For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her...
We live in an age of advanced entertainment technology, with HD televisions, 3-D movies, Wii's and PS3's and a host of hand-held game systems. And music has come along for the ride as well. From tiny transistor radios and unwieldy boomboxes we have quickly graduated to MP3 players, I-pods, Bose sound systems, and even listening to music via you-tube on our computers. But long before all of these shiny new toys, we had....record players. The 'suitcase' record player like the one below, on which my cousin Brenda and I listened to Elvis Presley in the 60's. We drank Coca-Cola in bottles, wearing our pedal-pushers, and sang along to In the Ghetto and Nothin' But a Hound Dog and listened in awe to the striking similarities between Kennedy and Lincoln's deaths in the 1966 hit History Repeats Itself, watching the 45 rpm records go round and round.
Then came the family stereo system, on which we listened to Mother's beloved Mario Lanza operatic arias and sang along to Christmas carols with Andy Williams and Bing Crosby. We carried out our Saturday morning household chores to the strains of Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. To this day, every time I hear the Bacchanale from "Samson and Delilah" I have an urge to grab a dustcloth and start polishing furniture!
And then when I turned 13, I discovered Simon and Garfunkel. Here's a copy of the first album I ever purchased, bought with babysitting money. I was so excited, holding the album in my hands in the record store, feeling so very grown-up. The simple beauty of poetry put to music held me in thrall then, and works its same magic now. My mirror may say differently, but everytime I turn on my (ahem...stereo purchased thirty years!) and let the lovely melodies of Scarborough Fair and Sounds of Silence fill the air I'm a young girl again.
Ode to the Vinyl Record
by Thomas R. Smith
The needle lowers into the groove
and I'm home. It could be any record
I've lived with and loved a long time: Springsteen
or Rodrigo, Ray Charles or Emmylou
Harris: Not only the music, but
the whirlpool shimmering on the turntable
funneling blackly down into the ocean
of the ear—even the background
pops and hisses a worn record
wraps the music in, creaturely
imperfections so hospitable to our own.
Since those first Beatles and Stones LPs
plopped down spindles on record players
we opened like tiny suitcases at sweaty
junior high parties while parents were out,
how many nights I've pulled around
my desires a vinyl record's cloak
of flaws and found it a perfect fit,
the crackling unclarity and turbulence
of the country's lo-fi basement heart
madly spinning, making its big dark sound.
What was your favorite album? Do you still have it? I may have moved into the CD and I-pod age, but I still proudly own all of my early records--Chicago, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Fifth Dimension! I hope you have a lovely day, in which you take time to listen to a favorite tune from way back when!