Note: Ray asked me to post this on his behalf...
OK… I was born (1969), breed, live and will probably be buried in Philadelphia. My father played drums in various combos that would play up and down our part of the East Coast. My mother, after countless afternoon jam sessions, dinners consisting of substantial drink followed by multiple sets into the night decided early that music was not something she particularly cared for. My father, who had since given up playing prior to my hatching, maintained a love of the distorted loud tune (more so that he tended to play our family stereo at a volume the speakers were incapable of sustaining). This was generally manifested itself in drunk Saturday afternoon sessions of Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash and as the 70s wore on, ABBA, Tony Orlando and Freddie Fender. No matter the year or day these events usually ended with Happy Louie and Julcia's Polka Band. Polka, while perhaps never loved, has been a part of my life since my grandfather sat me on his bar before I reached my first birthday. This performance dates from 1995 but the energetic Louie has been performing since the 50s.
Two of the first albums I ever “owned” were given to me by some aged great aunt. They were Dumb Ditties and Funky Favorites – both collections of novelty tunes. I would bop around to The Purple People Eater, Junk Food Junkie and the like. A stand out then, a still a favorite today is what I suspect is a classic – “Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop” by Little Anthony.
I grew and soon decisions had to be made. At a certain age you are what you listen to. Your choice in listening pleasure was a defining characteristic. In my neck of the woods there was a line drawn between those who worshiped at the altar of Yes, Genesis, Rush and the like and those who embraced Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and their ilk. It was imperative that a side was chosen and, more importantly that a favorite was picked. You couldn’t necessarily have the same favorite as anyone else and your social ranking determined your draft position. For me I fell into the later category and my pick was that combo from Birmingham with the dashing, and fabulous, lead singer wrapped in leather. On another related note this was the first album I very bought on my own and it started a few years of fascination with the metal genre. From Diamond Head, Venom, Axe Witch and lord knows how many other acts. I still cart around boxes of this stuff that only sees the turntable on blurry Saturday nights when Mrs. K. has gone out about by herself. There is a good deal I may be ashamed of but there are also many records I still love.
I was quickly immersed in the listening scene. I wanted to hear new records (though admittedly my palette was narrowly limited). Friends would buy records, we’d trade them and tape them, and move on. One record could result in an additional 8 or 9 once all the trading and taping was done. I have an older cousin (approximately ten years senior) whose house we would visit on holidays and other family functions. When I was younger I would want to run in their yard but now I wanted to thumb through my cousin’s record collection. Two records had an immediate impact and changed the way I would see my musical landscape. Though I was late to the party in both cases I was no longer trapped in the Tolkienesques world of early 80s metal.
By the time of my last year in high school I had seen a number of shows at the Spectrum, the Mann and the Tower Theater. In my senior year I discovered two things – one was City Gardens (folks in the area know what I’m talking about) and that I could get into JC Dobbs without a fake ID. Changed my world… no longer was I subjected to watching a band from rafters, trying to make out who or what was on stage. Now I could easily stand just feet from the band and feel their sweat. The first act I ever saw at Dobbs was described as cross between T-Rex and the Rolling Stones. Not sure if it was apt, or if they are really any good, but they worked for me at the time and take me back to some glorious days.
I also saw what I still consider the best most fun band I’ve ever seen. Probably saw them more than anyone else (they seemed to play Philly every four or five months).
Quickly to seven and I’m not into really that far into the 90s where I discovered and loved so much. Still I’m treating this as an inspirational list – which is odd as the Velvet Underground is glaringly omitted. But as much as I love them they were always an artifact… a lovely and amazing piece of history. I knew they somehow encompassed a good deal of what I found myself looking for in music. I will however end this list of eight with a track from a band that owed a great deal Reed and Company. Luna (more so than Galaxie 500) has never been far from my turntable from the time their first album came out to the present. They could be epically subdued.
Looking back at the list I don’t think I’d consider them all my favorites, but at the time they were all game changers in one way or the other.
If I were to bring a book it would be Joseph Mitchell’s “Up at the Old Hotel”. An incredible collection of portraits and characters that made me nostalgic for a time I never experienced.
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