Music Memory Lane

I like a lot of different music. When I was little, of course my first musical influence came from my parents.

My father was born in 1916 in rural Western Oklahoma, so his biggest musical influence came from Country & Western. His favorite was Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys with Tommy Duncan doing songs like "Take Me Back To Tulsa", "Faded Love", and of course "San Antonio Rose". He would also watch Lawrence Welk with my mother.

My mother, on the other hand, grew up in Western Montana, Northern Idaho, and Eastern Washington. She also played the sax in high school. So her musical taste were a little different from my father. She liked some classical, and the musicals, Rodger's & Hart, and Rodgers & Hammerstein. From her I heard Robert Goulet singing "Camelot" and "If I Would Ever Leave You" and George Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue".

My father also had a truck shop and some of the mechanics were Hispanic, so I got exposed to KAMX on the radio, playing out in the shop. I didn't know what the words were, but I liked the music all the same.

The first live music I remember was going to the New Mexico State Fair and catching the rodeo concerts. I would get to go by myself. I can't imagine a ten year today getting to go to these events by themselves. There I heard acts like Marty Robbins, Glen Campbell, Roger Miller, Lynn Anderson, Tanya Tucker, and my favorite at the time Charlie Pride with "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" and of course "Is Anybody Going To San Antone". I like song's like Robbin's "El Paso" and Campbell doing Jimmy Webb songs like "By the Time I Get To Phoenix", "Galveston", and "Wichita Lineman."

After my ride through the country my best friend, Ron Pino, exposed me to rock, with a little help from his older brother, Carlos. First it was the writings of Bernie Taupin, the lyricist of Elton John fame. (Elton owes so much to Bernie!) Then we migrated to harder stuff like The Who and Led Zeppelin.

One day when I was eleven (1974) I was hanging out in the neighborhood. John Castillo, who was high school age, asked if I wanted to go to a concert. He pulled up in his Chevy van and the sliding door rolled back, smoke rolled out. I didn't directly smoke any, but being in that van with about eight other people I didn't need to, I got high anyway. We went to Tingley and I saw my first rock concert. It was Nazareth ("Love Hurts") and the headliner was "Walk This Way" band Aerosmith.

Every child should be exposed to all forms of live music. My parents never took me to any shows per say. The first country shows I saw were because dad might have wanted to watch a little rodeo. But mom never took me to a classical show. I tried some band at school, but I didn't stick with it. But live shows, with passionate players, what power in live concerts.

My trip down the rock trail would lead me to RUSH. I like songs that have cleverly written lyrics and a strong melody to match. Songs that tell a story. Groups that do this well are STYX and RUSH. I also like songs that are uplifting and just make you feel better. Journey and Boston do this well, and songs like Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs". When I was young I made fun of this song, but later I came to like it.

To me music is the widest spread art form. It is the art form for the common man, or every man. Not everyone appreciates poetry or painting in their pure form, not instantly, but poetry or painting in a song they love. A blue-collar guy might night like the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, but he probably likes some kind of music.

Well written lyrics by new rock musicians, that I like, would include Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, Rob Thomas from matchbox twenty, Brad Arnold - 3 Doors Down, Scott Stapp - Creed, and Adam Levine of Maroon Five, Jewel, John Mayer, and many others.

But of all the lyricist I have come across, I keep coming back to Neil Peart. First of all RUSH is my favorite all time band. Zeppelin, Journey, STYX, Carlos Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Nickelback are close, but RUSH is on top for me. If you took each band/artist and broke them down by segment, say lead guitar, bass, drums, vocals, lyrics, melody, etc., and then rate them, RUSH would score very high. Alex Lifeson is considered one of the best guitarist around, (try "La Villa Strangiato" / although guys like SRV, Santana, Eric Clapton, Jimmie Hendrix, etc., might score higher). Geddy Lee can play a mean bass, some songs have a really strong bass lead. Not everybody loves Geddy's voice, but I do, it's is different, but lets be different. Then there is Neil, not only is he one of the best drummer's around (try "Bravado" / here again you have Mick Fleetwood, Phil Collins, John Bohnam, Bill Bruford, etc..), but also he is a poet in rock if ever there ever was. This guy can write a story in a song. When I first heard the album Moving Pictures, it was a moving picture, the entire album play's like a futuristic science fiction movie. Add up all the parts and it's RUSH for me. You can tell that there is some real intellect going on with these three guys.

Don't get me wrong, there is something to be said for the raw blues power of more simplistic music that uses the base human emotions of sex and love, music from guys like B.B. King, SRV, Muddy Waters, etc., but music can be smart also. Raw music with passion gets artist out there, bands like the Rolling Stones, and U2. A lot bands change over time. The first three RUSH albums are very different from the science fiction and politically influenced ones that came after. These first three are more raw with human emotion, more geared toward the instruments than the lyrics. But once a group "makes it" they can stay home, quit their day job, and polish the music, and the lyrics. Journey pre-Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain is a vastly different group than what came about once they appeared on the scene. Van Halen with Sammy (Hagar) is more polished band than the Diamond Dave (Lee Roth) version. My favorite Zeppelin album is number II, with it's heavy influence of raw Southern Rhythm & Blues. By the release of number four you can tell that there is now money, nicer gear, and the use of strings to aid production. That doesn't mean the music isn't good, it is just different, and it is less a "we're starving in the garage, little clubs, and the little van" production, than before.

There is something about music when it has this basic power of human emotion. From a technical standpoint it may receive a lower score, but when most everybody can identify with it, and it is just raw, with either passion or power, it can be good medicine. Take RUSH's "Working Man" or "Finding My Way" from the first album (Titled: RUSH).

Looking further at Van Halen; while their in-studio production did go up with the arrival of Sammy and fame, something seem to be missing. Even though the later material had more polish to it, I like the earlier stuff better, and while some of this might be attributable to Eddie's continued drug use, intelligence also probably has something to do with it. RUSH got smarter, Van Halen just got more produced. Of course maybe being smart enough to stay away from all those drugs is part of it.

Final tought: music can mean so much to people, and each of us like it differently, for different reasons, moods, at different times.

ROCK, or JAZZ, or CLASSICAL, or whatever....ON...!!!!!!

Currently listening:
The Song Is You
(Review: Michael G. Nastos @ Allmusic)
By: Stan Getz
Release date: 1969
CD release: September 17, 1996
Music mood: Jazzy Memory Lane


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