by Lorin Stein
For Christmas this year my parents gave me a record player, the kind that lets you (some of the time) record your old vinyl onto CDs. I'm no audiophile. I never had a record collection. I am the least musical person I know.
That's why this machine has been a revelation.
I started by burning a few of my parents' records. My father's are the ones I remembered best. He's an old folkie—he chauffered Joan Baez to the '64 Newport festival in his hearse and sometimes claims to have taught her "The Long Black Veil." His tastes followed what was, I think, a typical arc of the day (a sort of Ann Beattie soundtrack) from folk blues, to Baez, Dylan & Co, to the McGarrigles and Muldaurs, to Nashville. By the time I came along, the radio dial was permanently set to the local country station. I was intimately acquainted with Merle Haggard's catalogue by the time I learned to talk. (There are words I remember learning from his songs.) I suspect George Jones may have done me permanent developmental damage.
My mother's tastes included all that stuff but also ran to classical music and rock and roll (Buddy Holly, the Everleys). Plus reggae. After she and Dad split up, The Harder They Come went into eight years of heavy rotation. In recent years my mother has become an outspoken devotee of Van Morrison—Van Morrison of any era. My stepfather, when he came into our lives, was mainly a jazz and R&B guy. From his cache I burned Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, some Lou Rawls, Gil Scott Heron, Roberta Flack, The Blackbyrds' "Rock Creek Park" (I had my first kiss in Rock Creek Park—alas, it was nothing like the song), Mandrill, Bobbi Humphrey, Aretha, Stevie, Earth, Wind and Fire, Ramsey Lewis. ("Muzak," Mom sniffs. But I like it.)
MORE ON MUSIC:
Joe Fassler: Daytrotter: Where Good Music Gets Saved
Sam Machkovech: BitTorrent Sites: How the Internet Makes Us All DJs
Alex Eichler: The Joy of the Hype Machine: Music Ex Machina
My parents also own a bunch of hippie rock. They never played it when I was a kid—they had, I suspect, outgrown it, as people used to outgrow the music of their youth. I found much of it unlistenable. (What is Canned Heat for? Don't say getting stoned. I know about getting stoned. I do not want to get stoned and listen to Canned Heat.) There is some very stupid hippie rock.