Recorded music was always a standard at our house and my parents were children of the 50’s and 60’s, so that music was usually Rock ‘n Roll. My parents were fans of three- and four-part harmony, so the Beach Boys and the Beatles were king (no offense Elvis)! Mom also loved the harmonious vocals of the Mamas and Papas, the Carpenters and the smooth crooner Johnny Mathis, to name a few. Those were the records I cut my teeth on, so to speak.
Thankfully, my parents never got into disco, and there is a stretch of the mid-to-late 70’s where we listened to mostly Christian artists, Keith Green, 2nd Chapter of Acts, The Archers and The Imperials…but I digress.
My early childhood was spent listening to Meet the Beatles, Rubber Soul, Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In fact, my neighborhood pal Mike Moffet cut a guitar out of a cardboard box and would jam along to Sgt. Peppers ad nauseum. I often accompanied on air drums, yet even I at 8-years-old was better than Ringo.
As I got older and learned of the “secret death of Paul McCartney,” Mike Myers and I would scour dad’s Beatles collection for “clues,” even attempting to play certain records backwards to find “hidden messages.”
My parents bought me a record player for my 6th birthday. It was my favorite present. The bike they bought me sat unused for many years, but that record player was nearly worn out by my 8th birthday. Some of my first 45” singles included Heart’s “Magic Man,” Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” Manfred Mann's "Blinded By The Light" and Starlight Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight.” The latter is the funniest considering my age and naiveté about anything sexual.
As disco was dying a slow, painful death during my junior high years, I was heavily influenced by an uncle, only four years my senior, who had begun amassing a collection of rock albums by Led Zeppelin, Journey, Foreigner, Toto and Styx. These were the musical influences that shaped me through my adolescence. Ah, the good ol’ days!
Toto, Foreigner and Journey were the bands that provided a soundtrack to my early attempts at drumming. Yes, the uncle who helped shape my musical tastes at decibels unsafe for veteran baggage handlers also had a drumset in his basement. I tried like hell to keep up with drum gods Jeff Porcaro and Steve Smith, but “Hot Blooded” was more my speed in those days.
Steve Smith was the drummer for Journey at the height of their career in the early 80’s. And just when I was getting familiar with FM standards “Wheel In The Sky,” “Anyway You Want It” and “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’,” Journey released a live album that blew me away. It was right about that time I was allowed to go to my first rock concert at IU’s Assembly Hall. You guessed it, Journey was the headliner. They were on tour with a new keyboard player who sported a crimson red baby grand on loan from IU’s School of Music, no doubt. They were playing new songs from their Escape album, like “Stone In Love” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” It was a dreamlike experience for a novice rocker and prepubescent 8th grader to be sure.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a bit more about the influence of Keith Green in my musical past. His piano-driven pop/rock was my introduction to “Jesus music” and really was very good. Well, his first two albums produced by Bill Maxwell, who is also an accomplished drummer and added his chops to those albums, were very good. Then, Keith got kinda full of himself and took over and the albums went downhill. That, and his career was cut short by a tragic plane crash in Texas. Still, his first album For Those Who Have Ears To Hear molded my softer side and helped give me an appreciation for piano as a percussive force in rock music.
My next entry on this topic will delve more into my evolving musical tastes through high school and my passion for darker music that aligned well with my testosterone-driven teenage angst. Until then, keep your feet on the ground…just kidding. Rock on!