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Locked In A Decade: The Music Of My Youth

Not too long ago, Ginger Baker died.

Whenever I think of Ginger Baker, I think of my brother, Paul. Whenever I think of Paul I think of my heroes. Whenever I think of my heroes, I think of how attached I am to the music of the 1970’s.   

I am a few years too young to appreciate the brilliance of Ginger Baker. I always loved his name, one of the coolest rock and roll names ever; right up there with Ozzy Osborne.  

My brother Paul introduced me to all things rock and roll, wiring up his own multi-speaker sound system in what had been my dad’s library in our Southern California home back in the late sixties. I was around ten years old, and Paul would take me into his audio den and say, “Listen to this—it’s the best music ever.” Then he’d put on a record and turn the volume up as high as it would go. A song like “White Room” from Cream, with Ginger Baker on drums, would blast through my entire being with lyrics I couldn’t help but hear but in no way comprehend.  

In a white room with black curtains near the stations
Black roof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings,
Silver horses run down moonbeams in your dark eyes.
Dawn light smiles on your leaving, my contentment.

What the heck? I was just a kid. I didn’t understand this at all. But it was loud, and it was cool.  It was cool because Paul shared it with me. White Room was followed by selections from Jimi Hendrix and bands with names like Bubble Puppy, Deep Purple and The The. All of it mind-numbingly loud. All of it indescribably awesome.

As I went through my teenage years, I lived my music life vicariously through the music adventures Paul had. I claimed them as my own and wished for all it was worth that when I got old enough, I’d have great music adventures as well. It was his girlfriend who lived in an apartment upstairs from Steve Perry, the Steve Perry who later moved away to join the band Journey. Paul saw The Doors in concert, went to Frank Zappa’s house, and saw the rock opera Tommy performed live by The Who in London. He’d come home and talk about these adventures and in my imagination, I was there too.   

Eventually Paul married Steve Perry’s former neighbor and moved away. I went to college where I began, slowly but surely, to gather my own rock and roll stories. I studied very little, drank way too much and experimented with things that upon reflection I shouldn’t have. Back then the university I attended had a football stadium but no football team, and so most weekends the venue was home to a rock concert. I remember seeing the bands Small Wonder, UFO and this newly popular band called Fleetwood Mac at a concert there. I knew Fleetwood Mac from Paul’s music room.  But this band didn’t sound anything like that one had.  And because of that, Fleetwood Mac was mine and not my brothers’. I felt a bit like a music traitor, but I liked it.

I got heavily into what was called progressive rock, particularly bands like Yes and Gentle Giant. We had a small FM radio station in the area that played the music I loved; you know, cool songs for college kids. The station would do great things like play entire albums such as “Fragile” from Yes and “The Year of the Cat” from Al Stewart. It was just like being in Paul’s music room, as I’d plug headphones into my stereo receiver and turn the volume all the way up, destroying my hearing and still not understanding lyrics at the same time.

A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace,
And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace,
And achieve it all with music that came quickly from afar,
Then taste the fruit of man recorded losing all against the hour.

What the…?   

I’m now over sixty years old, and I still love the music from my college years. I’ve been to more than a hundred concerts and have met some rock and roll legends in person.  With few exceptions, not much music since then interests me. I seem to be stuck in a music time warp, an appreciation bordering on fanaticism that extends to music released from the late sixties to the early eighties.  Give me “Old Time Rock and Roll” over “Old Town Road” anytime. I don’t understand a lot of what was being said back in my time warp, but I sure do like it.

In fact, one my greatest pleasures is discovering music these days from back then that I’ve never heard before. Recently I’ve been listening a lot to amazing music from John Stewart, Roger Hodgson and Arlo Guthrie.  

Guabi Guabi kuzwan le toum diome
Ize les gambi shooey entana
Guabi Guabi kuzwan le toum diome
Ize les gambi shooey entana

I recently drove through the city where that university was, and on a lark decided to try to find the FM radio station I’d loved while at school. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d listened to FM radio. I found the station and was sad but not surprised to find they were no longer playing the music from my youth. Instead, they were playing cool songs for college kids. As Joe Walsh once so famously sang, “Everybody’s so different, I haven’t changed.”

Feeling nostalgic, I later looked up Al Stewart on the internet to see if he was still alive. I sure loved “Year of the Cat.”  Not only was he still alive, he was scheduled to perform in concert near my home, with another of my recent music discoveries from the past, Roger Hodgson. I went to the concert and it was incredible. Then I learned that back in the day, the time when Al Stewart and the band Yes were fresh and new, the keyboard player from Yes, a man named Rick Wakeman, performed on a song I’d never heard of called “The News from Spain.” Listen to this, particularly the piano at the end of the song. THE NEWS FROM SPAIN-AL STEWART WITH RICK WAKEMAN. I just love finding new old music.

In the great song, Young Americans, David Bowie asks “Where have all papa’s heroes gone?”  

Many are gone. Many are still around. All are locked into the music in my brain, singing lyrics I rarely understand. Why? Because my head sounds like that.

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Glen Granholm
Glen Granholm
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