Music is an important part of my life. I don’t have the talent to actually play an instrument, and as my grandmother once said to me, “You couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket.” I don’t even lip sync well. In spite of . . . or maybe because of that, I appreciate talented musicians.
My tastes deviate from the mainstream. I’ve commented on this blog about having found great radio stations on our Alaska trip, something seriously lacking in Phoenix. That wasn’t always the case however. In the early part of the 70’s under Bill Compton’s leadership, KDKB was a station that had a ‘free form’ radio format. That was a radio style from San Francisco’s ‘hippie’ era. A set of music might contain The Beatles, followed by a classical cut, followed by Jessie Winchester, followed by someone obscure. Some of the sets were theme based while others were dependent on the DJ’s mood. It was KDKB that introduced me to Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, both of which we lost in the past weeks. Today’s commercial and computer generated radio stations don’t teach anyone about music.
If you followed folk music, you knew the songs of Leonard Cohen. Numerous artiest covered his songs; Judy Collins to U2. His voice was an off-put to some, but I found it gritty and honest. Besides, the songs weren’t lullabies.
It was March 1976 that I attended my ‘best ever’ concert at Phoenix’s Celebrity Theater. It’s a 60’s holdover theater in the round where the stage slowly spins and most of the audience is close to the stage. Because of its size, the acoustics are easily overwhelmed by amplification (Larry Gatlin was the example I remember), but it works for an intimate group like Mr. Cohen’s. It was the last stop on his tour, so all the road’s technical bugs were worked out and the performers were relaxed. Each song brought enthusiastic applause and there were multiple curtain calls. After clapping till our palms blistered, Mr. Cohen returned alone to the stage and apologized that he had no more songs. Then he explained, “This is the last stop on our tour, and we too hate to see it end. We have nowhere to go tonight. Would you mind if we did the show again . . . from the beginning?” As I already said, the theater is easily overloaded with loud noise. The second show was even better than the first; I think it was because we knew we were witnessing something special. The concert finally ended a 3:18 am.
Leon’s music I enjoyed on KDKB, but never enough to run out and pick up an album at the time. A couple of years ago, I was flipping through the used record bins at the record store and happened across one of Russell’s albums in the ‘R’ bin. I thought to myself, “This was part of my life.” It was only three dollars, so I bought it. When I got it home and put it on my system, I was at first amazed at the production quality. Then the music started to flow it disappointed me that I’d waited so long to add it to my collection. Only recently I read about his career and how he contributed so much to the music industry.
It’s sad for me to look around to find those who’ve joined me on my life’s journey are falling to the wayside. It’s inevitable, I guess. If you’re a reader from a younger generation, none of this must seem important to you. Too soon, you’ll find people who influenced you will be gone from your life and you’ll find your immortality vaporizing (also, take care of your teeth).
Friday night is the night that the Queen lets me enjoy my scotch and listen to my music. She doesn’t have the patience to sit, listen and study the albums, so she either goes to the library or out to her girlfriends. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. In addition to cooking a rotisserie turkey breast, I told Anne that my chore for the day was to assemble and tune the turntable. I already know Friday’s play list.
Till then – jw