I can remember cruising the town square in Princeton, windows down in Greg’s “Smoky and the Bandit” Firebird TransAm, Boston 8-Track blaring through the night sky. It was like having an older brother away at college who’d take me out partying and let me do all the things I wanted to do. It was sex, drugs and rock-n-roll…well, sort of. Substitute pornography for actual sex and liquor for drugs and, well, you get the picture.We used to wear out the 8-Track player in his TransAm. Boston’s debut album, Styx The Grand Illusion, the Cars’ debut album and various mix tapes were our cruising music. When he traded up for a white TransAm, we added Billy Squier, Sammy Hagar, Loverboy and more Journey and Foreigner to the soundtrack of our teens. Only this time, the 8-Track player had given way to the cassette.
I had another musical mentor, but he was a grade school and high school classmate who lived down the street from me. Steve Mascari had two older siblings. He cut his teeth on his brother and sister’s massive record collection. Steve was also a budding musician who usually had instruments in his basement on Winston Drive. He broadened my musical horizons, introducing me to the music of The Who, The Police, Yes, Genesis and a Canadian trio who was just beginning to get heavy rotation on FM radio. No doubt, there will be an entire entry devoted to my favorite band of all time, Rush. Steve and I met in fifth grade at Saint Matthews. It was the only year I attended that school, but he and I became musical buds. From then on, most of my relationships were dependent upon a mutual love of all things rock. Steve’s influences ran more along the prog-rock vein of the 1970’s. His siblings had the older Styx albums, The Who, Rush, Genesis, Kansas, Yes and the like. I learned to appreciate concept albums, epic songs that could take up an entire side or an entire album, multiple time signature changes, keyboard solos (well, sort of) and sophisticated drum solos. My jaw nearly dropped when I first heard Neil Peart’s solo on the live version of YYZ (Exit…Stage Left)…yes at Steve’s house.
My musical tastes were expanding. I even learned that headbanging would play a part in my future, thanks to Steve’s parents and their introduction of cable TV to my world. In the early 80’s, we could spend mindless hours watching MTV on American Cablevision in the Mascari basement. After granting access to the extensive album collection at their house, the Mascari’s now offered MTV, Little Caesar’s pizza and rides to high school. Yes, those were the good ol’ days.
Prior to my exposure to MTV, the only hard rock/metal I had been exposed to was music by AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne. That reminds me of another darker influence on my life…the high school youth group at Central Baptist Church in Broad Ripple (now Trinity at Westfield and Central). The rabble-rousers there, most of whom were a few years older than me, listened to REO Speedwagon’s Hi-InFidelity, AC/DC’s Back In Black and whatever else would set their parent’s ears ablaze. I befriended one of the few kids my age and Owen introduced me to Ozzy’s Blizzard of Oz album. I was shocked, thrilled and mesmerized by that music. He hung with some hippie wannabe’s who also listened to Hendrix and Black Sabbath. That was my earliest exposure to the darker, heavier side of rock-n-roll, but we’ll explore that some more in part three of this continuing saga.
For now, I’ll leave you with this musical memory. Some of my first actual purchases of rock music came compliments of the Columbia House Record Club. Yes, I licked stamps and taped my penny to the reply card! In return, I received by mail my first three cassette tapes—Genesis Abacab, The Police Synchronicity, and Triumph Allied Forces. After that came many trips to Peaches in Broad Ripple and Karma Records. I don’t know how many albums and mix tapes I amassed during high school, but my job at Little Caesars hardly covered my expensive hobby. And there were concerts, too, but we’ll visit all those memories next time. Until then, keep bangin’ your head and…Rock on!