Alone With The Music, A Tribute – Part I

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” Friedrich Nietzsche

The hardest thing about being without my brother is that everything meaningful in my life is tied to him in some way. Everything meaningful to me is touched by him and reminds me of him, but his presence is strongest in the music. I don’t have him to talk about music with and now the meaningful music only has meaning for me.

No one understood Nietzsche’s quote better than my brother, and through him I came to understand it as well. My brother and I shared similar points of view on many things, and we both found humor from the same sources a lot of the time. But, the legacy that my brother left to me comes from his intense love of music and his willingness to share the music that he loved with me. It’s not unrealistic to say that everything I know about music I learned from him and I learned it from him because he forced me to. I will be forever grateful that he did. He had an excellent ear and was always open to listening to new things. He would come in saying: “You gotta hear this!” about some new song he liked by some, as yet, unknown band. As his older sister it was part of my job to challenge the validity of his choice in this “new favorite.” and I would do that by calling the song “lame” and make fun of the lyrics. He didn’t mind because I would inevitably have to concede and retreat every time (which was often) the “lame” song was topping the charts. It’s not that he was a “popular music” fan, it’s that many of the songs that he “found” ended up becoming popular. To give you an idea, one of the most vocal and prolonged of my dismissive tirades that called into question my brother’s ability to identify a good song was directed toward the “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. I was listening to that song repeatedly, calling it ridiculous and writing it off six months before it hit the charts and kicked ass all over town..

~Then the Sultans
Yeah the Sultans they play creole, creole~

All of the taunting and dismissals of the music my brother presented to me were pure facade and he knew it. One of the things that I admired most about my brother was his taste in music and he knew that too. The diversity of exceptional music found in the collection of songs that make up the soundtrack of my life, I owe to my brother. Many of the songs that I love the most were written by musicians that he introduced me to. We didn’t agree on all things musical, but, we did agree on most things musical. By listening to my brother’s music my level of sophistication was greatly increased  and my ability to discern good music from bad was greatly enhanced. One of my brother’s greatest joys was to walk in to a room and see me really getting into a great song and say: “I turned you on to that.”  “I know, I know” was always my response.

We had grown up listening to am radio and that meant a whole lot of “bubble gum.” Songs like “Yummy, Yummy Yummy” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company, or “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies are prime examples of the “popular” music we were exposed to when we were still in elementary school. It was during my first year in junior high and my brother’s sixth grade year, that our father would pick us up on the weekends and take us to stay with him and his new wife at “Aunt Olive’s.” We had never heard of this aunt, we never knew how this “aunt” became our aunt or even if she really was our aunt. But we did know that she lived somewhere way out in the sticks and that it was going to take a while to get there.The radio would always be playing as we made the trek to “Aunt Olive’s” and we were always certain to hear “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” by Lobo and “Timothy” by The Buoys at least five times each way.Those two songs will always trigger memories of that trip when I hear them. They will  also trigger memories of my brother being forced to eat tomatoes, me having to try spaghetti with meatballs made from deer meat, and finding out “aunt Olive” suffered from incontinence while we were having dinner at a restaurant.

Me and You and a Dog Named Boo ~ Lobo

As I mentioned before, while we were growing up, we only had am radio but even am stations played music by bands like Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Aerosmith. I remember that “Tommy” by The Who and Elton John’s album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” were two albums that we listened to a lot. As teenagers we didn’t discuss music much. We would watch “Midnight Special” on Saturday nights and that was for the most part the most extended period of time that we listened to music together.

Overture ~ Tommy

It was when I moved to Florida to live with my brother that I first became influenced by his music. I needed to escape from our home town and Tim was enlisted in the navy and having separation anxiety, so Tim’s best friend and I decided to take the leap, head south and move in with Tim and his roommates. I had only seen Tim once in the year that had passed since he left home and I remember being immediately struck by the knowledge that the person who met me at the door in Jacksonville, Florida was not, at  all, the boy who had left Altoona, Pennsylvania. My brother had become an adult in a year’s time and nothing made me more aware of that than the Pioneer stereo and Peavey speakers he had invested in and the music that he listen to on them.The two songs that will never be separate from my memories of those very first days of living with Tim in Jacksonville are “The Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart and “Crystal Ball” by Styx. I loved Styx but had never heard Crystal Ball before then. and although familiar with “The Year of the Cat” I hadn’t listened to it much before I moved. I sure did listen to it a lot after I moved though.

Styx ~ Crystal Ball

It wasn’t too long after that when things got “Moody” and I had to say “Yes.”

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