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2 Down, 1 to Go

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Joe Strummer. Maurice Gibb. God help me, I know who’s next.

The first album I ever bought was London Calling. I bought it at the TG&Y in Louisburg. Why a fourth level retailer in a two-bit rural North Carolina town had a copy of London Calling, I’ll never know, but I plunked down my $14.50 anyway, and cursed the album when I got home because I couldn’t find Train in Vain on the album listing.

It was the first album I ever bought, but it wasn’t the first I ever owned. The first album I ever owned was the Bee Gees’ Children of the World. It was the second place prize in a talent show. First prize was Aerosmith’s Toys in The Attic. There was no value judgement here; Toys was just the album the first place winner chose out of the ones available. I was next, and I took the Bee Gees album, not that I had any idea who they were. Third prize ended up being a Teddy Pendergrass album, which is what I would have ended up with if my classmates had judged the contest instead of my teachers.

Did I mention there were only three acts actually in the talent show? No? It’s a pretty fair indication of what my talent level was. My friend Jack won, I forget what he did. He went on to smoke a lot of pot in high school. Two black girls, Penny and Elizabeth, finished in third. They did a lip-synching dance thing that was more polished than either my act or Jack’s, at least to my eyes. I don’t know why they didn’t win. They both got pregnant our senior year.

I sang a song I made up, “Parking Meter”

Parking meter, he’s a real big cheater
You put in a penny, you get out a (something that rhymes with penny)

Parking meter, he’s a real big cheater
You put in a nickel, you get out a pickle

You get the point. I hit every stop all the way up to a buck. I remember thinking it was pity there was no seventy-five cent piece. Everyone other than myself and the teachers hated it, and I don’t know what was wrong with the teachers. But it got me a Bee Gees album. As I said, not that I knew who they were.

The girls in the Catholic family up the street did, though. They came over and listened to Barry, Maurice and Robin tell them them they should be dancing, and dance they did. In my den, to my music. They taught me to dance. In my den, to my music. I learned how to do The Bump, as I recall.

So, to summarize:

Jack – Aerosmith, Toys in the Attic. Went on to smoke a lot of pot. He also co-wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper published at one point, in which he defended Led Zeppelin against the vicious onslaught of Muzak. His co-author’s main claim to fame was that he once ate an entire light bulb during band class, then washed it down with rubbing alcohol.
Penny and Elizabeth – Teddy Pendergrass – Got pregnant.
Moi – Bee Gees, Children of the World. Touched my ass to those of multiple older Catholic girls, repeatedly. Thank you, Maurice.

For the next few years, I bought every album by the Bee Gees (until Sergeant Pepper, when it finally dawned on me that perhaps they weren’t quite the thing anymore), and every album I could find by the Clash. My grandmother gave me the Star Wars soundtrack for Christmas, so I added John Williams to the list, and religiously bought anything scored by him, as long as it was also Star Wars related.

My parents had an old cabinet stereo that would allow me to pile 6 LP’s on the center spindle, and through the magic of 1960’s American technology, play one, then drop the next one down on top of it. When the last record in the pile had finished, I would flip the entire stack over and play the other sides. I eventually replaced Children of the World in the playlist with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, but that was it. I played other albums, but when the time came for a long afternoon of reading or fuming alone in my room, those albums were the ones spinning on the turntable.

Three albums with less in common have probably never been so closely associated for so long a time. They were the soundtrack for my early teen years. They played in the background the first time I drank a beer, and the first time I read Lord of the Rings. Pity me, for I will forever associate the passage of the Mines of Moria with Night on Disco Mountain.

The order was set in stone;

Side one of London Calling, Side one of Saturday Night Fever, Side one of Star Wars. Side three of London Calling, Side three of Saturday Night Fever, Side three of Star Wars.

In other words; Joe, Maurice, John. Joe, Maurice, John.

Now, two of the three have dropped. I know who drops next. I’m sorry, Mr. Williams. Had I only known my power, I would’ve bought Off The Wall, instead.

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