Genesis of a Snot Nosed Kid

11 Feb


In the beginning, there was only the quiet tinkling of a child’s mobile swaying in the breeze above my crib. And though the earth was without form, the sound of church choirs harmonizing and my Louisiana mom playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the piano could be discerned. Family witnessed this, and apparently said it was good.

And somebody said Let There Be Rock: and there was indeed rock. And the earth brought forth neighbourhood playmates, who made mention of things like KISS and THE EAGLES. And my parent’s copy of Jesus Christ Superstar (original concept double LP, London Records, 1970) was discovered, and subsequently played to death. And it was so.

And I saw it was good.

But there went up a mist up from an AM transistor radio, and it watered my ears something fierce. And the songs were believed by me to have living soul. And their names were as follows:

1. GLEN CAMPBELL – “Rhinestone Cowboy” (Rhinestone Cowboy, 1976) Probably the first song I remember ever calling a favorite – it was a desperate choice when cornered and questioned by a precocious Jewish friend of mine about my musical interests circa ’76. All I knew was that saying “Puff the Magic Dragon” wouldn’t make me look so hot; at least he didn’t laugh. Being a transplant from Dallas, I suppose it was easier for me to imagine what it might feel like to be a country boy with his feet in LA, like Glen. Today I don’t really approve of all this retro reevaluation of production-pop hitmen from the 60’s/70’s . . . but listening to Glen as a kid, in real time, as it was unfolding? Count me in, compadre.

2. FLEETWOOD MAC – “Don’t Stop” (Rumours, 1977) Me and my pal J. were inseparable for a couple years there in the late 70’s – we’d ride our bikes up and down the cliffs, explore uninhabited houses side by side, and rendezvous together with stolen matches to burn things deep in his backyard. But it was his family – dad always shirtless with waist-length premature grey hair, mom with bitter scowl and dangling cig, sis with fuck-it-all laugh and feathered rocker cut – that really tripped me out. My favorite memories of them were spent around the BBQ behind their house, when J.’s dad would drive his Lincoln Continental up onto the lawn, roll down all the windows, and blast FLEETWOOD MAC’s Rumours at full volume through the car stereo speakers. And oh my that party would start! J.’s older sis – totally hot in a pre-teen, 70’s rocker sorta way, dancing and singing along – she loved this one. So I loved it too.

You guys who don’t have any tangible memories from the 70’s . . . man I pity you.

3. CHEAP TRICK – “Southern Girls” (In Color, 1977) Close pal G., hip to rockin’ lightyears before me, played me this not long after it came out. I was in Heaven Tonight for weeks after. I longed to be stylish like pouty Robin Zander with his breezy hair and skinny, high-waisted pants, or downloose cool like Tom Petersson with his messy hairdo and fuck you expression. If I could’ve grown up into a teenager right then, I woulda somehow made sure this tune followed me everywhere I went.

4. STYX – “Renegade” (Pieces of Eight, 1978) What us little 8 yr old kids in the suburbs imagined punk rock sounded like, had we been aware of it, back in ’78. All that quiet, a cappella minor-key brooding, and then Aaaaaaaaah! . . . the scream. Oh man. I admit everything after that was a major comedown, but so what! You’d just pick the needle up, drag it back an inch, and BLAMMO! I’d be in the clouds for another 40 seconds or so. Me and G. would put on our buckskin fringe hacking jackets (please, don’t ask) and make up cool dance routines to this one – at least until his older brother would come in and for no good reason try to wrestle me to the ground. Still STYX, for one brief second, were it.

5. BILLY JOEL – “My Life” (52nd Street, 1978) An Armenian kid I knew turned me on to this and later Glass Houses, for which I thanked him dearly for a year or so. This is the closest I ever veered to something kinda/sorta annoyingly STEELY DAN sounding. But it was also the first rec I bought with lyrics included. Other than my couple-year fixation on BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN in ’84/’85 and a similar period locked on NICK CAVE in the later ’80s, I’ve rarely paid this much to lyrics since. Can still remember every second of T. spinning this while I followed along closely with the lyric sheet . . . though I also clearly recall his wildeyed dad walking in and slapping the shit outta him for “mishandling the turntable.” Oh man that kid had fucking great reasons to hate his parents.


15 Responses to “Genesis of a Snot Nosed Kid”

  1. mark February 11, 2009 at 8:24 pm #

    Did you get to drive that car? Wow!

  2. mrowster February 11, 2009 at 8:27 pm #

    Nah – I don’t even think I ever sat in it. Just listened to it.

  3. mark February 11, 2009 at 11:15 pm #

    First record I ever bought (begged, pleaded Dad for it): Spinners, Rubber Band Man. No shit.

  4. Jay February 11, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    Yeah, you and I are pretty much the same age, and these were all touchstones for me as well. I’ll add that I used to listen to and write down Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” EVERY WEEK and the song that was #1 the first time I did it was “New Kid In Town” by The Eagles. This was 1975. I’m proud to say that I thought it sucked then, too, and I was only 8. Another big one for me was “Ballroom Blitz” by The Sweet; one time as a young lad I was singing it at the top of my lungs (the whole “and the man in the back said everyone attack…” part) by myself in the garage, dancing around by myself like a crazy man, when I looked up to find my mom standing there, totally perplexed. Total, utter embarrassment. At least it was mom.

    Finally, a big one in Sacramento, where I grew up, that was played about every sixth song on KROY, was Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around & Fell In Love”. I can sing that note for note, word for word, even now. I even sort of like it.

  5. Dave Lang February 11, 2009 at 11:28 pm #

    My first was Ace Frehley’s solo album on cassette! Still got it 29 years later! I HATED Billy Joel even as a young, young man. When you’re young you have a tendency to like ANYTHING w/ a sweet melody, but I guess hearing things like Billy Joel was the first time my BS detector ever went off. “Hmmm… this melody is nice, but I STILL hate it!”

  6. mark February 11, 2009 at 11:45 pm #

    Still in the New York Groove!

  7. Rick February 12, 2009 at 1:22 am #

    i loved that glen campbell album. so much so that i talked my mom into taking me to see him play when we all happened to be in vegas at the same time that summer. technically, that might have been my first “concert.” steely dan doesn’t deserve to be involved in a comparison with billy joel.

  8. butcherbaby February 12, 2009 at 6:40 am #

    full confession: i rediscovered “rumours” and realized i still love it. and i’m pissed because the cassette broke so i can’t listen to it in the car anymore.

  9. mrowster February 12, 2009 at 8:48 pm #

    Hell – The Spinners, Elvin Bishop, Ace Frehley . . . you boys all got me beat. Nobody would’ve fucked with you at my school with them acts tucked in your pocket.

    ButcherBaby: that Rumours is a trippy rec, since nearly EVERY song therein was a hit. A pop extravaganza for sure.

  10. mark February 12, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    Mike, did you read the book about Ivers yet? There’s a funny story about him opening for the Rumours era FM at the Hollywood Bowl, in which he did his entire set dressed in his characteristic diaper! Can you imagine the hash heads’ reaction? Must have been funny!

  11. Dave Lang February 12, 2009 at 11:54 pm #

    I only discovered Rumours about ten years back, when I found a copy for $2 and just thought, what the fuck, I’ll buy it… and I gotta say I really love it, and it took me YEARS to admit it. Had I been a Masque regular in ’77 decked out in black stovepipes (dream on!), I’m sure I woulda thought a whole lot differently, but those were different times and lines were being drawn in the sand as to what side of popular culture you stood on. 32 years later, it still remains a masterful pop creation, no matter how many douchebags swear by it. The Eagles, however, deserve no such revisionism: they STILL blow!

  12. mrowster February 13, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    Mark: I think I’ll have to double my efforts looking for that Peter Ivers bio. Diapers are a sadly underused fashion accouterment.

  13. mark February 13, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    There are New Wave Theater clips on Youtube in which PI is wearing his diaper, I think.
    As a drummer, I can appreciate Mick Fleetwood. That said, I got so tired of hearing Rumours, just from my parents constant rotation of it, for years. That one and any Santana. I’m grateful that they played Songs in the Key of Life, though. Secret Life of Plants, not so much. Or Tusk.

  14. nazz nomad February 18, 2009 at 6:14 pm #

    My first car was a 67 Plymouth Fury (obviously, extremely used). Great car for a punk kid- made of Iron, couldn’t wreck it, huge back seat, etc). Finally died one blizzardy nite driving back from a Husker Du/Minutemen gig (it actually caught fire due to a blown engine).

    And I recently heard Rhinestone Cowboy in some bar… I knew every word to sing along to!

  15. mrowster February 18, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    Nazz: my first car was a green ’73 Chevy Nova w/ V8 engine – lowered 3 inches in the front, raised 6 inches in the back. It looked fucking tuff, but oh man it was SHOT. I’d barely coax it back home from San Pedro on a good day.

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