Series #4: Blue Jays (5-4) vs.TampaBay– Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
I lived through a tragic epoch in music: the boy/girl group phase. Long on choreography, short on instrumentation, it was. Pop hits spurned out by auditioned-for conglomerate bands with ready made personalities. It killed grunge. It postponed the prominence of the independent label. And it allowed for the alt rock phase to flourish as a subversive undercurrent. Put plainly, I hated the pop music of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. As my old man used to say, “I would’ve rather listened to nails on a chalk board.” Indeed.
It wasn’t contrarian appetites that led me away from the popcorn bands of my youth it was honest-to-goodness taste. I liked how the vintage rockers sounded, their instruments serenading my eardrums with sweetness as tart and sugary as the coldest and dreamiest of slurpees. And I sucked it up too, fervently.
The first classic rock album I remember listening to, front-to-back, was The Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits 1974-1978. Not a seminal chart-topper, no, but a solid album nonetheless. It was an excellent précis to the Rock and Roll world: unimposing, welcoming, somewhat general. My parents’ record collection was mostly like this, greatest hit collections of legendary groups like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and The Eagles, surrounded by personal favourites like Electric Light Orchestra, America, and Nazareth. It wasn’t the most comprehensive collection ever but it was a good start.
I would listen to these albums over-and-over-and-over again, until I had every song nailed by its first bars. I remember once. I was up in my junior high girlfriend’s room and we were getting to know each other’s tongues. Nothing racy, really, we were fully clothed and way too young and awkward to be taking things to the next level. She put on a CD. Something by Destiny’s Child, I think. Beyonce’s signature velvet warble operated as maestro of our juvenile necking, “All the young honey’s makin’ money, throw your hands up at me.” Yuck. I couldn’t get down to that.
So I asked my tonsil hockey opponent to maybe switch the music to something a little more vintage. Face squishy and unimpressed, she rolled over, flicked off her boom box with her bedside remote, and then flipped on her little black cube of a television that sat on the edge of her vanity table to CMT. To her vintage meant what her grandparents listened to. Good thing was I could get down to country music no problem. First song off the hop started with the familiar patter of a rolling drum and then rambled into a sort-of putt-putt, stop-time high-eight. Almost instinctively I chortled with a Southern drawl out of the side of my mouth, “This is a story about Billy Joe and Bobby Sue.” A couple seconds later something called Julian Austin started singing The Steve Miller Band’s classic “Take the Money and Run.”
The girl – brown pony-tail, chestnut eyes, long, tanned athletic legs that helped her glide atop a soccer pitch with as much grace as I did my hands across her healthy stems – opened her eyes big and bright, kissed me, and asked: “How did you know that?” I flashed her a sly smile, and we fell into each other, voraciously. It was good.
Now, I sing the first line of every song I know from the first few bars. It irritates the hell out of some people, others find it charming. Nobody found it as sexy as that young girl did, but maybe one day.
I’ve taken to listening to classic rock radio at work. I like how predictable it is. It reminds me of home because I know someone in an Alberta warehouse, or auto-mechanics shop, or refinery, is listening to the exact same thing, at the exact same time. The resident rock radio station out here in Vancouver is Rock 101. They got this guy named Bro Jake who leads their morning show. He sounds like every other classic rock DJ there is. Apparently he does the voice of The Champ, and is related to a girl I went to school with once. They do not a bad job in the morning.
The guy I work with has gotten used to me wailing out the first few lines of every song, quick to needle me when I get one wrong. Others just tell me to shut up. No one has tried making-out with me.