The First Albums I Bought
My first payday was in the summer of ’78
Watching all the musicians at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concert today took me back. Joe Walsh is playing with a reconstituted James Gang. As music does, it took me back in time.
Art has the innate ability to make us remember the time, place, and smell of when we first experienced it. Music in particular has the power to catapult our memory back if we like it or not.
Some times were good. Some were bad. Sometimes it rained. But they are all ours, nonetheless. They were exhilarating and embarrassing and we wouldn’t be the same without them, however you choose your recollection to be.
In the summer of 1978, I was 14 years old.
That was the summer my father decided I would work for him in our family business. He owned a gasoline service station. My older brother had moved on, so now it was my turn to pump gas, mount and repair tires and change oil.
It was an old-fashioned service station. People didn’t have to get out of their cars. While the gas was being pumped, I washed the windshield, checked the oil and the tire air pressure, all with a friendly attitude and pleasant conversation. It was true customer service, no matter what kind of mood I was in.
Anyway, the old man paid me.
Not enough, but I had no choice. He let me live in the house. Working in the station was like mowing the lawn or taking out the garbage. It was part of the deal of getting fed and sheltered. I was happy for the job.
So I took that money and headed to the mall. It was burning a hole in my pocket. Going into the record store was like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one.
It was the late 1970s and disco was hot. I hated it. Disco was the cool in thing, but my favorite radio station switched to an all-disco format, so it was anathema to me. Disco had to be destroyed at all costs.
Most of my friends were into Kiss or Led Zeppelin or Rush. I liked those bands, but they also were over-hyped. I didn’t want to fit into any distinct category. Punk hadn’t reached my consciousness yet. The music my parents listened to was completely out of the question.
I know, I put a lot of thought into this. I would not spend my money on trendy music that would be the popular thing to do, in my mind anyway. Whatever I would buy, it was because I liked it. I spent hours looking through everything. When I finally made my mind up, I had three albums.
The first one was Gerry Rafferty’s City To City.
When I first heard Baker Street, it immediately stuck in my head. That bit where the guitar slides down the neck caught me. The story that the song told about winding down the street and the different people that we’d run into was mesmerizing to my young mind. It was unique to other songs I had been exposed to. That’s why I bought it.
The second was Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy.
My cousins, who were much cooler than I was, had turned me on to Monty Python and a radio show called Dr. Demento. One song that played heavily, both on the Doctor’s radio show and regular radio, was a song called Werewolves Of London.
Again, another song that told a story. But this one was funny. It was about a werewolf tooling around London. He was cool and also terrifying. Kind of like an old Lon Chaney movie in a song. The a-woo in the chorus got me hooked.
The third was Joe Walsh’s But Seriously, Folks…
Life’s Been Good was hilarious! I loved the story of the bored rock star that had everything he wanted but was still a pain in the ass. At 14, that’s what I thought I wanted my life to be.
It also was another song that told a story. If I’m asked how I’m doing, I still use the line that I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do.
Those three albums started a collection that eventually grew to a couple hundred. They started a love affair with music that still lives. Thanks for listening.