Monday, November 25, 2019

Special Friends

I am sliding feet first into my 63rd Thanksgiving holiday and I'm reminded of what I'm thankful for and why I'm thankful for it. Many many years ago I met special friends, friends that would always stay with me, those friends are my records and the artists that made them. As a young kid I immersed myself in rock and roll, country, and the blues. Those are the friends that are always there, you can always go be with them, with your headphones and your dreams.

As I sit looking out over the desert on this cold Monday morning I'm reminded of how I got here. First off it's fate that I'm in the desert, I always knew it would happen I just didn't know when. Now that I'm here I sit and reflect on what I'm thankful for this holiday season and why I'm thankful for it. Music has been such a wonderful part of my life and as a youngster it was my refuge. I would stay awake late at night sometimes, in my room, listening to the local radio station WHFS in Bethesda Maryland. That station single-handedly brought the music to me that shaped my musical tastes and cemented my love for the sounds of the Laurel Canyon music scene. I visioned California as where I wanted to be, that's a long way from Northern Virginia however and it took a while. I got into the local sounds around DC and southern rock. I discovered the blues and bluegrass.

 When things got tough at school or home and I didn't know where to turn it was always to the songs, to the artists that had become my best pals. After I got a job and  I didn't have to depend on my parents to buy music for me I would go to the record store for hours on end just flipping through the bins. I would have the local proprietor play me samples of the music I was interested in, he was glad to do it, another customer for the music business. Little did he know, or did I know, it would become a lifelong obsession, collecting music, collecting friends that would always be there.

So like this scene early in Almost Famous, my records set me free. The Allman Brothers, Jackson Browne, the Eagles, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons. There were so many many more that even I lost count quickly. I bought my turntable and the accompanying equipment from delivering newspapers. All the money that I made went to music, went to finding new friends. I'm thankful for that, because now, today, as I write this I know it was the right thing to do and I have that to always look to when I need guidance in the every day trials and tribulations of growing old. It's almost as if I were good friends with these folks, these musicians, these rock stars.

One of the things I liked the most about buying records was what I learned not only from the music but from the liner notes. Records are making a comeback, but not like what it was back then, records where everything, it's how we listened to music. There were no digital downloads, or streaming, there weren't even cassettes, eight tracks or CDs. What we had were those big vinyl discs, clicks and pops, surface noise in all its glory. But that's what the music was, it was full, it was rich, it was warm and it filled the room with glorious sounds. 

Around the holidays when all the relatives would come, drinking eggnog, laughing and remembering old times I would feel like I needed to get away, to get away from the old folks and be off to myself. I would walk to the bus stop and get on a bus across the river to Washington DC, to be with my friends at Tower records. 

Tower was open all through the holidays, and I would get there when they opened and spend hours listening to new things, looking through all the bins, trying to find the next new friend within their vast collections of music. I would usually buy something, even if it was only a music magazine because I couldn't always afford to buy records every time I went. I would buy Creem,  Rolling Stone and later New Music Express. I'm not at all sure why I didn't get a job there, I guess it would have been interesting but probably I would have tired of it because I wouldn't have been able to just listen to music all day I would have been stocking shelves and answering questions where the latest Beatles record was or how soon the new Rolling Stones record would be in. No it was better just to be a customer, a music geek and a kid.

Nowadays the music streams and it's free and musicians don't get paid. We wonder why the music isn't like it used to be, well that's because it's devalued. When you devalue something you take away much of its ability to influence and become more than just notes and lyrics and harmonies. I think that's probably why today's kids don't see artists as their friends they see them more as stars, as commodities, as business entities.  

So on this Thanksgiving I sit at the beginning of my senior years with friends many don't have. I'm thankful for those friends, I'm thankful for the music, for truly the music is in me.