Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What was the first album you ever got and why is it special?

Simple question for anyone who stumbled on to my small blog:

What was the first album you ever got and why is it special?

I grew up with older parents and popular music simply wasn't part of my family's
everyday life. I can't remember my parents owning any records, let alone buying
music.   In hindsi9ght that was kind of strange since my father had started his
professional career working for a radio station and he had a lifelong passion
for audio equipment. He owned a surprisingly impressive stereo system, including
a preamp, tuner, turntable, reel-to-reel, and speakers.  I just don't remember
him ever using any of it.   My mother played violin and had sung in the church
choir.  Yeah, we all listened to the radio, but that was different than actually
going out and buying music.  Against that backdrop, my first album purchase
remains a clear memory; almost a rite of passage.

My family had just moved back to the States after five years in Germany (my Dad
worked for the Department of Defense and we moved a lot).  I had just entered
high school and one of our new neighbors had two sons.  James my age (and just
as dorky as I was).  The other son Chris was a couple of years older.  He owned
a decent stereo system, had a nice looking girlfriend, drove the family's old
Jeep Cherokee, and had accumulated at least 100 albums.  Hanging out with James
brought me into Chris' realm of influence and he took notice of my fascination
with his stereo.  He was nice enough to show me his stereo and introduce me to
some of the bands he liked.  In hindsight there was a bunch of MOR dribble in
his collection.  I remember he was a big John Denver fan and had a bunch of the
man's albums.  No criticism intended, but not my cup of tea.  He had some more
contemporary stuff; James Gang, Paul McCartney and Wings, and he owed ... 

"The Beatles 1967-70" ...  The Blue Album.  I'd heard Beatles
songs over the years; I'd even seen "Yellow Submarine",
but I'd never heard their catalog in such a concentrated
form - 28 classic tunes, spread over four sides.  And Chris
was generous enough to let me borrow the LP.  I remember
slapping the LP on the family stereo and just being mesmerized by the sound.   I kept it about a week and the returned it, knowing I had to get my own copy.

The closest record store (yes they existed in the mid-70s) was in Herndon,
Virginia.  I remember grabbing a $10 bill out of my piggy bank, hopping on my
Schwinn 10 speed bike and riding the old B&W bike path to the Herndon Penguin
Feather.   My school bus drove by this establishment every day, but I'd never
actually been in the place.   The store was actually in an old converted,
ramshackle white house.  About half of the space was devoted to music and the
other half was what you'd refer to as a head shop.  As a 15 year old I was
pretty clueless about that part of their business.   Well, I got to Penguin
Feather, walked in, started pawing through their stacks while trying not to
choke on the overwhelming scent of patchouli and there it was.  A sealed copy of
"The Blue Album".  I think I paid $7.00 for it.  I hadn't been smart enough to
bring a backpack with me, so I stuffed the album in my shirt and peddling home. 
When I got home, I  opened it up and can still remember the s
hock and pleasure discovering my $7 had bought me a clear blue vinyl copy of
the album.  It just looked so cool.

My first album.   I owned it for forty year.  I played it dozens of times over
that period; each time with loving care.  Along with thousands of other albums,
I  had actually listed it for sale years ago.  When it finally sold right before
Christmas I felt a deep sense of regret packing it up for shipment.   I almost
cancelled the order, but ultimately did not.  The irony is a couple of weeks
later I stumbled into a used LP store (there are still a couple in Northern
Virginia), and found a VG+ copy of the album, complete with blue vinyl.   I
snapped it up and think this one will stay in my permanent collection.   It's
hard to explain, but I'm now in my mid-50s, but holding "The Blue Album" in my
hands can take me back to a different time.  A time when I was young, stupid,
and carefree.   It's nice to occasional revisit that life.

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