March 14, 2009
Can you remember the first song that truly grabbed hold of you and made you listen? There are so many songs, so many artists, that when one connects with you it can seem to change your life. And maybe it does just that.
I grew up in a house of sound. My father was a drummer in a high school rock band in the 1960’s. He had The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and so many other iconic musicians to emulate. He always had music playing. My mother was devoted to the Motown sound with acts like The Supremes and Stevie Wonder. So my life has had a soundtrack from day one. But when does music truly reach a child? I would be hard pressed to pinpoint an age. Some kids may pickup on the rhythm at a much earlier age than others. Even though I was surrounded by great music, I couldn’t grasp it until I was around 13. I knew I liked certain tunes earlier, but no song really spoke to me until then.
1983 will never be remembered as any kind of musical milestone. Synthesizers ruled the airwaves and style was coveted much more than substance. Never the less, this was when I had my awakening. I was up late watching Friday Night Videos (MTV was growing, but my area was not a big cable market yet). My music video fix came from late night TBS out of Atlanta. There it was! I was only half listening while talking on the telephone, but it made me stop mid sentence. The sound was like nothing I had ever heard before. It was synth heavy, but not quite like all the pop bands I was used to hearing. It was “Little Red Corvette”, and it was hypnotic. The sultry groove and suggestive lyrics reeled me in almost immediately. I even forgot I was on the phone. I just went silent. My friends voice brought me back to the present and I told him to turn on his TV. He wouldn’t want to miss this.
I had heard Prince songs a few times before, and I liked his sound. But this was different. I was at The Arrival, my local record store, the very next day. Marty, the owner of our little towns only record store, reminds me of John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity. He was almost a recluse and not liked by most of the parents in my town. He always had incense burning and his walls were covered with concert posters and fuzzy black-light “art”. I never saw him partaking, but I am positive he was high most of the time. He had, regretfully, only ordered a handful of copies of Prince’s 1999. They were sold out! He promised to hold a copy when he got a fresh shipment, but that may be more than a week away. What could I do? I needed to hear that song again.
Fast forward to a week later. I am sitting in front of my TV on Friday night. In my hand is a small cassette recorder. These are truly desperate measures. I am on a mission. No telephone calls to distract me. No bathroom breaks or trips to the kitchen either. I just sit and wait. After an hour or so I dozed off. And wouldn’t you know it…I wake up just as my song is going off. Damn! I had missed my opportunity. Would I really have to wait another week to get “Little Red Corvette”?
I decide to make another trip to Marty’s store on Saturday. He is not sitting at his counter. A very mellow chick is there, twisting her hair and talking on the phone. I walk past her and straight to where Prince should be. No 1999. I mill about for a few minutes and stop at the counter. Mellow chick is off the phone and offers to help me find something. I take a shot and ask about any Prince records. She contemplates, while twisting her hair some more, and tells me that Marty is upstairs sorting a shipment. Maybe he has some up there. I don’t get too excited though. I am starting to feel like I am chasing the wildest of geese. That is when he pops his head out and tells me he has something for me. YES! Today is going to be a great day.
Not only do I leave the store with 1999, but Marty comes through with Controversy as well. I run the three blocks home. I can barely breathe when I reach my porch. I go straight to my dad’s stereo and replace his The Guess Who LP with 1999. Where is “Little Red Corvette”? Ah, here it is. I just step back and listen. It is so much better than the low-fi TV version. I crank it up and play it again, then again. I call my friends to come over and listen too. I am hooked. I eventually get around to playing the entire album. Luckily my folks were out for the day. If they had been within earshot I am sure my “obscene” treasure would have been quickly removed and used as a Frisbee. But in that instant I was ecstatic. I was truly a fan for the first time. The music was talking to me. And what it was saying was that I had found “a love that’s gonna last”.