Saturday, March 31, 2012

childhood listening

When I was a child growing up, there were a lot of records in the house. Most of them were classical, and I never really listened to them. I suppose that's in part due to the fact that my grandparents were always pushing me to listen to classical music, which made it somewhat unnatractive. I often, however, listened to the few other  records (or at least parts of them) that my parents had.

Following are some memories of them:

Meet the Beatles (The Beatles)
For some reason I generally listened only to the first side. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "All My Loving" were the first and last songs on the side, and they were my favorites, so I couldn't take a short cut and listen to only one or two songs. Yes, technically I suppose I could have picked up the needle and moved it. But I didn't. So the songs on the side 1 are much more embedded in my mind than those on side two. It was years before I found out that my father didn't like the Beatles. One other random thought: For some reason, when I listened to "It Won't Be Long," I pictured the Beatles as frogs onstage, jumping each time someone said "Yeah" in the chorus. Mind you, in my mental image they were also jumping one at a time. Someone sang the line "It won't be long." Then there are a bunch of "yeah!"s. Each "yeah" is sung by one of them who is jumping forward and either from stage left to stage right or vice versa. It was quite a disturbing mental picture.

Moving (Peter Paul and Mary)
As with the Beatles album above, I generally listened to the first side and not the second. In fact, it was often only "Puff The Magic Dragon." Sometimes, though, I would listen through to "This Land is Your Land," and sometimes I would listen to the whole side. On rare occasions, I would listen to the second side. There was a time I thought they were all Jewish. That impression was based on two things: 1) Peter and Paul both had goatees (which I, for some reason, associated with rabbis); and 2) on side two, they did a song called "Man Come Into Egypt" which used the story of Moses and the biblical exodus as an allegory for the then-modern civil rights movement. For the record Peter is Jewish. Years later I interviewed them when they performed at Queens College. I spent a few minutes with each one, discussing political issues of the day. Peter actually gave me his publicist's number so I could call and we could talk at length. He explained that he was impressed that I was talking about real issues rather than glitzy Hollywood stuff. I called and left a message. But I never followed up and never did write the article. I was too disgusted with their knee-jerk leftism. But I still like a lot of their music -- this album in particular.

Oliver! (Broadway soundtrack)
For a long time I only listened to "Pick a Pocket or Two" and "Be Back Soon." Gradually I started listening to the whole album. This is by far my favorite Broadway soundtrack. And to make it even better, I played Fagin in my sixth-grade class production of the play. Admittedly not much of a singer, I was reduced to rapping "Pick a Pocket or Two." Our production was abrdiged, so I didin't have to do Fagin's other numbers, "Be Back Soon" and "Reviewing the Situation." My favorite tracks (as of now) are "Consider Yourself" and "Oom-Pah-Pah." But there are some clever lyrics throughout.

My Son the Folksinger (Allan Sherman)
As a kid, I didn't always get the humor. Even after it was explained to me. But with time and an increased knowledge of pop culture and the references that were built into the songs, I gradually developed a better and better appreciation for Sherman's work. THere are several parodies here, for which I hadn't heard the originals until decades later. Notably, I didn't hear "The Streets of Loredo" (which is parodied as "The Streets of Miami") until I was in my upper thirties and bought a box set compilation of Dick Curless CDs. I'll also note that, in a bit of anal-retentiveness, I used to list this album in my database as "Allan Sherman's Mother Presents My Son the Folk Singer."

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