From as far back as I can remember, music has been a constant in my life. While I have, like many of you, had a fair share of life being grand as well as difficult at times, music and my enjoyment of it in so many forms and genres has remained consistent.
Those who regularly read Listen Up! are more than aware of some of my influences and discovery of genres, artists and songs. This week, I would like to share a few “time and place” examples of the impact of music in my life. I hope it encourages you to reflect and possibly share some of your life’s soundtrack with me or perhaps with some of those like-minded music-loving friends in your world.
In part 1 of my “life’s soundtrack,” my career as a paperboy was highlighted in Don McLean’s "American Pie," along with my first album purchase and my immersion into a variety of radio stations.
That brings us up to my early teen years on my lifetime soundtrack, musically speaking. In this installment, we’ll dive into my discovery of Motown, more classic rock, my introduction to live music, my sisters’ continued musical influence and why I don’t like Mondays.
As I entered my early teens, I would still be considered a radio listener. Thankfully growing up at the Jersey Shore gave me the benefit of listening to some solid radio stations locally, but also with some higher-powered equipment I could hear radio stations out of Philadelphia. This led me to WMMR and some awesome classic rock. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult, Pink Floyd, Boston, Kiss and so many other bands became part of my regular listening. Thanks to my paper route I was able to buy a portable cassette player (with a built in radio), so that meant all of these bands and more over the airwaves and on radio mix tapes became part of my listening.
• Molineaux and Motown: While I was not around for the birth of Motown, when I first heard the Temps, the Tops, Smokey and the Supremes, I was hooked. Of course the radio listening was some time after I would have seen the Saturday morning Jackson 5 cartoons. The songs of the Jackson 5 interwoven with cartoons gave me an appreciation and the basis for the lifetime love of Motown. The song, “ABC” as simple and "easy as one, two, three," still reminds me that my continued musical journey is as much research, discovery and education as it is pleasure and enjoyment.
• "Don’t Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult: I happened to be asked to tag along with a group of older friends when Blue Oyster Cult played Bader Field in Atlantic City. This is another song musically that was both helpful and even educational when it came to dealing with losing people around me at an early age. Actually the song in some ways prepared me to be more equipped to deal with continued life loses. With the lines “40,000 men and women every day, 40,000 men and women every day, another 40,000 coming every day,” it was the first time (assuming the birth and death rate numbers were correct at the time) I thought of death and birth numbers of the human race. Getting to see the band live and many of the conversations that date on the grass at Bader showed me the value of hanging with people with music tastes and collections much better than and more diverse my own.
At the same time that I was discovering new music that I enjoyed, my older sisters were taking different paths of musical discovery that I benefited from. My oldest sister, Lisa, seemed to dive deep on bands such as Styx, Little River Band and some solid singer songwriters. At the same time my older sister Lucy was branching off into some interesting areas of music that included funk, soul (beyond the Motown sound I was listening to) and also artists like the Boomtown Rats and more European based artists. I will do a future column on “music of my siblings.”
• I Don’t Like Mondays: When I first heard the song that my sister explained was based on a true story, it really changed the way I looked at songs and artists. I think it opened up the door for me to have music be the basis for conversations that would go beyond a “I like this song” or “have you heard this song” to “this song tells the story of.” I believe it opened my mind to the historical significance of storytelling through songs. “And he can see no reason // 'Cause there are no reasons // What reason do you need to be sure?” I am still not a fan of Mondays.
That brings us up to my high school years on my lifetime soundtrack. In the next installment (sometime in the coming weeks) I will cover an immersion into alternative music, rap and some deep dives into more rock, plus my run in with The Police. Until then, continue to Listen Up! and let me know what and who you are listening to!