That the audiophile hobby is about music and equipment is an obvious statement of fact. One is a means to another. We audiophiles are want to peruse record stores, try endless unheard selections on Tidal, and talk amongst our own kind all in the pursuit of new and worthy music. We research, discuss, demo and perhaps even argue with other audiophiles about equipment. Without equipment, no music – no music, no need for equipment. It’s quite the symbiotic relationship.
That, however, is simply not fulfilling enough for me. I look for other ways to engender more and different ways to enjoy the audiophile hobby. Audio shows are one good example. I usually attend two or three of them every year for no other real purpose than to have a good time. I take satisfaction out of the audio show process and seeing people enjoy the various rooms is wonderful. Hearing all the new equipment and shamelessly comparing them to my own, well, yes, that’s fun for me as well. Even this weekly missive is a means for me to take my pursuit of the enjoyment of the audiophile hobby to new levels.
I recently realized that for some time I had been watching a TV network and several of the shows that caught my interest would also apply, or at least might be applied to the audiophile hobby. AXS TVroutinely has specials that are meaningful to audiophiles.
One such show is “The Big Interview” hosted by Dan Rather. The list of some of the biggest names in music he has interviewed is quite impressive. What I really enjoy is hearing the stories, told firsthand by the artists themselves, how they got their start, how they came up with some of their biggest hit songs and the meaning behind the same. Some of the interviews yield surprising revelations. For instance, I would have never known how articulate and intelligentWeird Al Yankovicis and how different he is from his musical persona. Other artists, like good ole Charlie Daniels, appear in the interview exactly as they do in their public life. Watching “The Big Interview” has enabled me to better appreciate some of the music I hear knowing the stories behind the songs.
Chicagohas always been one of my favorite bands. I have loved their blend of rock and jazz since first hearing them in 1970. Like most all Chicago fans, I was heartbroken upon learning about the death of lead guitarist Terry Kath.
Kath, who grew up in Chicago was one of the founding members of the band. He is also widely acclaimed as one of the greatest, yet mostly unheralded guitarists who ever lived. So when I saw a documentaryabout Terry Kath, produced by his daughter (Kath died when she was two so she never knew her Dad) I knew I had to watch. There were many stories in this documentary, learning about how and where songs were written and even one explanation about the meaning behind the title of one of their biggest hits – “25 Or 6 To 4.” Another focus of the documentary was his daughter’s search for the Fender Telecaster “Pig Nose” guitarKath used on so many hit records. It was used to play “Free Form Guitar,” a song Kath did with only a guitar, no pedals or any such means to alter the music. Presumably, this guitar had been lost to history.
In simple terms, “25 Or 6 To 4,” written by Robert Lamm, was about staying up too late one night. Was it “25 To 4,” the four being four in the morning, or was it “26 To 4” was Lamm’s brief explanation. Camelia Kath, Terry’s widow, offered something different. She explained they were up early one morning doing cocaine and someone asked “is it 25 To 4, 26 To 4, and is it time to do some more.” And a song was born. Which story is correct is up to the reader to decide. Oh, and Michelle Kath, Terry’s only child, did find the famed “Pig Nose” guitar at her grandmother’s house, where Terry’s Mom had been hiding it for years.
Another interesting show is one called “Classic Album” and in this instance the album was Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road“, another one of my favorites. Many might know this already, but John and lyricist Bernie Taupinhad separate duties. Bernie wrote the words, Elton the music. In fact, after seeing the individual song lyrics for the first time, John would usually have the music composed in less than an hour. I also learned that Taupin was never comfortable with success and preferred to let John take the spotlight. According to Taupin, he was a country boy raised in Southern England and preferred the quiet life.
I was surprised to learn that “Yellow Brick Road” was written and recorded in about two weeks in Jamaica but hating the recording setup, recording was moved to a chateau in France to complete production. Elton, Bernie and the band just hunkered down and got to work. Compare the time it may easily take to write and record a record today and it makes me appreciate “YBR” even more. It was also quite interesting watching how some of the more classic songs were mixed. Again, this makes me better understand and appreciate the entire album when played.
Audiophilia is a hobby to be sure but in my own personal estimation, it should be a hobby about the pursuit of having fun. I look for ways to enable myself to enjoy and have fun with the hobby I’ve relished for so many years. I want to hear the music stunningly reproduced so the equipment will always matter. I will certainly be on the continual lookout for new music to move and entertain me. It is, additionally, these other pursuits that complete the hobby that involves so much of my free time. In that pursuit, I’ll hopefully continue to expand my appreciation of the audio arts – and maybe learn something new in the process.