From the Velvet Underground
When she was just five years old
There was nothing happening at all
Every time she puts on a radio
There was a nothin’ goin’ down at all,
Not at all
Then one fine mornin’
She puts on a New York station
You know, she couldn’t believe
What she heard at all
She started dancin’
To that fine fine music
You know her life
Was saved by rock ‘n’ roll
Despite all the amputations
You know you could just go out
And dance to a rock ‘n’ roll station
It was my mother’s fault, actually. I came home from school one day and our little black and white TV was on, my mother watching American Bandstand! “What is this?” I asked. She had it on wanting to know what the Twist was. I was hooked and still am. From then on it was my tiny transistor radio underneath my pillow at night playing until the battery ran out or my dad yelling at me to turn that off!
Oh my, and then I discovered Soul Train on Saturday mornings. Exotic thin black people with their perfectly groomed Afros and matching polyester jump suits dancing single file showing off their individual moves. Mesmerized and hooked was I.
I grew up in sunny California in between Santa Monica and Santa Barbara close to Silver Strand Beach. We lived right next door to a black family. They had a daughter the same age as me and she was my best friend. I thought nothing of it at the time, more on that later. Anyway, I was allowed to go see James Brown with my best friend and her family. I was probably ten and the only white kid, person, there. The show was being held in the back of a restaurant in the Wagon Wheel section of Oxnard. It was a dried up river bed. I just remember standing on our old 60’s cars watching James Brown gyrate across the stage, never giving a thought to being the only white kid, person in the crowd.
My dad passed when I was twelve. We moved away from that neighborhood and I pretty much lost my best friend. It was during the time of the Watts Riots and I guess it was not cool for black and white kids to hang out; I just thought she did not like me anymore. I became a very sad melancholy teenager; the times were so tumultuous with racial tensions and the Vietnam War, scary trying to survive in a California high school. Joni Mitchell became my go to girl. “River”, “The Last Time I Saw Richard” “California” “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio”. She knew my pain and she could say what I could not.
Teenage years were full of drugs sex and rock and roll. I think back now of the musicians we saw, living in sunny California that no one else even knew about yet; Jimi Hendrix in a tent in Santa Barbara, Johnny Lee Hooker in some dive, Little Richard one New Year’s Eve. And the Moody Blues at the Los Angeles Forum. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the mini Woodstock featuring Earth, Wind and Fire. Our “New York Station” was KMET in Los Angeles with Eddie Rabbit crooning over the airwaves with that country cowboy twang. I look back on all those “good times” and have to believe it was my mother’s prayers that got me through.
And now, music is still so important to me, but it is different. If I do not recognize a song I am hearing I can lift up my iPhone and Shazum will identify it for me. I have my Pandora and Spotify apps, I can listen to any type music I want. I have Sirius in my car, no commercials for this girl. I live in sunny Florida now and have already purchased my tickets to see Commander Cody, “Hot Rod Lincoln” next month at our local venue with a very dear friend opening. Can’t wait, no drugs, though.
Think it is time to turn on some tunes. I hear Dwight Yoakam calling my name.