Sunday, February 26, 2012

2-26-12 My childhood record collection

In the unpacking and reorganizing of the guest closet yesterday, I got to revisit my tiny, quirky, but very cherished little pile of albums. 

Growing up, there were dozens and dozens of them under the turn-table. Before I was born, there were even more, but in the infamous garage sale, many of them were purged from the Saltsman home.

But in so many of my childhood pictures, there's that turntable and the colorful row of albums underneath. The speakers could fold inward and the turntable would fold up to close into a cabinet, but I never remember it closed. It was always open. 

And there were always album covers lying on top, because it was always being used. I remember riding my rocking horse in time to whatever music was playing.

Dad has most of these albums, which makes sense since he also has a turntable, while I do not. But I still keep my little pile of records with me (a couple of which Dad probably thinks are his, sorry Dad!)

And this is one of them.

Released in 1966 on the Verve label, it's described on the back as "The Serge Prokofiev classic performed in 20th Century terms by The Incredible Jimmy Smith and Oliver Nelson." On the interior, Al "Jazzbo" Collins writes an introduction as jazzy as the album which includes:

The forest rang with monumental chord structures. Chipmunks and Beavers sat up on their tails with their unbelieving eyes opened to about f1.4 in complete astonishment. Crescendo piles upon crescendo . . . Jimmy, using his special "Peter-Stop" on his organ was superb in building an undying musical delineation of the diminutive hero. Some of the characters are so endowed tonally that you will find it utterly amazing.

The part of the photographer Don Ornitz, was played by the huge golden honey bear with a built in HASSELPLAD [sic] 500-C-belly button that enabled him to photograph unnoticed. You can see by the fantastic action cover photo, that a scene like that could never have been setup.

You may think it strange that there is no narration, but, anybody who would talk over this music has got to be an idiot. I wanted to talk over this music but Creed told me, "You Are an Idiot."

The second oldest in the collection is the 1969 Disneyland Record Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite from Walt Disney's Fantasia, Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

And on the flip side was Ponchelli's Dance of the Hours, which was immortalized in this photograph:

I remember getting this when I was very small. 

I remember the way the thick plastic colorful records felt in my hands as I took them off and put them on, and I remember thinking, "This isn't the same."

The first real albums that were completely mine were the 45s that required the big chunky black center thing to be inserted onto the turntable. These are the only two still in my little collection, although I remember having and listening millions of times to Goldilocks, Hansel and Gretel, Peter Rabbit, Puff and Toot, and Little Black Sambo, as well. 

The page I remember fixating on the most in Frankie the Brave Fireman:

Really? The house fire has been "put out" by the big firemen and the fire comes back? What kind of firemen do we have here? And what's with the structural integrity of a house that only blackens from the inside? The front just peels away? And these so-called firemen remove four random and completely unharmed pieces of furniture from this miracle building and neglect the DOG? Of course, the only gear Frankie needs to enter the burning building is that big red hat and he just walks right up that smoke filled staircase. Get out of here with your oxygen masks and fire suits. He works better in jeans and bare hands!

My first LP, my prized record, was Sing the Hit Songs of Sesame Street from 1974.

This poor album has moved with me from Kirkdale to Sageville to Huntsville to Austin and back to Huntsville where my first puppy found it on the bottom row of the bookshelf and decided to chew on it, to my horror.

I watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and marvel that the people on that float are many of the same people on my beloved album: Susan and Gordon, Maria and Bob, Luis (the first person on Sesame Street is STILL there!). The only person on the cover you will never hear about is poor David, in his better, less psychotic years. And oh, the songs. You have no idea how being a lonely only child was made better by being able to belt out these songs, from (It's Not Easy) "Bein' Green" to "What Do I Do When I'm Alone?" to "Somebody Come and Play." There's the hippie anthem "Someday Little Children" where we're all going to be living on the moon in our lifetime. But what makes me really prize this record more than any other song is the very last one, "Nobody" sung by Mr. Snuffle-upagus back when he really was never seen by anyone except Big Bird and, of course, the children who have the good sense not to go anywhere. Really, who goes off "looking for this imaginary friend?!?" Stay put, you stupid adults, and for cripes sake, TURN AROUND! I remember being probably five and thinking, "Adults are kind of stupid."

(this is only version currently on YouTube from a later pressing when, I guess, the producers decided leaving little children with the last cut of the album about a neglected and ignored muppet was a little too depressing, and moved him to the middle. There is also no pop and crackle which I miss.)

The next few years were additions to the story LPs from Disney. I poured over and memorized those glossy 12x12 pages with pictures of the movies I wouldn't actually get to see for years.

The last LP, which I bought with my own money was in 1983 when I was 13. Dad made me call the record store myself to make sure they had it before he drove me to the mall to buy it. And even though cassette tapes were all the rage, I wanted the LP, not because I was some cutting-edge hipster, but because of the large pictures.

I had not seen either the first or the second film when I saw the third. They would come later, on cable, which came to our house in the early 80s. This was the first movie I went to by myself. It was the first movie I went to multiple times. I rode my bike up to the 7-11 with Michelle in the summer and bought the glossy Return of the Jedi magazine with the behind the scenes and "making of" pictures and stories. I still have that, too. 

It's always funny what inspires us. I ran across this clip today in which Ken Branagh's singular movie moment was not some epic, classic that makes everyone's Best of All Time lists. Similarly, Adele's primary inspiration to be a singer. It's whatever enters you life at that moment and stays with you as beloved because it was yours.

The only other records in my group are these little 45s, picked up at the same record store a few years later, when you could still buy singles on 45s and still put that chunky center thing on your record player, which everyone still had, to listen. Of course, as everyone else, I also sat in front of the radio with my chunky little black tape recorder to the speaker during Casey Casem's Top 40 Countdown and "illegally downloaded" music that way, too. But these were the ones I wanted to set the record player up to repeat, again and again, without having to rewind, guess, rewind, stop, fast forward, and find the beginning of the song over and over.  Just set the repeat switch, set the speed, and let that little needle pop up, travel back, and start over as you lay on your bed and wondered why the world had to be so complicated.

Now I need a turntable.


Post a Comment