Born in 54. In the fall of 1970 I changed schools and entered 10th grade. Fell in with a chum who straightened me out by curving me. The hint I gave him was the first Moby Grape long player. His dad owned one of the first record chains and my friend had the most records in his bedroom of anyone.
We would conjure together what we termed ‘the first time listening experience.’ We’d get excited about a new release and drag his dad’s big JBL speakers out of the corners and face them against each other with just enough room to park our heads between the massive towers on the floor. After a brief hazy ritual prep, he’d drop the needle, and, we’d, for example, be enveloped in, Sailin’ Shoes.
This is one way music may become the drug of choice. It did for me and this fueled two decades in the music business and a considerably longer ongoing devotion to my own creative sonic alchemy. It also filled an entire basement with vinyl and compact discs; and this has on occasion elicited a question: “What would be left if your house burned down?” Hmmm, I suppose this might turn out to be a problem for the EPA!
Context. . .more hours spent with sound than with the letter. I used to give a program on proto-music. This refers to “sonic behavior” that was the precedent to music. The artifactual record is quite sparse for a very long time. While you reflect on your musical experience, imagine a future anthropologist dusting off a tail piece from a Telecaster or trying to figure out what she’s looking at, while we understand it’s a harmonica in a blues key in her hand. Before the advent of metal instruments the trace of musical culture is very thin.
I would take Brilliant Corners by Thelonious Monk to the desert island. My own inspiration is rooted betwixt Monk, The Byrds, The Deep Listening Band, and, Abdullah Ibrahim. Music was born in Africa and I reckon born there before both the first days of the letter and of the gods.
Captain Beefheart remembered the greatest music he ever heard: on the night of a solo piano performance by Thelonious Monk, Monk enters stage right, stops to note a large, glorious vase of flowers perched on the piano, and next in a grand sweeping motion using both arms knocks the flowers into the piano and crashes the strut holding up the lid of the Steinway. He sits at the piano for a moment and then stands up and exits the stage.
“It was the greatest music I ever heard.” said the Captain.