My FB buddy and former neighborhood friend Mickey Marche posted his top 10 most influential long playing albums from the 1960′-70’s over the last 10 days. I did not disagree with his choices except for Mitch Miller, even as an honorable mention. I mean, really? Where is the hippie/counterculture turbulence in M.M? I mean Mitch Miller not Mickey Marche. Mick’s top ten would mostly be in my top 30 or 40 lps.
For the young ones reading along with their grandparents, an l. p. was/is a vinyl recording usually played at 33 1/3 rpm’s or revolutions per minute on a machine called a phonograph or turntable, invented by Thomas Edison originally. They came in album cover sleeves that were light weight cardboard with pictures on the front and credits somewhere else. Inside was a paper dust sleeve that kept dust and other crud off the tiny grooves where the recorded music lived. Often the dust jacket was where the lyrics could be found, if you were lucky and the artist offered them.
LPs were heavy, let me tell you. A few under one arm were no problem, but often they were stored in milk crates or fruit boxes; then it was a problem to run a fifty pound box up a flight of stairs, because in your late teens and early twenties you move a lot, mostly to second and third floor apartments. It was not unusual to have 100 or more albums in your collection. Weightless and wait less I-pods and Alexa and Pandora were not even ideas then. Which is why old guys like me are so buff now.
So Mick had the Beatles’ Meet the Beatles, the Stones’ Big Hits and Zeppelin’s first with the burning Hindenburg cover. Hall of Fame first ballot all three. Then Dylan’s Volume 2 Greatest Hits, Hendrix Are You Experienced?, Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, no argument here. He rounded out his hit parade with James Taylor, Jesse Colin Young, America and the Eagles’ second album Desperado. Okay, they are all in the horse race to your musical heart. Started strong with the British sound and then finished all American. [I am a little shocked that he did not include a Carpenters album since he had a thing for Karen Carpenter that transcended time. ]
Everyone is entitled to his/her own top ten of anything, shellfish, for instance, or great baseball players. Just don’t mix the two… “On the mound we have Bob the lobster Gibson facing Brooks the razor clam Robinson. It’s a full count. Here’s Gibson’s fastball, Brooks lays down a perfect bunt to first base. Swallowed up by Johnny Oyster Bench, for the put out at first base, covered by Willie not a shrimp Stargell.” It could get stupid fast.
My mind is not a rank order sort of mind. I’m far more impressionistic. For instance, the first time I saw Mick’s top ten album idea, I thought of his googly eyed Enfield Drive neighbor Mark somebody. Mick was kinder to him than anyone else in the neighborhood was. Not sure if the kid’s parents paid him a quarterly stipend for child care. Anyway, I recall Mick telling us that Mark rushed him with excited news from his CCD class at church that he or they or someone somewhere played Iron Butterfly’s classic “In the Garden of Eden”. Well, he was close. That massive 17 minute musical monstrosity was actually called “In a Gadda da Vida”, which apparently came from a drunken slurring of the title Mark offered to Micky on that fateful day. The song was the entire B side of the album and pretty trippy stuff.
Santana got an honorable mention, though I would rank him above America and Jesse Colin Young. Just sayin’. Again it’s a memory of association that threads through music and relationships and time. Mick and my next door neighbor Richard were lifting weights while listening to Santana, as I recall. Mick was intentionally butchering the lyrics to Santana’s “Evil Ways” while one of us was trying to bench maybe 75 pounds. We were young, pre testosterone. “You’ve got to change your underwear, baby. Before I stop lovin’ you.” That line was delivered just sincerely enough to boys who were just immature enough to get us belly laughing for ten minutes. I’m sure millions of other adolescent boys butchered many other songs in their inimitable ways, and they still chuckle quietly over these memories while listening to the oldies station.
Somewhere is a memory from Harry Chapin’s Taxi song, a long ballad of broken dreams with plenty of lyrics to exploit. I cannot recall the verbal bastardization trick Mick pulled on that song. It might have been the very first verse…
“It was rainin’ hard-ons in Frisco, I needed one more fart to make my night, the lady up ahead waved and flagged me down. She got in at the light.” I’m sure it was a silly mix of potty language and sexual allusions. Standard stock for teen boys left unsupervised.
Now I still own some vinyl. I gave away a lot of great ones since I no longer played them. I lack a functional phonograph machine, but I still love these souvenirs of my youth. On my shelf I have Billie Holiday’s Greatest Hits vol. 2. Keeper forever. Van Morrison’s St. Dominic’s Preview. Derek and the Dominoes Layla album. Sentimental favorites Aztec Two Step and Jackson Browne’s Saturate Before Using. Finally the Dead’s Europe ’72 triple album was the heaviest of all my records and provided hours of jams and internal voyages. All old friends I can’t part with.
So thanks, Mick, for this brief trip down memory lane, over the hills and far away, from Harrison Lane to Telegraph Road, to King’s Highway and Franconia Road. I haven’t seen those roads in decades, but I can walk alongside them again when the right song pumps out of my speakers. My five year old grand daughter’s jam is Sheryl Crow’s cover of Aerosmith’s Life is a Highway. Not a bad closer…
Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long.