Anyone who uses Facebook has probably noticed and if you’re like me, been annoyed by the rash of lists that keep cropping up. They have titles like “20 random things about me” or “20 Albums”. To further irritate my inner curmudgeon the trend has recently been exacerbated by livingsocial’s “Pick Your 5” which clogs the newsfeed with list after relentless list documenting every category imaginable from “My top five albums from my college days” to “Five worst movies ever”.
In fact, the number of “Pick Your 5” entries, coupled with the overwhelming popularity of inane quizzes, that clutter the facebook newsfeed has me contemplating leaving facebook forever. But then I’d have to face the social isolation inherent in working from home and being the parent of a young child (but I suppose that’s content for an entirely different entry).
I avoided jumping onto the list bandwagon thinking that it was too self-promotional and oozed with, as my wife put it, “Oh, look at me! I have such interesting and eclectic tastes!” Until a friend from my OCA days tagged me on her 15 Albums list and I found I agreed with an astonishing number of her choices. Despite my misgivings, I started to ruminate on albums that somehow made a difference in my life. As luck would have it, this blog has been sitting here begging me for content for some time now so I’ve decided to just start writing about music in my life and see where it goes. I should be able to avoid appearing “interesting and eclectic” as there are some records that had profound effects on me but which I would hardly classify as artistic masterpieces or even listen to today. Having said that, these albums were once important to me and shaped my growth as a wannabe rock star.
One example of this is Supertramp’s 1979 album Breakfast In America
This is the first full length album that I remember buying with my own money. Up until this point I’d been a regular purchaser of 45’s and I already owned two singles from Breakfast in America: Goodbye Stranger and The Logical Song. By purchasing the album I was securing Take the Long Way Home the only single left on the album at that time (they would later release the song Breakfast in America as a single).
I was eleven years old and my family and I were in Bracebridge, Ontario visiting my brother’s godparents when I spotted the record in a store window. It was $5.99 and I decided then and there that I wanted more than just singles in my life! I wanted the whole kit and caboodle! I forked out the cash and hastily removed the shrink wrap. I was immediately fascinated by how the outer and inner sleeves were cleverly designed to look like a menu from a traditional 1950’s diner. I listened to the album often and having pulled it out recently I’d say it still sounds like well crafted pop, although to my modern ears, it edges a little too close to “easy listening”. It’s definitely the kind of music you might hear at the dentist’s office.
The Monkees Collection Incident
One particular album from my childhood was important to me but for reasons other than musical. The K-Tel double LP The Monkees Collection taught me a lesson about responsibility and was the beginning of my uncanny ability, perfected some years later, to hide unpleasant thoughts and feelings deep in the pit of my stomach.
When I was seven years old, for days I begged my parents to order The Monkees’ Collection. They were reluctant at first, citing the unreliability of the post office and the uncertain trustworthiness of K-Tel. But I would not be dissuaded. I explained that this was the ultimate Monkees collection! It contained two records! Two records! K-Tel was a major player! They could trust K-Tel!
After many days of discussion or to put it another way, many days of badgering, my parents eventually relented. The record arrived six to eight weeks later (which for some reason was the standard for delivery in those days).
The cover of the album was predominantly white with the classic Monkees guitar logo in red and life drawing style images of the four band members heads. Even to my untrained eyes it seemed poorly designed and cheap looking. But it was mine now and the music surely made up for the lousy jacket!
At the time of the Monkees Collection incident we were living in a nice house in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey and I spent most of my indoor time in the basement listening to records or watching the “four o’clock movie” after school. They usually had weekly themes like “Godzilla week” or “Planet of the Apes week” and the couch was comfortable.
On this particular day in the basement, however, I was spastically dancing around listening to I’m a Believer and Last Train to Clarksville. When the C side came to an end I removed the disc from the turntable and placed it on the floor leaning it against an upholstered chair. I then put disc one on the record player.
Once the needle was down I started doing a frenetic dance to (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone. In my frenzied, Monkees inspired joy I bumped into a baseball bat that was also leaning against the chair and it came down squarely on disc two. I heard a loud crack! and froze in horror. The record lay on the floor next to the bat and from where I stood I could see that there was a gap in the vinyl, about the size of a quarter, that completely covered The Porpoise Song!
I picked up the broken record and examined the destruction. Extending from the hole in the vinyl was a crack that shot up to the edge of the disk. In a rush of optimism I had imagined somehow playing around the crack but the damage was too extensive. There was no way anything above the Porpoise Song would ever be heard again. I uselessly flipped the record over and stared at it. This side wasn’t going to play either.
A sudden realization hit me. My heart began to pound and my palms became damp. The hours and hours of hounding my parents flashed through my mind. They must never know. a voice said. It was my voice, the one that talks to me in my head and it knew that besides my fear of being punished, if my parents discovered what I’d done they would never buy me anything again! What I had to do next became immediately clear.
Hide the evidence.
I pulled one of the paper sleeves from the album cover and slipped the damaged record inside and then inserted it back into its cardboard cover. Now that the record was safely hidden I placed it with my other records as if nothing had happened. It was my only option.
They could never know.
To this day my parents do not know about the damaged Monkees Collection and as they don’t read this blog there’s a good chance that they never will. Although it’s been a long time since I’ve asked them to order me anything from K-Tel.