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My first exposure to rock and roll was when I was five years old. My parents took my brother and me to visit family friends. It was 1955 and rock and roll was in its infancy. Our friends had older children and one was playing “Great Balls of Fire” on their record player. I can still hear Jerry Lee Lewis and his piano antics. It caught my ear and, at five years old, I was hooked on rock and roll.
I got my first record player when I was nine. The first record I got was “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” and I started rocking from there. I liked all of the Johnny Horton tunes because they had to do with history, from “The Battle of New Orleans” to “Sink the Bismark,” he made me like history. During those days Ray Stevens was good for the fun tunes like “Ahab the Arab” and “Harry the Hairy Ape.”
I was thirteen and a classic city boy. I was already collecting memories of a misspent youth. It was a Sunday and I was spending my church collection money at an old pool hall in the city. All of us guys would be there shooting pool in our Sunday best. It was there that I heard a song called “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” It was different, the sound was brand new. I loved every song on both “Meet the Beatles” and “Beatles 65.” One of my favorites was “Anna,” a song that is rarely played, even during a Beatles show on the radio.
That started the British Invasion and I was listening to The Who, The Kinks, and of course The Rolling Stones. I’d even throw in Herman’s Hermits, Pete and Gordon, and Chad and Jeremy. I was going to add The Bo Brummels, but I realized that they were an American group from San Francisco, but I did like them. Their tunes “Laugh Laugh” and “Just a Little” had a haunting sound.
In 1965-66 I was treated to something a little different with Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs doing “Wooly Bully” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” I always liked tunes that were out of the ordinary.
Then it was on to the age of rebellion; Woodstock and the summer of love. Bands like Steppenwolf and Black Sabbath lit up my record player. Even grittier bands like The Fugs and G.T.O. (Girls Together Outrageously) blurted out lines that shocked even us wise guys.
In the seventies this wise guy became a married man with children, but rock was still with me. I still loved the albums that rocked out like The Who’s great album “Tommy.” But some of the mellow songs were also catching my ear. James Taylor could calm me down like no one could.
I was in my thirties in the eighties and I was now sharing rock and roll with my kids. I felt like I might be getting too old for the hair bands like Deaf Leopard and Poison, but I would pick up on a song or two. I was brought back by Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler’s great guitar work. Then I heard a band that became one of my all-time favorites. From “Smoke on the Water” to “My Woman from Tokyo,” Deep Purple kept me rocking toward middle age.
In this time there was also fun music from Weird Al Yankovic. His “Running with Scissors” CD was one of my favorites.
I kept going through the nineties with alternative rock warriors like Third Eye Blind, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Bare Naked Ladies. Third Eye Blind’s tune “How’s it Gonna Be” became my inspiration for writing my novel “The Long Journey Home.” It was fun trying to get all of the words to the Bare Naked Ladies’ tune “One Week.” It reminded me of doing the same thing with the Spoonful’s “Some in the City,” and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
I hung in there with alternative rock through the beginning of the century and for a few years beyond. I like bands like The Killers; they were still rocking. I have since drifted away. There still are alternative bands that are probably really good but I don’t listen to those stations anymore. It was mainly the DJs that turned me off. Their antics always seemed to be about laughing at someone or some group for not being cool. I guess I’m just got too old.
The guitars are now gone from most of the radio music; it seems the disco machines have returned; but like Bob Segar said, “Rock and roll never forgets.”