Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Importance of Older Sisters

Much of my musical taste was forged during my childhood growing up in the '60s and '70s in Massena, NY, a snowbound burg on the Canadian border. My biggest influences were the AM radio and my older sisters.

Here's a little homage to my sisters Nancy, Meg, and Beth, and the sounds that helped shape my aesthetic. The child is the father to the man and all that. Just like that album by Blood, Sweat, & Tears.

Mugs and Nancy's 45s, and later on, their LPs, were the soundtrack of our lives. So when one of my sisters got into "Hot Fun in the Summertime," we all dug it. Especially out at Lake Ozonia in the halcyon days circa Summer '69 - '73.

And WYBG 1050 "Wibbage" certainly was the voice of teenage rockin' -- much more than freakin' Gene LaPage and his big band era mentality and lame MOR leanings over at WMSA (although I've got him to thank for my love of Neil Diamond, God bless 'em both, and Cracklin' Rosie get on board). We also listened to a lot of CFRA 58 Ottawa and a little CJSS out of Cornwall.

I also remember Nancy saying Jim Morrison was a "creep," and losing her crush on Mark Lindsay when he showed heavy chest hair on "Where the Action Is!"

I asked my sisters to share their musical memories, and my sister Beth was able to dredge up a few:

"Much of my childhood is a blur. However, I did have the Ted Neely Jesus Christ Superstar poster in my bedroom, as well as a poster of OJ Simpson. Good grief! Mugs turned me on to the James Gang, and to this day I search for the CD with 'Tend my Garden' on it...
"How about 'Nantucket Sleighride'?...good stuff. And of course, the 45s from Mastercraft [the local record shop]: 'My Belle Amie,' [by the Tee Set], 'Baby Now that I've Found You' [The Foundations], 'Come on down to my Boat' [by Every Mother's Son, who we saw open for the Turtles at Expo '67]...and my personal favorite: anything by the Monkees."
Much has already been made of the influence of older sisters in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous (2000). This is my chapter (and verse) of my sisters' incredible influence on me as artist and human being.


10. Somebody leaving the LP Are You Experienced? (was it Billy Madden?) behind at one of their parties. And Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies.

9. "Ho, ho, ho/It's Magic/You know...Never believe it's not so." Pilot would like to personally thank you for buying their album, Beth.

8. "Jim Morrison is a creep." Nancy may have also used the word "gross." If so, it was my first exposure to the term. Not to mention the Doors. As fate would have it, I was later involved in a Doors cover band with Bob Dylan's son Sam.

7. A couple of downers: "Down in the Boondocks" by Billy Joe Royal, the doomed love anthem of Larry Black and Nancy Limer, the girl who lived down the street from us. Larry hung himself in '71. And of course, the immortal "I'm Your Captain" from Grand Funk Railroad's Closer to Home LP the pick hit to click at Jimmy Brothers' Funeral...

6. SLY & THE FAMILY STONE'S GREATEST HITS. As a professional DJ, I modulate between the up and the down, in basically a 2-to-1 ratio. Basically, in Summer of '71 terms, the formula is two parts S&TFS's Greatest Hits, one part CSNY: 4-Way Street. "Won't you please come to Chicago..." Prophetic words from ol' Graham Nash. Honorable mention here for Graham's brilliant "Dear Eloise" from his Hollies heyday. I can still picture in my mind the bold yellow of the Epic label on the 45.

5. The orignal London cast recording of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. Thanks, older sisters. The double-album was a scandal in the Catholic schools and parishes. Was it good or evil that somebody was breaking down the Gospel according to John into easily digestible pop songs?

4. The above-ground pool AM radio experience, circa '63-69. Shaped my concept of enjoyment of the swimming pool lifestyle early on. That's why I always employ the boombox at Mom & Dad's around the pool, even though I know it disturbs Nan & Beth's sunburned slumber.

3. The Parties at our house were epic rave-ups, with drunken varsity hockey stars by the dozen. Eye-opening for an up-and-coming young sprout like me. Although I didn't become a hockey star, I got really good at baseball, until at 43, I could no longer compete against 18 year olds, and gave up the game. Now considering a comeback with the Austin over-40 Baseball League.

2. "Where the Action Is," with Paul Revere and the Raiders kicking out the jams on a daily basis after school, with all the groovy groups that forged my rock 'n roll aesthetic. And of course, the moment whe Nancy fell out of love with Mark Lindsay (because he had chest hair!), which as I recall was a little before the Raiders' cameo on "Batman," in the episode where the Penguin runs for mayor of Gotham City. By the way, "Action" host Steve Alaimo is now a staple of my Florida Rocks Again! shows.

1. Beth having TOMMY on the 8-track in the Volkswagen, as well as N&M bringing the original LP back home in '69. Meg was a particularly rabid fan of the Who. Saw 'em in Paris circa '75. How cool is that? I now take comfort in the track, "There's a Doctor I've Found." Plus, Oliver Reed sang it in the film.

1 comment:

The Radio Geek said...

I grew up in Brasher Falls NY. Have fond memories of the AM radio stations up there as well-WYBG, WMSA and Potsdam's 1470 WPDM (the best of the bunch 'cuz they had jingles and the DJ's talked over the intros). Great blog! Do you have any recordings of Massena area radio? Do you know anyone that may? PLEASE have them email me. I am desperate for vintage recordings of these radio stations. Ottawa & Montreal radio too! javajoelmurphy@gmail.com Thanks!