Saturday, October 16, 2010

Radio Daze


Let’s go back. Way back around the early seventies. No iPods. No cd players. Not even portable cassette players. Radio was King. Anyone who loved music would be glued to Uptight, or the Happening 70’s series. GTK was essential viewing. And later there would be Countdown, Sounds and Night Moves.

But, the overwhelming source of Rock was Radio.

Any time that we couldn’t blast out records on our stereo, we could be found with a radio. And on the AM band, it sounded just fine...as the alternative was...Nothing! It was our constant companion on weekends and holidays, rain, hail or shine. We’d sneak a listen to it in my dad’s car, if we could, on those days when he’d leave us in the car park of the pub, whilst he had a couple of beers with his mates. Or, out front of the local TAB.

However, the best times, the most special times, were when I’d sneak my parents’ transistor into my room when it was time for bed, and listen to it through my pillow, or under the blankets altogether. This was no tiny pocket radio – it was a big as two house bricks, and, like all radios of the time, the volume only had two settings: ‘Way Too Low I Can’t Hear Anything’ and ‘Way Too High, I’m Gonna Get Sprung Soon.’ The second volume setting was always worth the risk.

As the second youngest, I would be sent to bed before my brother, whom I shared the room with. That gave me plenty of time by myself to listen on my own. Besides, he had almost no interest in music, and to this day still suffers the same affliction. Listening to music then would take me away to a whole new world. The ice cold cement walls that turned your room into a meat freezer, or going to bed still hungry would soon be forgotten as I entered the world of Rock Gods and cared about nothing except guitar solos and looking cool.

I remember being blown away by the CCR cover of I Heard It Through The Grapevine, and would always be disappointed if the station played the edited version, instead of the classic 11 minute jam. Of course, back then I had no idea it was a cover, and didn’t hear of Marvin Gaye until I was a few years older. There are hundreds of songs that had a huge impact on me, but some of the notable ones that I am still fond of now are ones like In The Year 2525, by Zager & Evans which sounds so much better in the dark, on your own. Indian Reservation by Paul Revere & The Raiders is still a good pop song, and certainly stirred the imagination of an impressionable eight year old. The Five Man Electrical Band also had the classic song Signs, which I thought was so cool and rebellious - I'd sing it all day at school, "Imagine that, huh, me, workin' for you? Whoah!" The Weight by The Band is the greatest rock song written, with the classic first lines, "I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin' about half past dead." The DJ's would never say the name of the song. If you asked me as a child what my favourite song was, my reply would be, "That song I don't know the name of by the band I don't know." I think the name I used was The Load. It typified everything I wanted Rock to be back then. It still does now.

The song that still stops me in my tracks is the brilliant Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel. I never tired of listening to it, as did my whole family. It was such a shame that my fourth grade teacher stole the album when I took it to school...Or was that Sounds Of Silence? Anyway, the song first introduced to me on radio, soon became a family favourite. Even our mother liked the song. When she died in 2000, we decided that the funeral ceremony would feature one song chosen by her, I Love You Because, by Jim Reeves, one song chosen by our father, Too Young, by Nat King Cole, and one chosen by the six kids, Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Whenever I hear that song , wherever I am, I can’t not listen to it. Of course, it reminds me instantly of my mother. But, it also takes me back to my radio days, driving in the car, sitting around the table arguing, sitting by the pool in the backyard, or lying in my bed, but in a whole other place, until reality gate-crashes the party, when my mother would walk in, turn the light on, give me a clip across the head, and yell, “Your father’s been looking for that bloody tranny! Now go to sleep!”

I miss all of that.

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