Monday, January 14, 2013

Audio Time Travel

Have you ever been browsing through a shopping website and you unexpectedly discover an item you weren't looking for but were very glad you found?

That's what happened to me last Tuesday. The results of the experience was some additions to my music collection that I've wanted for over 35 years. 

Last Tuesday I was adding to my I-Tunes library based on a "want list" of songs I'd created over the last few months. With over 10,000 songs already, you'd think my collection would be complete; but not so. 

While searching through a list of songs by Mac Davis; looking for "It's Hard To Be Humble" (a funny song about false humility from 1980), I found a song I never thought I'd ever find again: "The Closest I Ever Came."

It's a slow ballad about a man lamenting a lost love. I have a very strong emotional attachment to it. Here's why.  

Back on September 12 of last year I published a post about the portable cassette player that was a very important part of my teenage years. 

One Christmas along with, what had become, my customary gift, a new tape recorder, my parents gave me a couple of cassette tapes with 8 country music songs each. 

Now at the time I had just completed a year of trying to distance myself from my parent's musical preferences. I had  really had gotten into the Top 40 music being played on the radio. I had started my own 45 RPM record collection over that summer.  

But because it was part of our family culture, country music wasn't completely off my musical radar. It was one of the things that we all shared together. To this day I still enjoy listening to country music: both current and classic. 

Also, in the early 1970's, cassette tapes were the newest format for music, well on their way to replacing 8 tracks.

Sure my Christmas gifts didn't have the songs of Paul Simon or Elton John but they were "pre-recorded" cassettes. Those were still unique enough to be kinda cool. 

I was happy to have some music on cassette that wasn't recorded off the radio with a DJ talking over the intro.

I listened to those country music tapes a lot. Though not initially thrilled about them I grew to really like them. I could sing most of the songs from memory to this day. 

One of the tapes was entitled "The Nashville Sound". It had songs by Tammy Wynette, David Houston, Johnny Cash, John Wesley Ryles, and the Carter Family. I still have that tape and have imported it to my digital library.

Ironically, I don't remember the title of the other tape but it was my favorite of the pair. It's long gone. I don't know what happened to it. But my best guess would be that the cassette just got worn out and the tape got caught up in the drive wheel of the player. Rendering the tape useless. 

Now back to that Mac Davis song. I was thrilled when I found it.  It was by far my favorite of all the songs on both of those tapes. Getting a copy of that song started me thinking about all the other songs on the 2nd tape.  

Another I-Tunes search resulted in adding a Johnny Cash song called "25 Minutes to Go" (about the last minutes of a man about to be hanged) and, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs version of "A Boy Named 'Sue'. 

I now have 3 of the songs from a compilation I never thought I'd ever find again. I've had these songs in my memory for more than 35 years and now I have a few of them back. 

They are the sounds that evoke very pleasant memories and take me back in time to those early days of being a teenager. 

In my mind's eye I picture a snapshot of a typical winter afternoon in my mom & dad's house on Brainard Street in Phillipsburg, NJ; circa 1973/74. 

I am in my bedroom sorting my baseball cards, listening to my country music cassettes. My mom is downstairs making supper in the electric skillet while sitting at the dinning room table. My sister is watching her favorite TV show and my dad just came in the door from work.  

I know that in the next few minutes I'll be called downstairs for supper and we will sit together around the dinner table as a family.

I may be seeing that scene through a mental lens that morphs reality into something closer to an idyllic fantasy filtered through the passage of time; but still it's a comfort to me. 

So the results of my first "I-Tunes Tuesday" proved to be something more valuable to me than just the ability to cross off a few songs from my "want list". It has given me the ability to plug my headphones into my I-pod and take a "mental journey" back to the days of my youth. 

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