Here I am in line at register 12. My shift ended at 6 pm. I guess I’m being bad because I’m spending 40 bucks-well, 36 with my discount- on a turntable.
Yes, you read that correctly. A turntable. I probably should not spend the money but, I am sick of having almost zero joy in my life, plus, I still own vinyl.
A few months back my CD player died. I guess it didn’t like The Who cause it quit in mid-song. I don’t recall which one. I’d purchased a greatest hits CD from the $5 bin at work. They were such a great band.
I’ll never forget the day my friend, Pat, came into my work, at Winn Dixie (my dad called them Winn Chincy till the day he died) and calmly said, “Keith Moon died today.” I was instantly shocked and depressed.
Of course, The Who’s wild drummer lived life on the edge. He was given the nickname of, Moon the Loon. It definitely fit. So, it shouldn’t have been such a shock but, we were 18 and hadn’t really experienced losing a beloved musician yet.
We grew up in an era when rock and roll really blossomed. We had an amazing adolescent soundtrack. To list a small sample we had: Pink Floyd, Yes, Deep Purple, The Eagles, David Bowie, Santana, The Allman Brothers, Lynaryd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Eric Clapton, The Jackson Five, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jackson Brown, Fleetwood Mac, Queen. The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Bob Seeger and, of course, Led Zeppelin and The Who. Plus, we had some 1960’s spillover from the likes of The Beatles, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Guess Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, Traffic, Cream, The Yardbirds and The Kinks.
I’m not saying today’s music is bad. It’s not; there are a lot of great musicians today. I refuse to be one of those people who falls into the trap of espousing the the greatness of their youth while disparaging everything that came after. The art we experience at the time when we are forging our identities becomes part of us. It lives in our psyches; it’s imbued with, if we are lucky, happy, joyful or intense experiences. The music becomes a powerful force that is hard to ignore.
As I pushed my cart around Walmart after my shift ended last night and I came upon the turntable display and adjacent albums, I experienced a waterfall of memories: going to the beach at Indian Rocks, football games at Seminole High School (the one in Pinellas, not Seminole Counties), making fun of disco, learning to drive with one of the goofiest coaches who taught driver’s ed., smoking in the girls bathroom and getting caught by Dean Wysinger (she used to hide in the stalls by standing on the toilets and crouching down and waiting for the second or third cigg to be lit. We loved her for her creativity). It’s funny, I didn’t really like high school but, I loved our music and some of the intensity and experiences of that crazy decade.
However, the 1970’s were not paradise. Just for starters, women and people of color were even more marginalized than they are now. Advances in technology, medicine and science back that up too. For example, in 1975 I wouldn’t be sitting in a chair in my living room writing this on my smart phone while half paying attention to a show playing on my flat screen TV. It beats the hell out watching shows on tube televisions that are connected to rooftop antennas and that only receive four channels that go off air at midnight.
One of my most intense memories happened on June 3rd, 1977. Pat, her brother Bill and I had scored tickets (at $10 each. Yep, you read correctly) to the Led Zeppelin concert for that night at Tampa Stadium. We were very psyched. The stadium was packed with almost 20,000 more fans as their previous show in the same venue. That was in May 1973. It was historic. The largest crowd ever gathered for a single artist in rock and roll history. It shattered the record held by the Beatles at Shea Stadium. Zeppelin’s ‘73 draw exceeded 56,000. In 1977 the experience became historic for another reason: a riot.
The day moved on while we waited in our stadium seats taking in the sights. We marveled and howled over the couple dragging a full size mattress up the steps. Yep, they parked it a couple rows down in front of us. That turned out to not be the worst part of the evening. Thunderheads collided over the Florida peninsula in the typical Summer East meets West fashion that occurs almost everyday between mid-May and mid-September.
Zeppelin took the stage, the crowd went nuts and twenty minutes later everyone and everything, including the stage, was drenched by the violent downpour. It was obvious that the show had to take a break. As the rain pounded on we heard the horrible news that the show was cancelled and would be rescheduled. The Tampa cops began ushering out the 70,000+ spectators. Someone threw a beer bottle. Then another and another and a few more. Then it got crazy and a little bloody. I saw Tampa cops pulling people by their ponytails. It wasn’t fun or pretty. In the following days, the City of Tampa politicos banned Led Zeppelin from performing in Tampa ever again. Yes, they really did that. They really thought it was the band’s fault.
I never got to see a full show by my favorite band.
Flipping through all the vinyl in the cardboard bins in Walmart last night brought up a lot of memories of doing the same in record stores in Tyrone Square Mall in St. Pete.
Society is so different today. It’s so modern, until one day when it isn’t. In 20 years we will be laughing at the cheesiness of Hollywood’s computer generated images the way we all laugh at the cheesy (but endearing) old episodes of, “Star Trek.”
If I live 20 more years-and my goal is to croak of a stroke inside a college classroom at the age of 105-I will still be listening to Led Zeppelin and The Who.