Childhood memories are puzzling. There are events that take place, crucial, life-shaping events, and you struggle to recall the details, or simply cannot remember anything at all. Meanwhile, that time the crossing guard gave you a star-shaped, purple pencil eraser is recollected in full mental HD, with 1080 dpi (I don’t even know what the hell that means but it sounds cool).
Music is an amplifier. It colors in the grey, and sharpens the fuzzy points. I remember the first day my father brought home the top of the line in stereo equpiment. It was a Zenith, equipped with an *AMFM radio tuner, a record player, and the pinnacle of music technology, a cassette tape deck. This thing was massive. Once assembled, it took up a good third of the living room, which isn’t bad in a house. However, in a cramped, upstairs two bedroom apartment, it’s somewhat impractical. My father never thought like that though. He wanted his sweet stereo, the rest was details (and some engineering…). My thoughts blur up until the very moment he pressed his thumb to the large metal power button on the tuner face. The long radio dial lit up like a row of holiday houses, and my father slowly turned the thick metal circle, dragging a bright red line across large back-lit numbers. Static….then, ‘dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum…..dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum…’ “She was more like a beauty queen…”
The sound from that thing shook the walls. I remember my dad grinning and sitting down to organize his massive vinyl collection. I loved every window rattling thud, and this is likely why I most often play music in my car at volumes that rival Knebworth. That moment comes back to me every-time I hear even just the opening line of Billie Jean.
Thriller always terrified me. The opening, the zombies, and particularly at the end, werewolf Michael.
I was about to take a bath. I was a silly child, so as my sons do now, I escaped my mothers grasp and began to run around the house bare-ass, screaming like a howler monkey. My mother walked after me, and finally cornered me in a room with the television blaring in the background. I began to run around in circles, and then froze, hearing Thriller. I turned and there was Michael, all fangs and yellow eyes on the screen. My mother gave a loud yelp and I jumped away, only taking a moment to look back and see the large brown turd I had left behind on the rug.
Many people are saying we lost the “Elvis” of our generation. I am inclined to agree.
…..Love it, (Rest in peace Mr. Jackson, and thanks for all the songs that help me remember)
* This thing truly was a sight to behold. A long, thick strip of yellow-ish lighted numbers, with a thick red-lit needle, book-ended by two large, circular metal knobs, and more switches than mission control. Like most things manufactured in the 80’s, it was all sharp corners and glossy, lethally hard plastic. But listening to the radio was great. It was reassuring in a way to see that line stop where you directed it, and then if you were lucky, someone was spinning a record you wanted to listen to. Taking it for granted simply wasn’t possible then.