I grew up at a rural boarding school in New York's Hudson Valley. The formative years were 1976-1982, before I went off to boarding school myself. The students in those days still wore their hair long, and the girls favored long overcoats and fedoras. I idolized the high school students who were actors, and the ones who played guitar on the steps of their dorms and faced their huge stereo speakers out windows towards the quad.
Disco was dead on arrival, but not the Grateful Dead, nor were the Talking Heads. Classic Rock was not yet a commercial radio format; it was what your older cousins or big sister turned you on to, before they left home and moved on to new sounds.
Back then you discovered new music in used record stores, from dorm mates who hailed from hipper locales, or over the weak signal of some backwater college radio station. Forget about wanting my MTV; there was no cable and barely any television reception so we went without. We traded tapes until the clones lost all fidelity. We taped pennies to the stylus to hold the groove.
Today my vinyl sits in the attic, waiting for me to gather up the components needed to reassemble an analog stereo system with those huge, Boston Acoustics speakers from my parent's living room that now sit mute and unconnected. I bought my last vinyl recording in 1989 - a used one at that from Plastic Fantastic Records store, that one-time music collector's mecca out on the Main Line. I'm not sure what market there is today for an original recording of Bob Weir's solo album Face, but I have it upstairs, along with lots of other music from my youth that was old even then.
I have written before about music as touchstones of the past, reflections of the person and the place I was at the time. If I find myself driving along, up and down the dial, and suddenly I hear "Rudie Can't Fail" or "Like a Rolling Stone" - or, God help me, "Sugar Magnolia", then I drive down other highways of the mind, back in that familiar groove when I was 12, or 16, or 20. I am still a tourist, though, an observer from the future, when the switch gets flipped and the music comes from "another times forgotten space."
The soundtrack of my life today is much harder to pin down. The source material is different, for one thing, and my environment is not rich in new sound. I am singing more, though, as often as not around a reenactor's campfire - "Give me the punch ladle, I'll fathom the bowl" - and sometimes lyrics of my own devising. You won't be hearing any of these on the radio, though they sometimes find their way onto Youtube.
I still love a righteous groove, plenty of bottom, and hot horn hits. I'm partial to songs that last more than 3 minutes. In this age of earbuds and bowling alone, sometimes I want to lift the sash and let some mighty music off the leash. Perhaps on the first warm day of Spring, when all these pupating houses disgorge their blinking butterflies, I'll find what is hip in the old vinyl stacks.