When I was a teeny tiny kid, 5 years old or so, I remember my Dad had a reel-to-reel tape player. I wasn’t impressed. It was “portable” about the size of a large suitcase. He played voice on it, and it never caught my interest. Later, as a Broadcast Engineer, I became quite impressed with the warm quality music has on a properly maintained Reel-To-Reel.
When I was a grade schooler, my friends had a bunch of 45 records in their playroom. They were all out of the cases and scratched, but they played pretty well. There was all genres and I don’t remember much I particularly liked.
Then, I remember hearing the song, Rocky Mountain Way, by Joe Walsh on the FM radio. It was my first favorite song, and the song that made me decide I liked Rock n Roll. I used to listen to the radio for hours, waiting for that one particular song. Another favorite of my pubescent self was One, by Three Dog Night. I had it on a 45. I also had The Beatles, Hey Jude , with the much more kickass song, Revolution on the flipside. Plus Horse With No Name, a radio station copy, with the same song on both sides, Like Hey Jude, I wasn’t too impressed with that song, too mellow.
When I became a teen, my coolest older friends had gigantic record collections, on wall to wall shelves made of cinder block and lumber. With a massive amp, huge speakers and extremely high tech tuntable.
That’s who I wanted to be, someone with thousands of excellent Rock N Roll records, giant stereo amp, and earthquaking speakers. Bit it had to be the complete albums, 45’s were no longer cool.
I remember listening to the AM radio in my room at night in Missouri. (At night was better reception.) I remember a program called “Beaker Street” on KAAY Radio, Little Rock, Arkansas. Ted Nugent Stranglehold came on. The next day I went out and got the album. Excellent. Then came more Ted Nugent albums. Rock N Roll baby! I’ve heard KAAY is a religious station nowadays. And I gotta mention KSHE Real Rock Radio, St. Louis Missouri. But streaming doesn’t work outside the US….
I wanted to be a rock star, I asked my parents for guitar lessons, instead I got piano lessons. and played for 6 years, never wanting to play piano for a minute. Then my piano teacher died, and that was the end of my piano days. My parents asked if I wanted to get a new piano teacher and I practically shouted “NO!” Then somehow, I played the cornet in school. I remember the first day, I didn’t know if I was supposed to play the clairinet or the cornet, (I didn’t know the difference). I don’t know how I got roped into that, but I played cornet for another 6 years, never interested with no desire to play at all. By the time I was 16, I figured I was too old to pick up a guitar, all the future rock stars had a long head start on me, it was too late, the rock n roll stardom opportunity had passed. But I was still interested in music, and one summer, I was sound man for a band.
Somewhere along the music media line came casettes, which were good, but they wear out, and 8-tracks, which I never got into. There was a period of recording music from the radio onto a cassette. The radio stations would play entire albums and live concerts commercial-free. They wanted you to record them. I used to buy entire boxes of 90 minute casettes, an album would fit on each side! When I was in the Navy, cassettes were the thing. I had a first generation Sony Walkman. I thought there was no room for improvement after that. Sure, you still needed the massive sound system for partying, but I could still get ear-splitting loud Rock n Roll when and where I needed it. I’ll add here that in the Navy, in Aux Radio on my first ship, where the equipment graveyard was, we found an ancient, 8-track boom box that still worked. It came with exactly one tape, Nazareth, Hair Of The Dog, still one of the greatest albums of all time. (Except for that one crappy hit single, mellow song, “Love Hurts”.) We played that tape over and over and over for that six-month deployment. And if you have to have only one tape, that’s the one to have!
Then there were Compact Discs, Remember when they were new? It was advertised as the end, no way they could ever be improved upon. Ultimate. Looking back, the CD phase didn’t last long. I have 5 big CD cases filled with CD’s. I still have my original box of LP records, it never grew to the wall-filling collection I dreamed of. All the cassettes wore out. Moving parts are BAD! I still have my linear-tracking high end turntable. All in boses in the basement.
And remember MTV? When it first came out, it was excellent. Then went to shit. That didn’t last too long either.
After that came MP3’s, and digital music players. MP3’s aren’t that great, because of the loss of audio. Your brain has to fill in the missing parts, and people don’t listen to MP3 music very long, becaue although you don’t realize it, it’s tiring to listen to them. Successful radio stations use the WAV format, which is good quality, but not popular because of big file size. Listeners don’t keep it tuned to the station that plays MP3’s instead of WAV’s.
I have storage drives filled with almost every song I ever had the record, cassette or CD. I have huge amounts of music on my phone. In my car, I have a USB stick with enough music on it to probably play for a year, never hearing the same song twice.
I never listen to the music on my phone. Nowadays it’s streaming audio form the internet, usually with video. I hardly ever listen to an entire album any more, maybe Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here or Dark Side Of The Moon. With my Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones.
But you know what? Nothing sounds as good as the record, the vinyl LP.. especially on Pink Floyds Wish You Were Here, I notice missing parts, lack of clarity, on every format except the vinyl. It’s why Vinyl is supposedly making a comeback. But I can’t see buying records again. I listen, I like concerts, nowadays there’s not much new music that I think is that good.. If I had gotten that huge record collection in the beginning, things might be different. My records downstairs are in perfect shape, only one (Elton Johns Greatest Hits, the first one) is scratched. A huge record collection, wall to wall on lumber and cinder block shelves would be as cool now as it was back in the day. Even cooler maybe, and worth a mint!
I’ve ended up depressing myself with this post. I realize that the music industry isn’t what it once was. That energy from when I was younger seems to be gone. I’d like to have it back. The excitement of hearing a new song, the risk of buying the album with that song on it. The excitement of finding that every song is excellent! (or disappointment that it sucks) Buying more albums from the same artist, finding it all good! Then the joy of sharing this remarkable discovery with your friends, cranked up loud on your monster stereo. All that seems to be in the past, reduced to the private thrill of laying in bed, or on the sofa, with your outstanding headphones, listening to a song you’ve heard a thousand times.
It’s all still good, but not as great as it once was!
Have a great day!