10 Musical Bookmarks

January 5, 2011
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Music denotes points of interest along the road of life, bookmarks if you will. We’ve all got events, significant or outright mundane, that are made memorable because of a song or piece of music that will forever elicit a memory.

Since I’ve become quite a fan of randomness, here are several of mine in no particular order:

1) Chris Montez – “Let’s Dance”: Me and a buddy were always looking for a place to ‘camp out’ since that gave us the go ahead to talk the puberty talk and speculate on what we would do if we did have a girlfriend, but mostly it was an excuse to stay up late until we conked out in mid-sentence. I was about 11 when my mother’s boyfriend parked his unseaworthy Cabin Cruiser reclamation project in our backyard so we camped out in that thing and listened to Chris Montez swamp the AM airwaves all night. That organ riff will be in my head forever.

2) Joni Mitchell – “Shades Of Scarlett Conquering”: In my mid-twenties and outside a Portland, Oregon cafe/club, flat on my back on the floor of my open doored van, headset on and blubbering like a baby because my then girlfriend was doing a boy tour of the club which didn’t include me. What a wuss. A little more maturity and I would have been doing the same thing myself but oh, poor me….what a wuss. “Shades…” may have been a curious song to use as a ‘blubbering’ catalyst but nobody writes angst like Joni and this was a good one. Did I mention, what a wuss?

3) Roy Orbison – “In Dreams” and The Entire Catalog: About 9 or 10, in my babysitter’s basement listening to 45’s and discovering the unbelievable magic of Roy Orbison thinking, WTF (maybe not that exact abbreviation), who sings like that? These records belonged to the older brothers in their family but they were a revelation to me. Orbison had these curiously nerdy looks and a sonic voice that went on to haunt me for another 50 years. When “Blue Bayou” came out in ’62 I used to put my transistor radio under my pillow at night and wish to hell I could sing like that. I woke up with a lot of dead batteries.

4) Ray Charles – “Ruby”: I spent tons of time in the rec room of our basement sitting on the couch listening to records and day dreaming. I did it so much I could have qualified as Howard Hughes’ Vegas roommate. If there was ever an anthem for my self-reflection dungeon time it was Charles’ achingly brilliant version of this song that I bonded with.

5) Richard Wagner – “Ride of the Valkyries”: One of the great favors my dad (father #2) did through my elementary school years was to leave an eclectic collection of records in the basement for me to find and absorb. I may have had little of him but I had plenty of what he was about. Frankly, “Ride of the Valkyries”, the musical vision of the mad warrior chicks on horses, flying out of the heavens used to scare the shit out of me but it was a cheap thrill I loved. Years later when they used the piece during the helicopter gunship scene in the movie, Apocalypse Now, it was the Vietnam war that was scaring the shit out of me.

6) Tommy Dorsey – “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”: Speaking of my dad (father #2), this song always triggers immediate flashbacks to him; the smell and touch of him, the kind parts of him, the talents he possessed are all unleashed from this recording. I recall sitting in the legendary Stanich’s Tavern in Northeast Portland some time in the late seventies and while everybody knocked down their Stanich burger and brew I melted into the jukebox for 2 or 3 minutes or so. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing.

7) Edgar Winter’s White Trash – “Save Our Planet”: I was working at a college radio station when I discovered this soul/blues/R&B/Rock and Roll/gospel masterpiece and I’ve never listened to another album that sustained such raw energy and, by random association, captured how intense my personal motor was running at the time. There was a period of time during those school years where I rode this album like a surfboard from one crazy-ass endeavor to another. I just listened to it again just now and I think I need a nap.

8) Bobby Day – “Rockin’ Robin”: We’re talking the 1957 original here and it was a song that my next door neighbor, Madelene (in her late teens at the time), loved. Now I had a kid crush on Madelene so discovering that she liked this song turned it into something else entirely. I was about 9 or 10 and she’d come over to watch me on occasion and in an effort to please I’d play that 45 over and over and even embellish it by playing my drum set live along with the record. I set that record on the dedicated 45 player and it played in constant repetition until the grooves turned white and the record eventually disintegrated into dust…pretty much as people do.

9) Doris Day – “Que Sera Sera”: I cannot think of this 1954 ditty without thinking of my mother who hauled it around the house like she owned it, waltzing from room to room trying to find ways to stylize it more like Doris. I, on the other hand, being a 6 or 7 year old prankster, was lying in wait behind the hallway pillar until she’d come crooning by and I’d jump out and scare the Doris Daylights out of her. I’m still making up for that one.

10) Curtis Mayfield – “Choice of Colors”: This is a dual purpose piece that established 2 very prominent memories. First of all, my dear lifelong friend, George, and I were nuts about this song in high school, especially what it said about humanity and racism. Secondly, in the late eighties my girlfriend and I were lying in bed late at night tossing songs to each other and I kicked out “Choice of Colors” and she proceeded to sing every last lyric. That was when I knew I loved her without reservation and began the lobbying effort to marry me.

Well, that’s just a scant 10 of mine…if the mood strikes, perhaps you’d like to share 1 or 2 in the reply mode below?

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4 Responses to 10 Musical Bookmarks

  1. Erin Merritt on January 6, 2011 at 10:12 am

    “scare the Doris Daylights out of her”. Funniest. Line. Ever.

    Joni Mitchell – Case of You – from a breakup in my early 20’s. Why does Joni write the BEST songs for blubbering?

    Best of Journey – got me through High School.

    Carole King – So Far Away. I sang the song in a cabaret a couple of years ago, and my mother was in attendance. Now whenever I hear that song I think of Mom, and wish she was with us still.

    • Freakmaster on January 7, 2011 at 10:03 am

      Thanks, for the props with the ‘Daylights’ line. I was rather proud of that one.

      Joni is one of the few songwriters that knew how to cut to the center of your soul, so insightful and unforgiving, and do it all about as entertainingly as possible. She’s pure genius…cranky genius, but genius.

      By the way, Erin, Don’t Stop Believin’

      Yes, that’s a wonderful Carole King song and a good catalyst for remembering your mother. She must have been a terrific person.

  2. Freakmaster on January 7, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Yep, I remember absolutely everything about that so clearly. You had an impact on me…well, you and Curtis.

  3. Peter A. Paolini on January 20, 2011 at 4:05 am

    “Choice of Colors” reminds me of my brother Michael, it his his favorite. Your comments on Joni are right on mark. There are so many songs that take me back sense memory , yes!

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