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Posts Tagged ‘classical music’

These days, the mind has time to range every which way in time, and my thoughts recently turned to those who influenced my taste in music. Here are the major ones, all well before I graduated from college.

First must be my dad, who used to strum his acoustic guitar and sing for us from his Sing Out! magazines of folk music. “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” “Reuben James,” “The Wabash Cannonball,” “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream,” and all of that great stuff. He also spun a lot of Beatles records and turned us on to classical music.

sing out reprints

My elementary school music teacher, Mrs. H, with her wide eyes, also stirred classical imaginings in us. Portraits of the great composers graced the wall she stood in front of while she taught us to play “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder and xylophone, or guided us on the most atmospheric of experiences, the “Danse Macabre” of Saint-Saëns, which we played out every Halloween.

There were her Christmas/Holiday Programs, where each class took their turn on the risers performing a holiday classic, or something new. We sang “Winter Wonderland,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” complete with top hats and white gloves. And in 5th grade, we sang an original composition that started with, “The little lord Jesus asleep on the hay…”. There were feature songs where my clarinet-ing was even allowed; they conjured up images of winter and Hanukkah. After each class performed their song, they filed over to the holiday tree and placed ornaments we’d made in Mrs. S’s art class. Oh the glitter and the glue!

We had songs in our textbooks too, going back to first and second grades, “I’m gonna put put put on my walking shoes / I’m gonna but but button up my coat / I’m gonna walk right across the land there’s lots of things to see / And if you want to you can walk with me / Walk with me, walk with me, walk with………me!”

Classical also benefitted from the Hooked on Classics record series. I had no idea this guy was the conductor and arranger for ELO’s orchestral elements! Melodies still pop into my head and segue into the melodies they segued into on those records, often having no idea what the pieces are. They’re just stamped on my brain.

My mom had her share of influence too, driving us as the did on various errands throughout the day. It was 70s and early 80s radioCarly Simon, Kool & The Gang, Ambrosia, &c.that was soundtrack to trips to soccer and tennis lessons, Jewel-Osco, Nichols Library, the Y. Imagine something like this.

We’d stay at my grandparents’ in Ohio, and eventually one got to spinning the records stored indoors or in my grandpa’s workshop attached to the garage. My grandpa might have suggested Louis Armstrong, and he had a few brittle Big Band 78s I still possess, but it was more the records left behind by my aunt and unclesChad & Jeremy, Marianne Faithfull, Paul Mauriat, The Kingston Trio that scintillated my ears.

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Beautiful cover from the U.S. release of her first album (from discogs.com)

There was also a great double album Glenn Miller memorial collection, opening the way for Big Band music galore a little down the road.

Somehow or another I got to buying 45s and LP records too, gleaned from radio listening. I remember mowing the lawn with my Walkman headphones on my ears, listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown. Early MTV had its place too. 104.3 and its oldies; 94.3 and its even olders. The cassettes I recorded direct from radio with songs like “Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs and “Cinnamon” by Derek!

Just as important, my friends BB and DH, who got me into rap in a big way. That first tentative buy of Raising Hell by Run-DMC, the sophomoric sonic boom of License To Ill, scouring record shops for discs by spray-paint-scrawl Techno Hop records and the endless appreciation for record scratching, including trying to imitate it. Cool creations by Mantronix. Public Enemy. Some conventionality arose as well, as someone kept playing Milli Vanilli and such things.

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One of a few great Techno Hop records (from discogs.com)

Later, as high school ended, a new awakening. Alternative music groups too many to even begin naming. Two seminal, immortal “miscellany” tapes from MD, different schools of thought embodied by EJ, RJ, GU, and the rest. My sister’s equally immortal mix tapes, she and her best friend lending me tapes, copying music for me.

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A smattering of tapes from the time

What heady Curefriend days those were! This carried forward into college, accentuated by school breaks and dozens of letters and little packages sent back and forth. And I can’t forget the colorful reference books I inhaled, on British beat groups of the 60s, on alternative rock. I’d just roll the names of the groups and songs over in my head time and again, and sometime was even able to listen to the actual music. A trek to Woodfield Mall to buy (and hear) my first Jam album was one such incident.

What a wonderful time. No wonder my heart and mind still return to it, and all of those that went before.

Oh, and have you voted in the Signac puzzle piece poll yet?

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