An Unexpected Rain ( A 70’s visit)
I’m one of those that has a soundtrack for every piece of my life. Hearing songs in random places often takes me elsewhere, to another time, another experience, an untouchable moment. I rarely listen to music from my youth as a pointed exercise, but that’s the beauty of the digital age. While mixtapes were such a labor of love, playlists are the love without the labor. This weekend, a full day of flooding downpours gave rise to revisiting some music that shaped my life, playing DJ for a couple of hours.
The music of the 1970’s was glorious. Big guitars. 6 minute songs. Lots of saxophone. Or Eric Clapton. I knew about disco from Saturday Night Fever, but the Stones’ “Miss You” from Some Girls was as close as I got to having it on my turntable. Springsteen describing his Jersey Shore and his streets of NYC like a West Side Story rock opera. Lou Reed’s guttural shove at me, making me want to smoke dope, try heroin, and know sweet Jane. The Ramones. 2-minute blitzes tearing up those same streets of NYC (and my head). The Dolls and David Jo. Southside Johnny.
Then there was LA. Jackson Browne talked to me. David Lindley’s guitar felt like the sounds I made in my sleep; dreams churning through the teenage boy conundrum of self-doubt and cockwalk. Warren Zevon, Tom Waits. Indescribable genius. Linda Rondstadt. Poco. Fleetwood Mac. Geez.
Nashville. The Neil Young, Eric Andersen, and Dylan Nashville. My folks were Southerners. I was comfortable with the toned down notch. I felt it, even though I was growing up in suburban MD. I have always considered myself raised as a good southern boy, which meant Gregg and Duane also spoke to me. Duane wrenched the blues from me. I bought a Stratocaster and played for months to the Anthology record. Ronnie Van Zandt and three guitars. Molly Hatchet and the Outlaws. Lowell George. The Whiskey Hollow Band played sets from these bands in 1978 with unrelenting grit and sweat at Charlie’s West Side in Annapolis. We’d pick up a pint of Wild Turkey and a six-pack of Bud tall boys at Fishpaw’s (Liquor and Bait!), chug it between four of us on the 15 minute ride, pay our cover, order a pitcher, and wait for liftoff. Good times.
I didn’t listen to Led Zep, AC/DC, and Aerosmith when I was locked away in my room with my record player. I love those bands now, but they didn’t connect then. Kansas, Styx, Foreigner. Heard ‘em on the team bus and the locker room. I do remember sitting at a friend’s house, three of us, with brand new copies of Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks”, and Patti Smith’s “Horses”, listening to them over and over again. And talking about them. What did they mean? Why do they make me feel so angry? How can one person put so many fucking unrelated words together and make sense? Reminds me, Mark Hennen disappeared from our lives after high school. After all of those conversations, deep and meaningful. Shared. Never heard from him again. None of us. Huh. Weird.
Okay, last story related to this playlist: The first time I ever significantly altered my mind (Colt 45 and Red Grape Malt Duck, haha!), I pulled in the driveway (uh, yeah, I drove), to Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat”. And the DJ followed it up with Frampton’s “Baby, I Love your Way”. Hmmm. I sat a long time in the driveway with the engine running. It was winter, and I was mesmerized. And changed. Forever, I suppose.