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, I recently interviewed my 51year-old father in reference to his high school and college listening tastes. Briefly speaking, his tastes were – and still are – diverse. In high school, for example, he was a fan of the typical Top 40 rock ‘n roll, such as Grand Funk Railroad and James Taylor. In college, however, he started listening to more “progressive rock.” His use of the term “progressive rock,” though, does not have a precise definition. According to him, it was a very broad term for several styles of music; including folk, rock ‘n roll, and R & B. It was hard for him to describe exactly what connected all the music he listened to, because it was such a large variety. Apparently, one of the reasons for this variety was that the radio stations were growing out of the Top 40 style. The stations simply weren’t as predictable as they had been ten years earlier. Around the year 1975, the stations started becoming more predictable again, but not as much as radio stations are today. In any case, the radio was his primary source of music – which was fine, because it played so many different kinds of music. Other than listening to the radio, his music consumption came simply from listening to his or his friends’ records. Eventually, near the end of his college years (the late 70’s), cassette tapes started becoming popular. The radio, however, remained the greatest source of listening pleasure, simply because he and his peer group didn’t have money to spend on records.
The variety on the radio worked for my father because he enjoyed so many different elements of music. He liked songs that had a “rockin’ beat,” but at the same time, he enjoyed slower songs. For the most part, his opinion of a song came from the music itself, and not the social context of the song. Although, the social message of the song was sometimes important, depending on the mood. Groups with good singers drew a great appeal from him. On top of that, he also liked songs that he could dance to, and on a related note, he always had a good time going to rock ‘n roll clubs. Because of his level-headedness, my dad’s musical tastes were never affected all that much by the media. As I already mentioned, the biggest effect the media played was what songs were played on the radio, and still then it depended on which songs he heard and liked. He had no problem, however, with turning off the radio when he didn’t like what was being played. Luckily, the radio did a good job of playing all sorts of music, and not just “forcing all the same crap down people’s throats.” He really only needed to listen to two or three FM stations to receive a well-rounded sound. The radio wasn’t what diversified his tastes, though. He had been in choirs for church, high school, college, and so forth – and that was what gave him a truly ranged style. It exposed him to many different types of music, including pop, sacred, barbershop, and theatrical music. According to my dad, he and his friends’ parents were scared of newer styles, such as heavy metal. They didn’t like it because it was noisy and related to sex and drugs. Parents thought that listeners were actually doing all of the bad things connected to the style of music – and, to an extent, this was true. Especially in college, when he would go to parties where all the kids would be playing loud music, drinking beer, and smoking marijuana. However, he says that it had always been like that, and the music had nothing
to do with it. College kids had always done those sorts of things, and it just so happened that they were also listening to metal and other new music. It wasn’t the music that actually had the parents worried. It was the youth movement; that not only incorporated music, but sex, drugs, drinking, and all other kinds of illegal and “immoral” activity. He recounted how amazing it was to hear the Woodstock album for the first time. At Woodstock, they had a large variety of music. He didn’t attend personally, but it was memorable all the same. He also went to a concert at the Old Cleveland Stadium. Jesse Colin Young and his band opened, followed by The Band and Santana. The headliner act was Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. This concert gained an attendance of 90,000. The tickets were general seating, so everyone tried arriving early. It started at 2:00 in the afternoon, and it finally ended at about 11:00 that night. Most of the audience was smoking marijuana. All the food in the stadium had to have been gone by the end of the show, according to dad. The best part happened after CSNY had played three or four songs. It started getting dark. The band had lights on the stage, but underneath the roofs in the seating sections, they had very powerful light bulbs. All the light over the seating was very distracting from seeing the stage. Not too long after, the audience began chanting, “Turn off the lights! Turn off the lights!” Unfortunately, nothing happened. Eventually, what with so many people being high, some maniac crawled into the rafters and climbed to where the lights were. Taking off his shirt and wrapping it around his hand, he actually started unscrewing a light bulb! When the first bulb went out, everyone cheered. This began a chain reaction of audience members all over the stadium crawling in the rafters. After about an hour, all the lights were unscrewed. Someone was even
stupid enough to not use his shirt, and dad said people could see the smoke coming up from his hands as he unscrewed the bulb. This took place around 1975. The concert featured over eight hours of rock. He remembers hearing about other concerts that required crowd control. There was a concert in Cincinnati where the crowd mobbed up against an unopened gate (probably because it had general seating, and they wanted good seats). They couldn’t open the gate, but two or three people got smashed to death against the gate. In the 70’s, Cleveland was a big rock town, and every group came through town, knowing that if they came they would sell out. My dad still listens to a variety of music, but he mostly likes to listen to classic rock. It stirs nostalgia and makes him feel young – which is probably one of the biggest things that older people find objectionable to younger music. They don’t like it because it makes them feel old. They can’t relate to or understand it. Now, as he’s older, he also realizes how silly some of the music was, and how full the era was of immorality – despite how much cleaner the lyrics were than what is around today. He particularly liked James Taylor, Elton John, Leon Russell, Don McLean, Harry Nilsson, and Sha Na Na (they played at Woodstock). He wasn’t too key on The Rolling Stones, but everyone in a garage band could play their stuff. Also, where there was Rolling Stones music playing, there was always fun dancing. My dad would always say, “The Rolling Stones are the world’s greatest garage band.” However, he hated the Stones’ singing and appearance. He continued to say that The Eagles were great and they released lot of good hits and that Stevie Wonder had always been making good songs, and he had a great deal of talent. My dad also liked Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie. As one can
see, he had a very diverse taste. Along with the rock, he also liked slower romantic stuff. For a while, he didn’t really like The Doobie Brothers, but started getting into them when he met my mother. He did, however, really like The Who, partially because they always put on a good show. Everyone liked Jimi Hendrix: apparently, it was considered heresy to say anything bad about Hendrix. In Hendrix’s short career, he turned out some pretty cool stuff. My dad also liked The Beach Boys, as well as Motown, in high school. Starting around 1974 or 1975 (this went on for a while), there was an old hippy guy named Murray Sahl. He’d do a couple wacko shows on Sunday mornings. On Friday evenings at about 5:55, on WMMS, they’d play a song called “Friday on my Mind.” Then Murray would come on and do this “Salute to the Weekend.” He’d tell people to “spend some cash and have a bash!” He’d go on for a couple of minutes, or if he was in an unusually good mood, for ten minutes or more. When he’d get done, they’d play “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. This ritual would kick off the weekend every Friday in Cleveland, to get people in the mood to go out and party that night. One time, my dad met Murray at a concert with The Tubes. The Tubes was a wacko band from San Fran; their first hit was titled “White Punks on Dope.” Again, even though the Tubes were relatively obscure, they still sold out because the concert was in Cleveland. So, as a result of this concert, my dad met Murray. It was a very memorable event. That kind of thing, according to my dad, is probably as memorable as anything that went on in Cleveland. In summation – to use my father’s own words – listening to older music “reminds him of his misspent youth.”
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