Saturday, January 14, 2017

High School Faves

Did ya see that Facebook meme where you're supposed to put ten records you loved in high school up?  Here's mine:

I’m not going to put this in any order.  It’s just kind of ten records that I remember really playing the hell out of when I was a teenager.  Some will be from Jr. High, some from high school.  Some were borrowed and eventually returned, some just discarded along the way.

The Tubes – What Do You Want From LIVE!  That stereo up above is the receiver I had and a turntable quite similar to the one I had for Jr. High (in high school I bought a used Dual).  I used to slide that volume slider all the way to the right, and it sounded pretty okay.  It was loud, but not awful.  I did this when I got up for school in the morning, and I remember my mom complaining once, and my retort was that everyone was up anyway, so who was it really bothering?  My door was shut, it was just some background noise, like a fan or something.

I loved The Tubes.  I used to blast “Mondo Bondage” before school.  I remember in Jr. High being at the pizza shop and standing on the Pong game (it was a table top version) while we blasted “White Punks On Dope” on the jukebox and being told to “Sit the fuck back down or you’re outta here!”  I had a “deep” conversation with a girlfriend about how “Don’t Touch Me There” wasn’t so much about sex as it was about breaking someone’s heart.  We went to see The Tubes in a big group, and everyone bought the same shirts, except me.  I don’t like looking like everyone else.  I thought The Tubes were really on to something with the prudery of the Nation butting up against the sleaze of TV and being all aghast at the titillation found there.  Those prudes were the ones watching that shit, it wasn’t lost on teenage me.

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention – Over-Nite Sensation.  I bought this used where I bought my Dual turntable.  I still have it, and it’s pristine (somehow) and an original pressing.  I liked Zappa a lot when I was 17 or 18, but he hasn’t managed to stay with me through the years.  I’ll keep his stuff, but I rarely listen to it.  I remember I had to take an English class my second senior year (I cut school a LOT), and I had to re-take a speech class.  I loved speech class, so it was no big deal.  I was the only senior in a class of 10th graders, and let’s face it, I was high all the time.  I had to do a speech by Reading From Manuscript, and I chose “I’m the Slime” from this album.  (A bit of a side note, a girl couldn’t believe that we could do a song and chose to do one of the more popular things of the day, and looked pretty embarrassed when she had to say, “Oh baby” and “Yeah baby” constantly.  I practiced this so I wouldn’t do it in a sing-song voice and had it down cold so that it would be awesome, she didn’t get how much went into being a wasteoid that could get away with it).  I called Frank Zappa one of “Today’s most interesting and thoughtful “contemporary artists” and my teacher sat in the back laughing.  When I finished he asked me to stay after class a minute, and he told me he was a HUGE Zappa fan, and he loved how I did it and that he really appreciated the fact that I was putting forth an effort in his class.  Huh.  Who’d a thunk it?

We also used to drop acid and listen to this.  It was sure to make us erupt into fits of hilarity.  The idea of growing crops of dental floss in Montana was just the god dammed funniest thing!  This record led to us listening to a lot of FZ’s output back then, and we were a small little cult of friends out here in Midwestern Suburbia that loved FZ.

Manfed Mann’s Earth Band – Solar Fire.  OK, so this one even predates Teenage Me, but I can assure you, this got more play than any record in my collection by many, many plays.  I wore out several of these.  I still like it quite a bit, and I think it very well may be the record with my favorite drum sound.  The Stones have a lot of records with this dry, natural drum sound and maybe that’s a big reason I was initially attracted to them.   I loved Mann’s outrageous keyboards, but the guitar solos on songs like "Saturn, Lord of the Ring/Mercury, The Winged Messenger" are what really hooked me.  Everyone that ever came to my house heard this record at least once.

Yes – Fragile.  OK, I promise this won’t turn into a treatise on the wonders of Progressive Rock.  I think this will be it.  God, I loved this record, especially Jr. High me.  I’ve heard “Roundabout” probably 100,000 times and the part after the “mountains come out of the sky and they stand there,” still gets me leaning for the volume knob.  I love Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman’s interactions and the drum sound I love is there, with the added weirdness of Chris Squire’s bass.  Hell, half the time it seemed to me like Squire was playing a completely different song than the rest of the band just to see if he could make it work.  It always did, and I remember one of the pictures on my wall was Chris Squire with a cape, leaning back and blasting the foundation from under an audience somewhere with a cool name like Stratford-On-Thames, or Pasadena.

Every girl I ever met hated Yes.  You definitely can’t dance to it.  The lyrics don’t make any sense, but Teenage Me would have pretty much bloviated about how brilliant the lyrics were, that they were pure poetry and you just didn’t understand poetry.  Little would you have known (so I thought, anyway), I knew fuck all about poetry, except how to write a shitty haiku.  So when I said the lyrics to “South Side of the Sky” were brilliant, you better believe that I thought they were, and I thought I’d understand why they were so brilliant some time in the future.  I was wrong, but I still like Yes.

Neil Young – Decade.  Ever come across those people that tell you to write a list of your favorites but then say that “Greatest Hits, Live albums and using the same band more than once is cheating?”  What the fuck does that even mean?  It’s my list.  I can guarantee you that Neil Young’s Decade was a constant for me pretty much until I graduated high school.  Some of this stuff is probably a reason I like a lot of whatever passes for Americana these days, and some of these songs have guitar solos that I hear in my favorite bands today, like The Dexateens’ “Diamond in the Concrete,” which otherwise doesn’t sound like a Neil song at all.

I remember a conversation with a girl I used to hang out with all the time that I haven’t seen since school, and we were talking about “Expecting to Fly,” which I figured was too weird and mellow for anyone to like, but she said it was her favorite song on Decade.  Why do I remember this conversation?  It was pretty inconsequential, and it’s not like it’s the greatest Neil song ever, but I remember it really well.  I remember going to a guy’s house that was a budding drummer, and he’d play along to records and he told me to pick a song.  I picked “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and he turned it off partway through because he couldn’t bang on things like he wanted.  It was really part of my plan to not have to listen to him, but we spent a good hour listening to him fuck up on drums on other songs later.

Then there’s “Ohio.”  That still chokes me up to this day.  I had a teacher with a Kent State 1970 ring.  Said teacher was also gay, but kept himself well closeted (good thinking in the 70’s).  I loved this guy.  We used to play Chess and checkers and stuff in his In School Probation room (I was in there a lot).  We talked about what it was like in 1970 at Kent, and he said it was scary, and yes, he knew some of the students that were killed.  He said he didn’t think anyone should ever forget.  I couldn’t believe news interviews where the people said the students “got what they deserved.”  How the fuck is it I live in the same world as those people?  That teacher convinced me I should go see the little memorial and where it happened, and I’ve done that, and that song helps me remember that rich people are in charge and our kids are no more than cannon fodder to them.  I kind of moved away from Neil for years, but I’ve been back, at least with his old stuff for awhile now.

Artful Dodger – Babes On Broadway.  Clevelanders my age know who Artful Dodger was.  The rest of you don’t.  This is NOT their best album, in fact it’s probably their worst.  It’s still pretty good, though.  It was their third album, and an obvious shot at getting some airplay outside of Cleveland.  I remember a friend of mine had a decent old car and I can remember meeting girls and making out in there with this album playing.  It was pretty great.  Girls in the 70’s were great.  They turned into great women, but they’ll always be those girls to me.

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True.  I really don’t give a shit that the backing band is Huey Lewis’ guys.  I didn’t know back then that Elvis had a different band, and I just thought “Watching the Detectives” was the coolest song that had ever happened.  Listen to the drums!  Elvis obviously liked Buddy Holly, and that was always a big plus in my book (preteen me loved 50’s Rock N’ Roll).  I got this for my birthday from two girls I still know and love to this day.  They got me this and the next record, and they gave them to me in school.  I opened them in the cafeteria, and I think I actually stayed in school most of that day so I could carry those records around with me.  I didn’t have a notebook or books or anything, just those two records.  I remember a Ted Nugent fan making fun of them, and I just shook my head and walked away.  This was just such a cool record to have in high school (so I thought, anyway).  “Alison,” “The Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes,” these songs were changing everything for me.

The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks.  The second birthday record.  The first record that turned my head upside down.  The first record I had to defend because so many people HATED it, without ever having heard it.  I was listening to college radio ( I always had because I loved trying to find weird radio stations and back then I was close enough to a college campus that I could hear their 2 watt station, plus another one or two in Cleveland with more power).  The pistols were definitely a marketed product, but they also had this weird integrity that they would only do what they wanted.
I don’t understand why so many Classic Rockers hated these guys.  The guitars were great.  The lyrics were political.  Was it the weird way they looked?  Maybe all that, but Black Sabbath looked weird and they were popular.  None of this mattered to me.  I dragged this record with me everywhere for a month and tried to get people to play it.  One friend out of all of them had the same thing happen that happened to me.  It changed everything for him, too.  We really started connecting musically, then he moved.  Kinda bummed me out.  I hope he’s still listening to music like we did then.  I hope The Sex Pistols stuck with him like they did with me.

J. Geils Band – Live! Blow Your Face Out.  I hated these guys.  Really, it was a deep-seated hatred.  I have since found out it was their fans I couldn’t fucking stand.  A bunch of jocks that liked to drink and fight.  They’d fight over girls, they’d fight over basketball games and they’d fight over music.  They never had their own pot and they’d bring things like four beers to parties and start drinking ours (well, they’d try).  All the while they’d be blasting the “Woofa Goofa” and playing the same side of Blow Your Face Out over and over again.  I remember being at one guy’s house where his brother would let us play records and he had some good stuff, and hearing side one of Blow Your Face Out six times in a row.  I know, “I musta, I said I b’leeb I musta, I musta got LOOOOOOOST!” is awesome.  Once in awhile, I guess.  Over and over?  Not so much.

These days I have that record and I play it now and then.  It’s pretty great.  They made a bunch of great records that are easy to enjoy without some douche-nozzle that smells like BO and Jovan Musk spitting in your face while they attempt to be Peter Wolf while the real Peter Wolf is blasting out of the stereo.  “Detroit Breakdown” and “Chimes” are really pretty terrific.

The Doors – Strange Days.  I can’t skip The Doors when talking about Teenage Me.  He decided one day that Yes was still totally great, but his new favorite band was going to be The Doors.  Shortly thereafter, the rest of American Teenagerdom jumped on this bandwagon and The Doors started selling more records than they had even when Jim Morrison was alive.  I was glad we were all digging a band that wouldn’t ever do anything else (I was wrong, of course, but I was young).  Now I could tell people how poetic the lyrics were, because Jim Morrison had interviews where he actually said he was a poet.  So this was the real deal.  I thought Robbie Krieger was cool and I liked how they said they didn’t need a bass player because Ray Manzarek could do all that on him Moog.  I know it’s bullshit because you can plainly hear the bass guitar on a lot of their songs, but Teenage Me loved it!

I mean, they had a little of the Progressive spirit of Yes with their keyboards, but their longest songs were only ten minutes or so.  Plus, most of their songs were only two minutes or so.  I really thought Jim was onto something for a year or two, but then I quit doing so many drugs so much of the time and I kind of decided Jim was a bit of a dick.  These days, I still have most of those albums and I like some of the songs quite a bit. I’d rather hear what Ray did with X any day, but these guys were a big deal to me for a few years.