For many years, when I'd hear Bobby Vinton's "Blue Velvet", I was taken back to a time when I was thirteen and danced with a girl for the first time. It was an awkward, thrilling two and a half minutes that seemed longer than it was, but not nearly as long as I wanted it to last. I don't even remember who the girl was, but I remember that song, which at the time seemed like the most romantic song that was ever written.
Twenty-some years later, "Blue Velvet" was the song that was played throughout the bizarre David Lynch movie of the same name. I became a big fan of David Lynch after seeing that movie. Now another twenty-some more years after seeing that film, when I think of "Blue Velvet", I not only think of my first dance and a bizarre film that I like, but also I have learned that Tony Bennett first released the song in the year I was born. "Blue Velvet" could almost be the theme song of my life--well maybe I won't go that far.
What I am saying though is that we grow up with music and certain songs, albums, and artists become like mile-markers in our life journey. I associate events, places, and people with certain music and my autobiography could very well be a mixtape.
Some of my earliest memories find me and my sister sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a small portable phonograph and an assortment of 78 rpm vinyl records listening to and rating the music. We had our Disney and other children's records, but my real favorites were my parents' records. Wonderful vocal versions of "Lady of Spain" and "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" I still remember though I have no idea who performed them. We would excitedly frolic about the room to the strains of Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" and cry out "ewww!" when we heard the mournful flip side, although in actuality I liked the beautiful music very much and just didn't want to let on to my sister that I liked it.
When my family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the late 50's, my parents had to buy all new furniture since they had previously rented houses that were furnished. One of the pieces they bought was a new style hi-fi record player that was able to play the new 33 1/3 record albums that were replacing the old 78s. This hi-fi remained part of our household furniture when we moved on to San Diego, California in 1959. Record albums were now the mainstay of the family music library.
An eccentric assortment of music could always be found in our home. My mother's influence was mainly in the more pop oriented sounds of Sinatra, big band music, and Louis Prima and Keely Smith. My father, on the other hand, would bless us with an array of Sousa marches, circus music, and bullfighting music--he was always looking for music to juggle by. The sounds of music were often heard throughout the day with anything ranging from "Sing Along With Mitch Miller" to "Cha Cha Cha with the Francis Bay Orchestra". I liked it all. I especially began to appreciate the classical music which we also had much of.
My early teen years were spent in Northern Indiana. This is when I really began to enjoy the sounds of rock and roll. In the car and in my bedroom at night I would keep up with the hits on WLS radio. I began getting my own record albums. Much like when I was a child, hours were spent sitting on the floor of my bedroom with my small portable record player. Often my best friend Dan and I would put together car models while listening to the sounds of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass or the Beatles. I was building my own record collection.
After I moved to East Tennessee in 1966, my music collecting became more serious. I began to really follow the music scene. Most of my friends were either involved in music or very interested in it. I began amassing record albums at a much more rapid rate. I began reading about the music industry and spending time scouring the record racks in the stores. Music was becoming one of my main interests. This interest has continued to this day.
There are songs that I can tell you where I was and what I was doing when I first heard them. In some cases I can recall where I was when a particular song that I had heard often was playing at some particular moment. Perhaps a song was played in a movie I had watched or a television show that I had seen and each hearing of the song reminds me of that previous experience. Certain songs immediately make me think of somebody in my life. Songs are sometimes like caption labels in a photo album.
Some of the music today has become so much different than what I listened to when I was younger. I sometimes wonder if the listeners of rap music or thrash metal or some of the other more raucous styles will still be enjoying that music when they get older. I listen to most of what I listened to forty years ago and it still sounds good to me. I enjoy much of the newer music that retains those sensibilities. Death Cab for Cutie or Snow Patrol or the Eels is good music to my ears because it hasn't transgressed beyond my aural limits of what I consider good taste. While there is the other music which I think intends to shock and I have nothing but aversion to it.
As I grow older, I do find myself going back to many of my earlier listening roots. My appreciation for jazz has deepened. My knowledge of classical has grown broader. I can still enjoy a good trite rock and roll tune, but give me the more intricate progressive rock any day. My music is like my food--I like variety and I like to try new things, but it had better taste good or I'm not eating anymore.