My first post on stereos and music, “Sanctuary For The Restless Male Mind,” was a brief heads-up for a series of posts on a topic that will be of interest to many people: music, and especially the stereos that most of us reproduce that music with. With that in mind, here we go:
My first encounter with stereos was with Mom’s Philco console stereo, which looked something like this:
Mom had come from a humble French-Canadian background, and becoming an administration Flying Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) back in the 60’s saw her receive a meaningful pay check for the first time in her life. Quite reasonably, she treated herself to the Philco—turntable, AM/FM, amplifier, and speakers, all in one convenient and handsome cabinet.
Dad was (and remains) a Johnny Cash fan—how many of you have a parent who’s seen both Cash and Buddy Holly, live? Mom had Elvis and Edith Piaf albums. So I have fond recollections of hearing albums like these:
When I was around 10, I received a plastic Sears turntable as a Christmas gift. I haven’t been able to find any photos of it, but this will give you an idea of the sort of thing that I had:
I remember listening to my Elton John’s Greatest Hits album on it. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and “Benny & The Jets” were part of my cultural upbringing. I also had a fantastic used Guess Who album that an Uncle had given me. “No Sugar Tonight” and “American Woman” were also staples. Yes, there was a time before Lenny Kravitz, way, way back in the distant past.
My broader exposure to music, though, really began as a kid of just 13. Remember this made-for-TV movie?:
Yes, Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park was an incredible experience for a young 13 year old lad in the not-cosmopolitan locale of Canadian Forces Base Summerside, Prince Edward Island, back in ’78. And, sure enough, didn’t one awesome S. Claus leave this album for me under the tree that Christmas morning?:
I was into skateboarding, back in the late 70’s. After Summerside, Dad was posted for a year to the even more not-cosmopolitan U.S. Navy Facility in Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada. It was actually a great place for a kid my age, and with my subscription to Skateboarder Magazine, I was introduced to aspects of skateboarder culture, which included picking up Blondie and Nazareth albums after reading reviews of them.
1980 saw us move to the outskirts of broader metropolitan Halifax, Nova Scotia, at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater. By working a few part-time jobs, I saved enough to buy a Lloyd’s all-in-one stereo, just like this:
Not only did it have an automatic turntable (which would shut itself off after playing an album) and AM/FM receiver, it also had an 8-track player. You haven’t heard music until it’s been interrupted by the massive KA-CHUNK of a mid-song track change. As I began working at a variety of jobs in my spare time, I could afford to explore music a little more. I was also going to concerts with high school friends, when major acts would condescend to play Halifax: Ted Nugent, Van Halen, etc. I’d normally go to bed after throwing a final album on, and fall asleep listening to Led Zeppelin or Queen.
Any of these seem familiar?
Little did I know that these formative music-stereo years were to stay with me for the rest of my life, as my tastes and experience and knowledge grew. It wasn’t until around 2000, however, with the discovery of one unselfish and dedicated audiophile’s website that I learned what true high-fidelity audio was really about. Forget all about the fancy magazine adds and the “amazing” 1,000 watt amplifiers at your local electronics shop. You’d be amazed at just how much musical information and emotion are actually hidden in those mysterious vinyl grooves. You just have to know how to coax those delicate little musical bits out.
TO BE CONTINUED…
P.S. I listened to an audiophile re-issue of The Wall last night, for the first time since high school. Wow. It was spiritual in a cerebral sort of way. For those of you who’ve had an advance read of my book The Mirror, I think you’ll see some of the lyrics from The Wall in a whole new light, especially the parts dealing with “mother.” I’ll have to write a post about this, someday. Fascinating.
P.P.S. Look what I’ve just found on 180g vinyl and ordered! Eva Cassidy on vinyl! Her singing is so beautiful, it can bring tears to my eyes, may God rest her gentle soul.