We Had The Beat

I think we should have to start all nostalgia stories with the words “in my day” and when you read it, you should shake your fist.

I find a lot of nostalgia stories disingenuous. I don’t think they mean to be, I just think we sometimes sugar coat the past because we want it to be better than now. We want our time to be valid and relevant. Who doesn’t want their things to be best?

Some things really were better, though. Music, for instance.

Not the actual music, I would not presume to say that nothing made today is as good as the music of my youth. I do kind of miss guitars, though.

Not the music, but the way we listened to music.

I love music right now. I am not saying the way we listen to music now is bad. I love having any song I want to hear at myWe had the beat finger tips. I love the long playlists that can last an entire weekend without once having to get up and flip the album over for side two.

But there are a few things that we’ve lost. There are experiences that won’t be a part of younger people’s lives.

For instance, kids today will never have the experience of being able to judge a new person by flipping through their record collection.

I loved going through people’s record collections.

Even if I had seen their collection multiple times. Didn’t matter. I wanted to see it again. That first time, though, that was always fun. Like opening a new book from a favorite author. You didn’t know what you were getting, but you knew it would be good.

If you are my age, then when you were young, you had either Frampton Comes Alive or Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. You probably had both, but you at least had one of them. So, I expected to see those two albums. But if I leafed through someone’s collection and saw Pat Benatar, Bruce Springsteen, Joan Jett and Tom Petty, then  I knew we would be friends. Flipping through friend’s collections brought me The Clash and INXS and U2 when they were new.

My kids didn’t have that experience.

I guess they had similar experiences with CDs. But really, bending over to look at the spines of CDs kept in the diamond shaped etageres (holds 700 CDs or DVDS  or 300 VHS tapes!) is not the same as sitting on the floor with two milk crates of albums to rifle through.

The other thing I think we miss is we never get nudged to remember what we’ve forgotten. Say your are flipping through your record albums and find that K-tel Super Hits Of The Seventies album. You might have lived the rest of your life without ever hearing CW McCall sing Convoy ever again.

In my day, we had to be careful about jumping around because a scratched record was a sad, skippy record. We heard pops and cracks in our music and it sounded glorious. Watching a stack of albums drop and play one side at a time was how we marked time. We knew we could listen to side one of Elton John’s Greatest Hits before we had to leave our friend’s house to make it home in time for dinner. Almost.

Now, get off my lawn.

Sorry about the Convoy earworm. Kind of.


Photo courtesy of Vural Yavaş

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  • When people had ipods we flipped through their digital collection. Now most put their music on their phones and you’ll be something special if they let you touch their sacred device.

    Or they’re like me and sunscribe to Spotify or Slacker and don’t really have their own collection.

  • Did you say something to offend me? I must’ve missed it. Keeping off you lawn.

    In my day our idea of fun was to go hunting behind Evergreen Cemetery. You could reach there from my house never taking a road. Marsh all of the way. I think we just liked going armed as behind the Evergreen was a much older cemetery with spooky stories at every turn.

    In my day we went to the store with our male friend(s) and thought nothing of it.

    In my day we didn’t worry about what to post to social media. There was none. Our big thing was homework, put off until the last possible moment or ‘lost’ on the way to school.

    That’ enough of that shit. I didn’t have a very pleasant childhood after my Dad died when I was eight. I was verbally abused by my mom everyday. Sucked. Survived it.

    Oh… I need therapy. I’m in therapy. Getting what I need from my wonderful psychiatrist. She’s extremely protective of me. One hundred and forty pounds of no bullshit. 🙂

    Old age starts when? Sixty + doesn’t seem right. What about 70, anyone? I still feel like I’m in my twenties in my mind. That’s both a good and bad thing.

    When does old age start?

  • Yay 🙂
    Joey’s a Big Boy now and Rage-M has to figure out what to do with all that extra Ranch dip…

    *shakes fist*
    “Now, back in my day…”
    Yup, you’re right. That’s how all those stories should start!
    *carefully walks back to record player*
    I have this one on loop on my computer at work, but at home…
    *puts penny on tone arm*
    ♪♪ ♪♪ The Bitch is Back ♪♪ ♪♪
    Sorry… had to get rid of the Convoy earworm…

    Congratulations and Good Job Mommy (and Daddy!) 🙂

  • I’m a little emotional… I always thought I had three sisters, but now I believe I have four. (BTW: Frampton. Also my first concert. 1976 outdoors Place des Nations…my first serious crush…happy times.)

    • Hahaha..Aerosmith was my first concert, but I saw Frampton not long afterward. haha. I have 2 sisters, so we have a huge family of sisters!

  • I love that vinyl is on the upturn again, I spent so many hours rummaging through record stores and finding new gems. I’m sorry that so many have missed out on the joy of getting a new album, complete with lyric sheets and wonderful artwork. CDs were never as good for all the reasons you stated. Digital downloads have no soul…long live vinyl. I need another deck!

  • Breaker, breaker 9, 9…

    You know what I miss about records? All the writing and pictures on the jacket and sleeve. If I was obsessed with an album or band I read every last piece of info.

    When MTV came along I felt like it spoiled things in a lot of ways. Like the videos didn’t seem to have much to do with the songs, at least as far as I could tell. Plus my image of the band, based reading liner notes, would often be disappointing. Kinda like having a book you really love, and then watching a crappy movie of it. (It makes me break down, makes me cry and shatters my illusions of love!)

  • “Wayne’s World” has that joke about how the government issued a copy of “Frampton Comes Alive” to everyone who lived in the suburbs.

    You’re right, although it is funny to see those albums like the frampton album that EVERYONE of a certain age group owns. They seem to all be albums by women (which might just tell you who I know): Everyone who grew up in the Eighties seems to have Heart’s self-titled album, and everyone a few years younger than that has Tori Amos’ first album. A few years younger than that and everyone seems to have the first Nora Jones album.

    I have a lot of albums, but I don’t have any of those. If I had vinyl, you’d like flipping through my collection.

    • I LOVE checking out other people’s music. I had Tori Amos’s first two albums. I still like them. And the Wayne’s World joke is awesome and accurate. We ALL had that album.

  • Having had my entire music collection stolen from me in 2001, I was elated to find that one could re-acquire music on the internet. I do miss the ritual, though. I never had a huge vinyl collection, but always had friends who did. My format was cassette tape. So the ritual was as follows: Find out there was a new, interesting record coming out, talk to the record store (remember those?) and find out when it would finally make it to Eureka. Make plans with my vinyl-collecting friends for a taping session on the payday that followed the arrival. Go buy our copies of the record and enough high quality blank cassettes so that all of us who wanted the record could have it. Go to the arranged taping session to transfer the music to high-bias cassette tape so as to own vinyl that had only been played once. Listen to said music from the cassette we recorded. Reputations were acquired with the ritual: i.e. who can be trusted to listen to it all the way through the first time before getting way too stoned (it was Humboldt county, after all) to actually correctly record the tape. Many of those stolen tapes in my collection had flaws at the very end: either the tape hadn’t been long enough and part of the last song was missing, or more commonly, the tape hadn’t been paused when the music stopped and you could hear the turntable noise as it hit the end of the record and returned the tone arm to the rest.
    I had Frampton Comes Alive, but not Rumors. I did have the previous Fleetwood Mac album, though. And the first Heart album. The staples in my friends’ collections tended to be Joe Walsh, the Doobie Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Elton John and Yes. The thing about digital music that I sometimes find annoying is that it stops between songs, so that if one song segues into another on an album, there’s this jarring silence, and often a short repeat of the very end of the first song… OK, I’ll stop now.

    • I remember this ritual. I mean, I’m sure mine was different, but I remember getting together with people for the sole purpose of taping their new album.

  • You are so right! I had totally forgotten what a great thing it was to get to know someone by going through their album collection. And I’m with Margot about the album art and information; I used to devour every word. So much has been sacrificed to our digital world. I mean, I’m not complaining, because I do love my playlists, but back then who ever dreamed our albums were just ephemera that would one day be lost in the cyberdust?

  • I love this so much!
    And I had both Frampton Comes Alive AND Rumours. Classic albums, both. Actually, I’m pretty sure I STILL have them.

  • The cover art and booklets with lyrics and details about who wrote the songs and who every musician was… Listening to an entire album so often that you instinctively knew the order the tracks came in and could anticipate the next song… Band loyalty that meant you would buy every song, even the ones you thought were a bit dodgy on first hearing but grew to love…

    And you kept all those albums because music was not disposable.

    I’m gonna go further than you and say the music WAS better. It holds up. Great artists didn’t use techno – trickery. Eric Clapton released a new album this month. He’s 71 and it’s every bit as good as “461 Ocean Boulevard”.

    You hit a nerve.
    Rant over!

  • Man (that alone is equivalent to “in my day”)! when my dad brought home a hi-fi (that’s what we called it “in my day), 8 track tape player included….I believe it was Pioneer…..we thought we were shitting in tall cotton!! still have my Frampton, Simon & Garfunkle, Benitar, Springsteen, John Cougar (that was what he was before he fucking got a conscience and became “Mellenkamp”…..should have stuck with Cougar, it was much sexier….Mrs. Michele Cougar vs Mrs. Michele Mellenkamp!!! No fucking brainer!!) albums…..maybe have have them cremated with me!

  • I still don’t fully trust digital music, or digital anything for that matter. It really hit me when I was talking to a guy who said it came as a shock to him that he wouldn’t be able to leave his iTunes collection to his kids. Vinyl, and even CDs, can be passed on. And let’s not overlook tapes and 8-tracks although they have a shorter shelf life.
    I work in a library and it concerns me how much is being put solely online too. A book can take some serious damage and still be recoverable. A small error in a file can wreck the entire thing. If formats change you can be fucked. And if a publisher goes out of business decades of articles and thousands of dollars in subscription payments can be lost in a heartbeat. I’ve seen that happen.
    I’m not saying ink and paper or vinyl are perfect–they take up a lot more space and need special treatment to be preserved too–but anyone who says digitizing everything is the answer needs to get off my lawn because they’re full of shit, and not the kind that’s good fertilizer.

  • ‘We heard pops and cracks in our music and it sounded glorious’ – Yes! exactly why I went and bought myself a record player. Vinyl is more of an underground movement, but it’s still out there and growing. Your legacy is not dead, great one!
    P.S. Thanks for not scratching those records.

  • The thing I really miss is the whole idea of the “concept album”. The tracks HAD to be played in a certain order for the integrity of the narrative. Now you just hit shuffle, or download 5 out of 10 songs, and miss the whole point the artist was trying to make (if he or she was trying to make one–it’s so hard to tell now).

  • Convoy! earworm indeed… I loved that song. Haven’t heard it in 20 years but now you have it stuck in my head! good times with Smoky. ha ha

  • It’s almost serendipitous that you wrote about this now, as my husband and I just recently bought a record player. We didn’t grow up with them the way our parents did, but we were old souls in our teens, and even though CDs were the rage, we were the original hipsters, in that we ignored them for rickety contraptions we bought for $2 at garage sales.

    And, goddamn, Michelle, if record players aren’t the shit.

    We didn’t even invest in a super fancy one. Just a starter one, really. But we did splurge on a lot of really great records (everything from Folsom Prison to Revolver to Queen to Random Access Memories), and we have fucking fell in love with music again.

    Seriously. We just sit in our living room now and do nothing but listen. Not listen while we cook or while we write or while we read or while we clean. The music isn’t there for background when we use the record player. It’s the main event. And it’s delicious.

    I know I’m waxing whatever right now, and I’m making you read way more than you want, but you made me smile. Mwah!

    (P.S. I judge new people by perusing their book collection. I know I’ll be friends with people when they have Outlander and John Adams, and I know I’ll want to hold them underwater when I see nothing but Twilight and 50 Shades.)

  • In my day we had to walk to school uphill both ways. They were big-ass hills too. But when we got home we’d lie on our stomachs on the red and purple shag carpet, kicking our legs back and forth, and listen to whatever dad wanted to play on the stereo. Jazz, classical, country, Johnny Cash (A Boy Named Sue). I had the music you mentioned too, but I love that I was exposed to that wide range.

    • My dad listened to Irish folk music…so that is what I mostly listened to when I was very young..man, when I discovered rock n roll, I was hooked. Still am.

  • I sort of associate vinyl with Christmas because that was when our record player always got the most use, and yeah, listening to Bing Crosby’s beautiful voice singing “White Christmas” just isn’t nearly as magical without the pops and crackles.

    I do have to say, though, I definitely don’t miss the annoyance I used to feel every time I bought a band’s CD because of one awesome song of theirs I heard on the radio, only to realize the rest of the album was crap. I don’t care if I got it for a penny from Columbia House. I want my damn penny back.

  • When I was young…we had to save up for weeks to buy an album. Half the fun was spending a ridiculous amount of time at the record store deciding which album to buy, then taking it home on the bus with exquisite care lest it be damaged before even listening to it once. We’d have friends over (especially the ones who had jobs and spent all their money on a sound system) and listen to the new album. Sunday nights were spent with a group of teenagers of all kinds at Glen’s place- he had the best system- and we would sit quietly and thoughtfully while submerging ourselves in the music. Yes, U2 and Frampton, but also Gabriel and Kraftwerk, The Cult and Meatloaf, anything Ska and more than a little bit of New Wave. Solitary listening is nice but it ain’t the same.

    My husband and I still do tunes night every now and then.

  • My father still has an old jukebox from the 70s in his basement. It is run on 45s and my kids used to call it the juicebox. I called dibs years ago, but if my dad is anything like his dad, I’m going to have to wait a long time. In the meantime, I bought Mister some vinyl and he bought the turntable. He bought the White Album and I bought Born in the USA.

  • I think we would have been friends if you had gone through my record collection. Maybe at least until you came to find Missing Persons in the mix during my pink hair, crazy makeup, torn clothes punk phase. I miss vinyl and wish with all my heart I still owned some of it.
    Maybe we do sugarcoat the past, the ‘good ol’ days’ but I like to look back on it as a much simpler time that what we have working in the world these days. It seemed far less dangerous then. And, yes, the music was better. Still is.
    I do have to ask…would you still have been my friend when you came across Adam Ant??

By Michelle


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