Monday, September 21, 2009

Guilty Pleasures and Off The Beaten Path

Music, as we all know, is very personal. Those who don't like music can't appreciate what music can do to the soul. We can develop such an attachment to a song or album for a memory or a special time and place that we may never want to hear it again when circumstances fall apart.

Oh, I can appreciate that. But that's not the point of this. That's a post for another time.

Tonight, while making dinner in an empty house, feeling kind of empty inside, I decided it was time for music. There have been stretches where I just felt like maybe I didn't want music. Not that I didn't want to hear it; I just wasn't quite into discovering and such. And yes, painful memories were often attached.

Understand what a departure that was for me. I was, and probably still am, the DJ of this family. I've DJ'd a wedding, and was probably the "music director" for another. Oh but when times are grand, I can't get enough. I could tell you about a recent long trip home from a southern city when I rocked out and was in fantastic, Rock Band quality voice, thank you very much!

I'm getting off track. Let's go back in time...

1984. Still, to me, one of the landmark years in music. Bruce and "Born in the USA", MJ and "Thriller", Price and "Purple Rain", and OF COURSE, Huey and "Sports." And others. Maybe not your taste (or mine) but it was a year when music was explosive.

My love of jazz, and a good pop song, melded together as Joe Jackson (not Michael's dad, and not Shoeless) released the album "Body and Soul." Most notably on the album was the single "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)", which topped out at number 15 on the US charts. I can remember hearing that song so clearly during our ninth grade trip to Washington, DC (one of my "coming of age" moments). Still, one song wasn't enough for me to buy the cassette, LP (that's a record, kids), or that new-fangled CD thing. I was not aware of a casette single (or cassingle) for the track.

(Note: the author did not own a CD player until late 1988)

My basic rule: one track that I like...not going to buy the album. Two we might have something. Three? A must-buy!

It took until sometime in the 90's, when I noticed that Record Town, in the Jefferson Valley Mall, had a discount bin of old cassettes and low and behold, there sat "Body and Soul." I don't think it cost me more than five dollars (and might have even been $1.99). So the price was right, yet all I played was "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)" until finally, one day, I convinced myself to give the rest of the tape a spin (work with me here; it's a metaphor).

I liked what I heard. I also decided that this album was one of those that "belongs to me." What I mean by that is - think about it - how many times have you been among other people, and music comes up? So you start know the drill now. Sometimes it gets personal. Yet if you say "Joe Jackson", you might get a reaction (and I have friends who would definitely respond). Now, drop "Body and Soul" and you might get looks (in our latter day, known as "WTF?")

Bottom line: if somebody is scanning my CD collection (or looking in my iTunes) I almost guarantee that they won't be asking me to burn "Body and Soul" for them.

As such, this album is mine. A guilty pleasure, with punch-in-the-gut hurts like "Not Here, Not Now" (hiding a crashing relationship) and "Be My Number Two" (moving on, perhaps not so gracefully). Yet there are some happy bouncers, like "Go for It", with a personal favorite line:
"Think of Babe Ruth and you'll think of hot dogs and beer. But if he can hit a home run, so can you, and your weight is just nowhere near."
A more complete review of the album, from Rolling Stone, is here.

This is hardly the only album I have like this. In fact, I'd probably say I have several. Sure, I've got the no-brainers, like "Born to Run", "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band", "Hotel California" "Exile on Main Street", "Dark Side of the Moon", and so on, but I also have these strange, offbeat albums that seem to strike a different note. I know I'm not alone in this regard.

To repeat: music is very personal.


Jon said...

As you know, I have A LOT of albums like this. I usually shy away from giving people a "top ten favorite album" list, b/c it will just lead to a 15 minute discussion on who a lot of the bands are, or more often than not, blank stares. :-)

Rob Adams said...

You were one of the people I was thinking of when I wrote this, so I knew you would understand.