up

My first non-Star Wars LP purchases, if memory serves, were both Gibb-related. One was Andy Gibb’s Shadow Dancing, which I got only for the title track; I couldn’t name another song from it without consulting The Google, which I don’t care to do at the moment. The other was the two-LP soundtrack from the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which starred the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton.

It is a painful but true fact that the latter served as my introduction to quite a few Beatles songs. I never listened to it much, though; I like to think that at some level, even at that tender young age, I recognized that it was an abomination. The Aerosmith version of “Come Together” was pretty good, I think, and the fact that “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” was covered by Steve Martin is an interesting little quirk of history; but on the whole the existence of that movie and the music from it is something that everyone, including those directly involved, has long tried to forget.

Somewhere in here the 70s finally petered out and 1980 rolled around. I was 12. When Scary Monsters came out, it got a lot of play on my local rock radio station, which also prominently featured the Cars. At that point I knew who David Bowie was, but I didn’t know who he was; I had not yet learned to distinguish his voice (the original) from that of Cars vocalist Ric Ocasek (the acolyte). I may actually have thought that “Ashes to Ashes” was a Cars song, may David forgive me.

Star Wars (and Other Galactic Funk)

In May of 1977 I was about nine and a half years old – dead center in the middle of the perfect demographic for Star Wars, which premiered on the 25th.

I wish I could say I vividly remember the first time I saw it. In fact, all of the viewings – and there were many – blur together in my mind. For awhile there my highest priority in life was watching Star Wars over and over again. I had no interest in seeing any other movie, at least until Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out six months later.

No obsession that I’ve had as an adult rivals my complete fixation on Star Wars over the last years of the 1970s. And though at this remove it seems a little over the top, I don’t guess I can really blame myself. Star Wars had everything a boy that age could want: sci-fi whiz-bang, the hero’s journey, an overlay of mysticism to give things a certain flavor, and a cute brown-haired princess.

The Album Project: Prologue

So in the interest of putting my money where my mouth is, I am reviving a long-dormant project: writing about my favorite albums by way of saying a few things about, you know, life, the universe, and everything. But first, a bit of (pre)history.

Having been born in 1967, I have no real memories of the 1960s. My earliest musical memory is of CCR’s “Looking Out My Back Door,” recorded in 1970, heard by me somewhere in the next few years. Coincidentally, this song would turn up much later in one of my favorite movies:

I also remember B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” which apparently I used to sing in a manner that some considered cute. I did not know at the time that this song came from the soundtrack of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it still strikes me as odd. But facts are facts:

On the whole, I was not in any way in control of my musical environment for the first half of the decade. My exposure to music came through my parents or the radio. My mom favored pretty things like John Denver and Simon and Garfunkel; my dad liked gospel and a bit of soul, and had a pretty decent collection of rock records spanning 50s 45s (Little Richard, Bill Haley) and 60s LPs (Dylan, The Beatles).