Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Influential Albums Day 5

Day 5

This is the fifth post in a series of ten documenting the albums I consider influential. My first post, found here, provides some insight into the rationale behind this journey. The first album I selected was the Soundtrack to "Oliver", which I discovered in 1973 at about age 8. My second choice can be found here and was The Cars Debut album. The third selection was "All the World's A Stage" from Canadian band Rush (found here). The fourth, Duran Duran's "Rio" is (here).

The story behind this album actually begins in the late 70’s when I was about 11 or 12 in the small, lakeside farming town of Kingsville, Ontario. I had made a friend with a guy named John who was a couple years older than I. He lived on a farm near Windsor, but often stayed at his grandparents’ place about a block from my home during the summer.
He was usually up to no good and I certainly made some dubious choices with him. One summer morning, he arrived at my house with $20 and suggested we walk into town to the pool hall - where we could play pinball, pool & video games, get ice cream and talk to girls. I was nowhere near the “talking to girls” stage of my life. Regardless, the other two options were entirely in my wheelhouse.
On the third day this happened, I asked him where he was getting the money.
“I stole it”, he said plaintively “my aunt is staying with my grandmother and she is rich - so she’ll never notice. I just take it out of her purse, she has lots.”
At this point in the story, I would like to say that I took a firm stand and refused to condone this nefarious act; but, video games and ice cream do something to the 12 year old brain - it’s like hypnosis.

By day 4, the jig was up. To his credit, he didn’t tell on me. His grandparents really liked me and I think he wanted to keep that relationship honest. Regardless of the reason, he took the fall and had to stay at home and do chores in order to begin his reparations. I volunteered to help him (once again, not out of honour or duty...but because I was bored and there was no one else to hang with).
That evening, we got permission to walk around the block. John wanted to go to this house where “The Bikers Lived”. In retrospect, it was a couple guys with long hair, handlebar moustaches and motorcycles. However, in my adolescent mind, they were Hard-Core Outlaws. I was always extra-intimidated when they weren’t outside because John always insisted on knocking on their door - which was exactly what he did on this hot summer evening.
They invited us in and John immediately began talking about motorcycles with them. Their living room looked exactly as you'd imagine if I said the words 
“Late 70’s, twenty-something, bachelor pad.” 
It was beanbags, bead curtains, shag carpet, empty beer cans and posters on the wall - mainly women in bikinis straddling Harley Davidson bikes and (likely) the ubiquitous Robert Crumb "Keep On Truckin" poster that adorned many walls of my youth.

However, there was one that I had never seen before - it had a shiny black background and a single shaft of white light thrust from the darkness on the left. It traveled upward and pierced a white triangle. The light disappeared, but re-emerged on the right of the triangle in fan of spectral colours. It was, of course, the album art for Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” I knew this at the time, because that was also printed on the poster in glossy, bold lettering.

For the next few years, I would identify Pink Floyd as being: “Music that biker’s liked”, and I would give it a wide berth. I was content with my Supertramp, ELO, Rush and Cars records, thank you very much.
It was a few years later. I was in my room doing homework and listening to late night rock radio.
At first, there was silence, like dead air… and then I heard something primitive, but absolutely beautiful in its simplicity begin to radiate from my tiny transistor speaker. Almost imperceptible at first, a rich synthetic, but also orchestral, hum grew slowly - like electronic vines creeping through my synapses. It was simple, but also seemed to be complexly layered - with the sound of fragile chimes whispering like dusty windswept glass in the distance...there, then gone.
The first time you truly “hear” a song, time seems to move more slowly. This was one of those times. It was like floating comfortably through a warm pool toward a distant, pleasant light. I stopped everything and was entranced.
The notes would modulate ever so subtly, but always find their way to a perfect, albeit temporary, resolution...and then a guitar, playing a simple series of four notes that seemed to ring out and fade at the same time. I don't think I did anything but breathe for the next 15 minutes.

It was the opening to “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” from “Wish You Were Here” by, that "famous biker band", Pink Floyd. My world was shaken and I was forever changed by this album (as well as everything else by The Floyd). I wore out at least two cassettes of this on countless bus trips around the city in my early teens. I have purchased it on vinyl and CD and I have been fortunate enough to see both Roger Waters & David Gilmore in concert on a number of occasions. Sadly, the line-up that recorded this record disbanded in the early 80’s and I did not seem them all play together. Pink Floyd have a stellar catalogue - but this was, for me, the high water mark.
So, thanks John. Despite your troubled ways - which eventually led us to part company permanently, you were a pivotal part of my youth and an important part of my taste in music. And, thank you anonymous biker guys (who are probably pot-bellied grandfathers in their mid-sixties now). Thank you for introducing me to Pink Floyd.

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