For this submission I’m going to ask that we drop the needle (if you have a record player) together but with one stipulation.
Whether your music collection can be pulled from your shelves or saved on your phone, go get the one that you know will always be there.
I’m talking about the one where you don’t just remember the music, you remember making that trip to the record store.
You remember toiling through the record stacks and staring at the cover for five minutes before carrying it to the counter.
When we were kids we all had a “thing.” You know, that thing one thing that your friends would all come to know about you. My son’s love of action figures and comics is something I thought my son would grow out of, but there are no signs that will ever happen. And that’s perfectly okay—that’s his “thing.”
My wife’s was dance. She absolutely loved it and got so good at it that she’d begun helping teach dance before she graduated high school. Dance was her “thing.”
It was totally by chance and a campy cinema musical that the love of live music would become my “thing.”
In June of 1978, the movie musical, Grease, hit theaters. The movie, made on a budget of just $6M, would go on to gross $396M.
I’m not too proud to admit that I, along with just about everyone else I knew was totally enamored with the movie and the double-album soundtrack that was release shortly after.
Armed with some birthday money, I asked my mother to take me to the only record store in town to purchase the soundtrack.
The Grease soundtrack had its own display so it was in my hands seconds after arriving. After giving the salesperson my money, I realized I had money to purchase another record.
Having just celebrated my seventh year on the planet and too proud to ask the salesperson for some guidance, I realized I’d have to rely on how visually appealing this random album jacket was. That means this record was going to be chosen based on the only things I knew anything about at the time: comics, sci-fi movies, and football.
After coming up empty in sections A-J, I reached K and found it—the one. There, in comic book cover glory, were what appeared to be four superheroes.
One of them had a star on his eye. “Clearly, this is the leader,” I thought. One of them was silver and blue and looked like he could’ve been from Star Wars. Next to him was this cat man, and there standing on the end was this menacing looking dragon man or demon.
Before noticing the…umm… well-endowed women on the cover lying at their feet, I enthusiastically turned to show my mother KISS’ Love Gun album and asked, “Is this okay, Mom!?”
Aghast, she matter-of-factly exclaimed, “I don’t care what they sound like there is no way you’re bringing that into my house… pick another one!”
With my mother hovering over my shoulder, I moved to the “L” section and blindly pull Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy.
Before I’m even able to notice the half dozen people on the cover are actually nude my mother moves inches from my ear and says in that stern, lips pursed mom voice that sounds like a whisper but is really too loud to be a whisper, “Michael Wesley Brooks you are about to get a whippin.”
I reached back for K’s but pulled KISS Alive! this time, and after much begging, it came home with me. So did the Grease record, but it would be 4-5 days before I remembered that I’d purchased it too.
This experience would also instill in me expectations, albeit sometimes unrealistic, that all future music purchases would have to meet in the future.
In the case of KISS, their live albums are what catapulted them mediocrity to superstardom. In other words, their studio albums weren’t very good and their live albums showed what the band was able to do outside the confines of the studio.
Conversely, I would view bands that had not released a live album with a degree of skepticism. Is this band not good or confident enough to release live recordings of their songs? Have they tried to fool me with studio trickery? Are they posers?
This must be investigated—I must see this band in concert.
I won’t insult current day record collectors by calling it a novelty. I get it. Everything from the audio to the mystique and art which emblazons each album’s jacket sleeves.
If you have never heard music on vinyl, I encourage you to go see your favorite band live. If truly performed live, i.e. without taped music or (gasp) lip-syncing, you’ll you hear your favorite music as it was meant to be heard and that’s always better.
Better yet, go see any live band. I speak from experience when I say those folks aren’t doing it for the money. They’re doing it because they love it, and I’m sure they’ve toiled over their instrument for years before they were confident enough to put it in front of the public for scrutiny.
Living in the Hub City we are never more than 90 miles from an endless list of live music venues. Do yourself a favor and go see a show.
Before I sign off, I have to take advantage of this platform to give some praise to my sweet wife, Shane Brooks.
As I am writing this, she is seated next to me completely unaware that in approximately 12 hours approximately 3,000 of her fellow employees at Forrest General Hospital will recognize her with their 2019 We C.A.R.E. Leadership Award—and she deserves every bit of it.
I love you, babe! Congratulations!
When he’s not rocking his socks off with his three-piece band, Brooks, a Jones County native, is a busy family man who can often be spotted hopping from one event to the next with his wife, Shane, and their son, Campbell. Email him: email@example.com