Road trips always get me thinking about music. So I hope you will indulge me in another reflection brought on by time spent in the car with Rosebud, my trusty iPod.
To put this one in proper perspective, I go back to the Spring of 1969. I was in the third grade. My father came home from a Washington, D.C., record store with two albums that changed my life. Well, at least made a deep impression.
The first was Bill Cosby’s comedy album, To Russell, My Brother Whom I Slept With, and maybe one day we will get back to that. I still have the whole thing memorized.
The other album was extraordinary for so many reasons. First, it was the first double album I had ever seen. Two whole records in one cover that split into two parts. Pretty amazing. Second, the cover was entirely white, including the title, The Beatles, in raised white lettering. I had never seen anything so radical in my lifetime of nine years, especially in the 1960s when everything was shocking pink and lime green. Finally, the album came with four 8×10 glossy head shots of the long-haired musicians. When I discovered these, I swiped them and tacked them up on the brand new yellow and green daisy wallpaper in my room.
At age 9, my friends were listening to The Archies. I don’t know what their parents listened to, likely Pat Boone or maybe the New Seekers, but I can guarantee no one’s parents listened to The Beatles’ so-called White Album, released in late 1968. Mine did. We all loved it. Maybe it was the snappy piano intro of “Martha My Dear,” the show-tuney sound of “Honey Pie,” maybe the animal noises sprinkled into “Blackbird” and “Piggies.” Or the simple melody and chord changes of “Mother Nature’s Son.”
The first song I memorized was “Rocky Raccoon.” What a great story. It was the first time I had ever heard of Gideon’s Bible.
At 9, I understood very little about what was going on in the world and didn’t understand intellectually what most of the lyrics meant. Still, the music made me aware on some level. As it does now, the song “Julia” tore my heart out, even though I had no concept of the nature or depth of the romantic angst the song captures.
When I listen to the White Album, as I did on a recent long car ride, the images of the 1960s flash before me. The music and lyrics are relatively simple, but they evoke vivid memories. Volkswagen Beetles, avant-garde displays in Georgetown storefront windows, the psychedelic pattern of my diary cover. Men with long hair. Incense. Laugh-In, which I only saw in black in white until we got our first color television in 1970.
There really is no point to this. Except maybe to suggest you pull out your copy, pop it in (or on) and see where it takes you.