We didn’t grow up with much music around. The parents had a record player but it was typically only used to play a couple of Christmas albums. Mom would listen to the radio but it was an AM station that played very little music. In the car, if Dad couldn’t find a ballgame on the radio, then we drove in silence.
I can’t remember how and when we first “found” music. I do remember buying 45’s when we were in the 10-12 range. If you didn’t grow up with actual records, then you missed out on the whole speed thing. Albums played at 33 RPM while the singles we bought played at 45 RPM and every old record player had a way to control the speed. There was also 78 RPM which was used for much older records. So, while we liked the singles, as kids it was also fun to slow them down or speed them up. The 78 speed always made every song sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks.
My older brother was the first to really get into music as a teen. He bought the first stereo system. That was something of a right of passage in my day. Back then, we had several stores to choose from so you’d pick on and go in and be amazed by all the set ups and, of course, you had to crank a few just to see what they sounded like. Then you could be talked into buying the bigger speakers because you had to.
Having helped friends move across town in my early 20’s, I remember that the stereo system was the first thing to be moved and set up. I mean you needed tunes as you were hauling in boxes and furniture and things like that. The problem is that if you dropped a piece of furniture too hard, the record would skip and that was never a good thing.
In my early 20’s, it was all about the hair metal. That’s what we listened to. But there were certain albums that it seemed everyone had to have. One of those was Aja by Steely Dan.
The album cover had some mystery about it. You’ve got half a face and then those red and white stripes going down. What the heck were there? And Aja – which is similar to Asia but really didn’t mean anything. It was kind of fitting for the album because a lot of the lyrics seemed more like random collections of words. Not a lot of story telling going on there.
And it was totally different from the guitar based stuff we normally listened to. Even though it came out in the late 70’s, we were still playing it in the early 80’s.
With records, you had to pick a side and the second side had the two most popular songs “Peg” and “Josie” so it got most of the airplay. The first side just had three songs and two of them were more than 7 minutes long so it was kind of a commitment to play the first side. But the first side had some of the lines that have stuck with me. Take you big black cow and get out of here. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide, call me Deacon Blues. (Told you they often didn’t make much sense).
CD’s came out some time in the early 80’s. By then, you’d gone through multiple needles for your turntable and several records had scratches or skips. (Perhaps coming from dropping furniture in a move or by trying to position the needle over the one hit you wanted to hear). For us, the CD was a big step forward even though I know there are those who prefer the sound quality of vinyl. Was never sophisticated enough to really detect that difference.
It made it much easier to play only a song or two or to go through all the tracks without having to get up and flip the record and start over again. That’s where the first side of Aja got more airplay. It was still a commitment because now you were going to go through the entire album. (And, yes, we still called them albums for the longest time even though they were on discs). But when you wanted the right mood, Aja was the go to.
Now, as a dancer, my mind tends to jump to “what dance can you do to this” when I hear a piece of music. I not exactly sure that Aja would fit any particular style though. Still worth listening to after all these years though.