Thursday, March 01, 2012

Road Markers

I am often amazed at how my life has evolved with regards to music. I was raised in a musically "challenged" household during my childhood. Dad was never into music that I remember. Even into my adulthood, I don't recall that he ever just listened. He did enjoy dancing with Mom though, and if there was a dance floor available at any function they attended, that's where you'd find them. As for Mom--she had kept some of her Glenn Miller records from her youth. I have a feeling that they were actually my grandmother's, as she wasn't even a teenager when he disappeared. These were records that she'd pull out when she decided she needed to teach me how to dance (and started my love for big bands and jazz). But overall, neither of my parents had any sort of musical influence on me. Not because they were purposely depriving me, but because they themselves were not raised in musical families. But some musical moments stick out.

I've written here (years ago) about laying in my bed when I was about 6 or 7 and listening to my brand new transistor radio before going to sleep. The radio was sort of a copper/brown color. The station was KBLL. And on Sunday nights from 7-9, I think, I would listen to trucker songs. Red Sovine. Dave Dudley. Phantom 309. Teddy Bear. Six Days on the Road. You get the idea. Then immediately following was "Classics in the Night". Sunday night classical music on AM radio! The theme song was the first line or two of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (a little nightmusic). I could rarely stay up long enough to listen to much, but that theme has forever stuck in my memory. An odd mix...twangy country and classical.

The mid-60s are sort of a memory blur. We had, by this time, moved up to South Benton, and I had a whole neighborhood of kids to play with. We were devoted fans of "Dark Shadows", and would take a time-out from playing Kick the Can to run inside to watch it (either at our house, or the next door neighbor's). And we would watch "The Monkees" religiously!

Try as I might, I can't really recall what I would have listened to my Monkees albums on. I remember when my parents bought a stereo system, but I can't imagine that I could have played them as often as I think I did. I don't recall if I had my own record player or not, but I must have had something. In any case, I played my albums, I perused every issue of Tiger Beat, and basically learned all I could about the Monkees. My mom must have liked them a little too, because they were much more clean cut and wholesome than the Beatles. I started learning the trumpet at this time as well, and I recall Mom buying me the sheet music for Pleasant Valley Sunday (she also bought me the sheet music to "If I Were A Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof, but that's another story...). I learned how to play it on my own and surprised my band teacher (Sister Eucharista) with it. She, in turn, gave me a lesson about transposing music--something that stuck with me ever since.

The Monkees were as close to rock as anything else that I heard during that time, even though it would be more correctly termed as "pop". With the aforementioned stereo, Mom started buying albums. The Lettermen. The Vogues. Stuff that would be best categorized as "easy listening". The Monkees were off to the edge of that category. The Beatles were definitely not something she'd listen to (at the time), though I seem to remember an album of Beatles' music performed by 101 Strings. This is the music that I was raised on. This explains my love of The Carpenters, and how Close To You was the greatest song ever recorded.

By the time I got to high school, music was an important part of my life, though I still didn't think of it as something I'd do forever. In fact, I was not in band during my freshman or sophomore years, and was much more into choir (4 years--All State Choir/1 year--All Northwest Choir, thankyouverymuch). I also played bass in my first rock band, which is where I first learned of groups like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Far different from the pop groups that I dared play at home before then.

College is where my eyes were really opened to real jazz music, as well as funk and soul. And where my decision to become a music teacher were formed. And where I realized that I'd never know all there was to know about music--it's a life-long learning process. And where I re-played my Monkees and Carpenters and other albums that I'd taken from home and listened to them from a musician's standpoint, and finding out that there's some damned good musicianship going on!

The death yesterday of Davy Jones actually hit me harder than I would have imagined, and probably more than I'd like to admit. I'm to the point in my life where celebrity's deaths start acting like road markers on life's highway. When Michael Jackson died, it marked my grad school days, watching in awe the first time I saw Thriller. And how the bar I was in went absolutely silent when it came on. When Whitney Houston died, it marked my last teaching days, and how her music was so easily accessible to high school choirs for a spring concert. But now, with Davy Jones' passing, something's different. A man who didn't fall into the dark pits that so many of his comtemporaries did. A man who, individually didn't change the world, but as part of a group, did his part to change music in the US. And despite the critical backlash of being a "fake" musical group, there's no question that their records were legit, and their appeal was great.

I listened to all my Monkees albums last night. Yeah, I dragged out the LPs--not the CDs. I remembered the good times with the rest of the neighbor kids. I remembered all the words--even to the songs that weren't big hits. It's sad that a member of one of my biggest childhood influences has passed on. I fear that this is just the beginning...


No one Special said...

I was a huge Monkeys fan. Never ever missing their Saturday morning show. There is a lot of childhood memories wrapped around them. He seemed to be a very well grounded nice person. It was definitely sad news.

Cheeky Minx said...

I know exactly what you mean about those deaths being markers. For me, even if I'm out of step temporally in terms of their artistic peak, their deaths still trigger those segments of my life as well as the girl, the young lady, the woman I was in the processing of becoming.

Sad times...

Amber said...

Hmm, thinkin I may ask for a serenade sometime ;)
I've never thought of those musicians like that, but I'm sure eventually I will.
And, there's nothing better than LPs

The Smoking Redhead said...

I can remember as a kid falling asleep to "Classics in the Night" while my parents listened.

Ahh...good memories.

viemoira said...

I miss listening to my mother's record player.