Wednesday, July 7, 2004

PART 1 - Magic Carpet Ride (or I've Got The Music In Me)

In an effort to breathe new and everlasting life into the music that I have loved since I was a child, I am starting a new little tradition here at Diary-A. Each post will be "hosted" by a classic song that you are very unlikely to hear on your average station in 2004.

For readers my age and older, the songs are likely to spark flashes of recognition like Fourth of July fireworks. For younger readers, looks of confusion will probably be the overriding reaction. Anyhoo . . .

Today's post is brought to you by Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride.

Well, you don't know what we could find
Why don't you come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride?
Well you don't know what we could see
Why don't you tell your dreams to me? Fantasy will set you free.

Close your eyes girl, look inside girl, let the Sound take you away.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Music is a huge part of my life. One thing that was plentiful in my childhood home was music. All kinds. I was the last kid in our family, born 6 years after my nearest brother, and there was nearly a generation between me and my oldest sister and brother. I'm not sure where it came from, but musical talent runs deep in my immediate family. I don't see evidence of it anywhere else (cousins, etc.) but it hit our family in spades.

My mother loved music. She and my father bought a tv/stereo console in the early 60s that I would give my right arm to have now. The album collection they had was vast, and we would reverently watch her place the black discs on the turntable and marvel at the music that swirled from the speakers.

The story goes that, on a whim, my mother began piano lessons when my oldest brother was barely 3. She didn't take much interest in it, but he did. He began to sit at the piano for hours back then, picking out the notes and reading music. He began classical training at that tender age; this began a lifelong career for him as a musician.

By the time I was born, the older brother had 5 years of classical training under his belt and was becoming quite the little prodigy (LP). To say that he was catered to would be an understatement. Just like dear ol' dad, he was brilliant, but prone to fits of violent rage and anger. He was also a shining source of pride and joy for my parents. EVERY person that entered our home was treated to a "performance". All of us kids resented the time and attention he received then, but from my vantage point now, I think it must have been a pretty miserable position to be in.

Our dining room turned into the "piano room". My parents, who were struggling mightily with finances back then, purchased a baby grand piano that overtook that space completely. In my parent's home, the dining room was open to the living room, which was open to the foyer, which was open to the den, where the TV was. I distinctly remember being sequestered into small areas of the house during early morning and afternoon "practice" (which was hours and hours). Noise from TV, radio, or conversation was met with screams of rage from LP, so I spent ALOT of time in my room. He was a force to be reckoned with, and he had carte blanche with no repercussions. I feared him, with good reason.

My other brother, who I lovingly call the Good Brother (GB) had a later start. He picked up a guitar at 10 or 11, and quickly mastered the basics. He, too, is a professional musician. He is more of a purist, strictly a classical guitarist. When I wanted to escape from the world of LP, I could always go to GB. GB spent the majority of his time in his bedroom, alone, playing guitar and reading Tolkein. He was (and is) a dreamer and an artist, and he was the one pure, good thing that I had in my little life. Life outside of GB's room was LP's territory, and he ran it with a fierce hand. When parents are gone, leaving a tirant running free, all manner of bullshit happens.

Being a "lemons to lemonade" person, I will be the first to admit that one positive thing was that I was exposed to beautiful, beautiful music during my early childhood. I was well-versed in the works of Bach, Chopin, Schubert, and Mozart and could recognize the pieces with just three or four notes of the opening stanzas. I have since read that classical music helps young brains make physical connections that aid in mathematical and logical problemsolving, so I have that going for me.

As both brothers got a little older, the classical music began to become tempered, somewhat. LP grew disillusioned with the training and discipline required of him and began to dabble in other musical genres . . . and drugs. Mozart and Bach gave way to Yes, King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull. Fits of anger gave way to smoke clouds of calm and puddles of flammable courage in the basement with a circle of friends that became permanent fixtures at our house.

My parents were confused, but still steadfast in their adoration of LP. They overlooked the obvious drug use and assured themselves that it was a "stage" that he would pass through on his way to greatness. Heavy-lidded, herb-pungent "musicians" came and went from our house at all hours; I can't tell you how many times I covered my 7 year old ears to get some sleep while InnaGoddaDaVida was being rehearsed endlessly, rattling the pictures on the wall. After awhile, I became a very sound sleeper.

All things being cyclical, it wasn't long before LP's rage was unleashed on his own followers. Even with a shelf full of first place trophies from Battle of the Bands competitions, he screamed that no one had his musical "vision" or his discipline. Even high, he still played for hours a day, and none of his friends were really up for that. They wanted to smoke weed, wear platforms and shiny shirts from ChessKing, pretend to have a band and fuck teenage girls that thought band guys were cool.

So LP graduated to a higher level of performing and using. At 16, he joined up with a group of college players and began to perform around town. No one questioned it . . .he looked of age, and his playing belied his age. I was the only kid at my school that regularly went to nightclubs and watched his performances. The playing was smoother, jazzy. The pay was good, the women that surrounded him were more sophisticated, and the drugs became powdered. I assimilated the new music and learned to appreciate the jazzy riffs and scat singing and I pretended not to really notice the dark smoky rooms full of drunks - my parents were staunch tee-totalers, but even those surroundings didn't diminish the eternal glow that they saw around their dear LP.

When I wasn't tagging along with my parents, I hung out with my sister. She lived in a mystical, magical world of retail and nightclubs. In her beautiful wrap dresses and impossibly high heels, she frequented the Limelight in its heydey here in Atlanta, and she had a deep appreciation for funk and disco. She also loved folk, and it was at her feet that I began to love Dan Fogelberg, Kenny Loggins, Gino Vannelli, America, Pure Prarie League, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young. We would cruise the drive in her Plymouth Duster, eating takeout from the Taco Tico and listening to 8 tracks of the Eagles. She snuck me into Saturday Night Fever, and I fell in love with the Bee Gees. It was some of the happiest times in my life.

All of this gave me a deep, abiding love for music of all kinds. I have tweaked my playlists over the years, but I always have a warm spot for the oldies, not only for their quality, but also for their ability to link me to the past and blur the edges. That is the only thing that makes it bearable.

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