Incomplete memoir (Part 14)

About five years ago I started writing a memoir. I kept at it for a little while, writing about 1,000 words a day for a few weeks. I hadn’t yet been to therapy and there were many things I didn’t really understand about my life, but I still find the unfinished memoir to be a fascinating look into my own past. I’ve decided to post it in installments here, with only a few redactions. You can find the other sections by clicking the Memoir category.

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Going back to music for a minute: I had a very strange musical upbringing. I listened to Nat Cole and Stan Kenton at a time when most kids were listening to disco and Kiss. As I got older, I stayed on my own course. I got some hand-me-down 8-track tapes when I was maybe seven years old. I can’t remember all of them, but my two favorites were a Kiss greatest hits collection (which I loved because Kiss was my cousin Todd’s favorite band, and thus my favorite band, too) and a collection of performances by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. I can only recall one song from that collection – and orchestral version of Burt Bacharach’s “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” What kind of kid listens to big band, cheese rock, and the Boston Pops? Did no one in my family own a radio?

One explanation for my early musical taste is that I spent so much time in the Hagyard Building with my grandparents, who didn’t listen to the radio all that much. It’s odd that they didn’t, because listening to the radio has been my grandfather’s main passtime for the past 15 years or so. I don’t remember listening to the radio a lot with my parents, which again is odd because they both worked at a radio station. I think I really started listening to the radio after we moved to New York State. Or at least that’s when I remember riding in the car a lot with the radio on, catching up on some of the music I’d missed.

Not counting the Kiss 8-track, I didn’t own my first rock record until I was in high school. I fell in with a crowd that was into prog rock. The first rock tape I remember owning was a copy of Signals by Rush, a Canadian rock band that my friend Jeff calls the “best all-girl band of the 70’s.” Somewhere around my freshman year, this group of friends turned my on to Yes, Genesis, Rush, King Crimson, the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Asia, Jethro Tull – all your prog rock favorites. I still love those bands now, although my tastes have broadened considerably since high school.

The first record I ever spent my own money on was Chuck Mangione’s 1978 album An Evening Of Magic: Live At The Hollywood Bowl. I got the album on cassette (two cassettes, if I remember right) and wore the thing out. In addition to Chuck on flugelhorn and electric piano, the concert featured Chris Vadala on saxes and flutes, Grant Geissman on guitar, Charles Meeks on the bass, James Bradley, Jr. on the drums, and a full orchestra. Vadala tears it up on every track. This album set the stage for my approach to jazz for years to come.

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