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Stories Told By A Music Library

Paul Wilson looks at the stories his music library has to tell…

Music and stories told go together like cake and ice cream. Much of the music that really speaks to me has a great story contained in the lyrics. Not always is the story readily evident. Quite often, I find myself doing a little investigating to discover the actual meaning behind a song. 

In this instance, however, songs, and their meanings, are not the salient point. I was looking recently at my LP collection in the hope that an album, any album, would speak up and yell “play me!” For a couple of minutes, I aimlessly looked through the titles when I was suddenly struck by something. 

Many of these LPs are themselves a story in my own life.  

My first purchased LP, and the one album I have played more than any music I have ever heard, was Jethro Tull’s eponymous work, “Thick As A Brick.” I have multiple versions in both digital and analog. Every so often, I get the pristine LP copy from the rack, clean it, put it on the turntable, close my eyes and enjoy. It would not be a real stretch to say this one album, first heard when I was 15 on my best friend’s, older brother’s all McIntosh system, is the reason I became interested in the audiophile hobby. 

Another album, AL Stewart’s “Year Of The Cat” contained the song “Flying Sorcery.” This album really brings back memories. I had hopelessly fallen for this girl in high school. My affection, as is so often the case, was predominantly one sided. In other words, she couldn’t be bothered. 

When I first purchased “Year Of The Cat” and heard “Flying Sorcery,” I immediately thought of this girl. Who knows why one reminded me of the other. I even rewrote the lyrics to proclaim my angst for her complete indifference towards me. Yeah, I was struck pretty hard. 

Soon enough, the school year was over and my attention turned towards other matters of importance. What is really notable about this is I can almost completely remember my version of the lyrics when I hear “Sorcery” played. What I cannot seem to recollect, to any measure whatsoever, is the girl’s name. I’m drawing a total blank. 

Is this perhaps an underscore of the power of music? Regardless, it is a story of which I am reminded each time I pull “Cat” out of the LP rack. 

I also remember, shoulder length hair and all, dancing around my bedroom and switching back and forth from the air guitar to the microphone, aka hairbrush, while listening to Deep Purple “Made In Japan.” I also, very vividly in fact, remember my Dad throwing open my bedroom door while simultaneously yelling “turn that thing down!” That happened quite often. I am confident I am not the only adult, when 15 or 16 years old, had a similar occurrence. 

I also wish my Dad was still alive to yell at me for playing music too loudly. Moreover, I now remember those long ago times with great fondness. 

One of my early LPs came about through what might charitably be described as petty larceny. I was an after-school stock boy at a local drug store who also sold albums. I was responsible for applying price tags and putting merchandise on the store shelves. 

When I saw Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wild, The Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle,” I knew I had to have this LP in my collection. My one enduring problem was I could in no way afford it. Part time stock boys are sadly not well paid. 

Another part of my job was taking out the trash to the big dumpster behind the store. Yep, somehow this album found its way into an empty box destined for the dumpster. After work, it was an exceedingly simple matter to retrieve it and walk home. No one, not even my parents, was ever the wiser – except of course, me. 

I still remember my illegal act every time I hear any song from this album. Is this, perhaps, an underscore of the power of music?   

Being a product of the 70’s, and remembering the Vietnam war all too well, quite a few of my LP’s represent a protest of a time when war was in the forefront of so many minds. Perhaps most notable for me are actually two albums, Marvin Gaye’s landmark “What’s Going On” and “Woodstock,” a concert, and an album, devoted to “three days of peace and music.”

In fact, quite a few of my LPs affected me musically. I made the transition from heavy metal to jazz and R&B because of groups like Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Earth, Wind and Fire

Music may have even influenced how I dressed. In the 70’s, my friends and I listened to mostly the same artists. Those artists, so prevalent at the time, very often wore tie dyed T-shirts and bell-bottomed pants. So then, did I. Of course, dressing the way I did may have been a compliance with how young people of the day dressed. It was, after all, the 1970’s. Was music the real influence? Hard to say. What is absolutely true is one coincided with the other. 

My music library contains many vivid memories. Some of them are cherished occurrences, some are not. I look fondly today at those times so long ago now only a memory. I think of how music has for so many years been a part of my life and influenced many of my life’s events. 

Perhaps this is what music is really supposed to accomplish. We talk often about the emotional connection music provides. What we seldom discuss is the timeframe in which those connections occur. 

I now look at my music library, especially my LP library, in a completely different light. I remember both with fondness, and every so often melancholy, the stories my LP library tells. My perspective has been indelibly changed by these realizations. 

Best of all, it’s now much easier to find an LP to play. I no longer need wait for an album to yell “play me.” Now, they all have a story to tell. I’m better for it and I would not have it any other way. 

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