When The Kid was in middle school, if there were a few minutes to kill at the end of class, one of the teachers had a game. He’d play short snippets of songs from the 70’s or 80’s and the students would attempt to “Name That Band”.
The Kid participated three times, then was prohibited from playing again.
The reason? The Kid smoked those classmates like a Smithfield ham. My child was infallible. And with this walking database competing, the other students never stood a chance.
The lifetime ban was imposed on The Kid; but the fault lay with me, my mom, and my big brother, Homer.
Since birth, I was around music. As a teenager, my bobby-soxer mom rushed home from school each day to watch American Bandstand. In those days, the show was on live from Philadelphia; Mom lived about an hour away. A very young Dick Clark was the host (think Ryan Seacrest with more teeth, hair, and charm), and they had a regular cast of dancers. My mom knew the name and back story of each one.
So, I was bathed in fifties rock and roll from birth. I was the only toddler on the block who knew the difference between Chubby Checker (The Twist) and Fats Domino (Ain’t That a Shame, Blueberry Hill). In kindergarten, my heroes were Captain Kangaroo, Chuck Berry, and Bobby Sherman (I thought he was cute).
Then my brother became a musical mentor. At seven I was convinced Rod Stewart and Janis Joplin were siblings because they had similar gravelly voices. I loved The Band’s album, “Music from the Big Pink”, because I was enchanted with the idea of living in a pink house. My favorite songs were the Beatle’s “Maxwell Silver Hammer”, never knowing that the catchy tune was about a violent lunatic on a killing spree, and “Cecelia” from Simon and Garfinkle, blissfully unaware of the equally adult theme of desertion by a faithless lover.
I started high school just before the premiere of MTV and videos of popular music. If I wasn’t watching music on TV, I was listening to it on the radio or my bright yellow portable cassette player. One of my very first dates with Petey was to a Rod Stewart concert (Here’s something both crazy and heartbreaking: the tickets were $8 each).The Kid was born to Cab Calloway’s “Minnie The Moocher” and raised with all kinds of music. At 4, my child became the coolest kid in preschool when our family went to an Aerosmith concert. Whenever we were in the car, the radio was on, and music from the 70s and 80s was playing.
And, we were playing “Name That Band”. Which brings us back to the middle school prohibition.
So, there has been a soundtrack to the whole of my life.
But here’s the thing. I can’t sing, and my musical ability is nil. Despite a year of lessons, I can neither play the flute nor read music. To play a tune, I manually counted out the note on the sheet music, then looked up the fingering. In that manner, it takes about six weeks to play the opening to “Silver Bells”. My band teacher kindly suggested that during concerts I replace my flute playing efforts with motion, but no sound.
In response to earnest familial entreaties, I have promised to never sing out loud.
But if Sinead O’Conner’s belting out “Nothing Compare 2U”, Billy Preston’s crooning to “Mrs. Jones”, or Foreigner’s singing anything, all bets are off, and they know to cover their ears, and/or leave the room.Thanks for your time.