Neil Young

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I’ve posted the best known cut from this album – but to be honest the whole disc is great.

I stumbled onto CSN&Y a bit belatedly. My tastes in LPs ran to Blood, Sweat & Tears and The Moody Blues so the most I knew about Stephen and the boys were the Top 40 hits…then I ended up with a room-mate at Boy’s State had a portable 8-track player with a copy of “Deja VU” and the rest was history.

I spent the next year or so tracking down their individual and collective works but this eponymous first outing my Mr. Young was quite elusive. I knew it existed mainly from reading some of the lyrics Larry Kampen had written on his binder but it wasn’t until college and the University of Alaska bookstore that I found this 1968 release.

It’s different from “After The Gold Rush” and “Harvest” in that there is a more eclectic mix of music and a wider range of instruments – it’s not just the Stray Gators playing back up on each track. I’m sure that the fact that there were some pretty nice things were happening to me when this music was the soundtrack of my life is part of the reason of my bias but please give the album a try. Most of the tracks are on You-Tube and it is an economical down-load on Amazon.

Music: Witchita Lineman

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I’m glad that I’ve stretched out making comments on my list of ten favorite songs. While I have been composing my thoughts as the days have gone by I’ve remembered other songs and situations, prompting me to edit my list.

One important addition is “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell which I first heard in the early winter of 1968/69. It got some air again in the mid-90s when it was used as Matthew’s (Andy DIck) favorite song in the sitcom NewRadio, a left-handed compliment if there ever was one.

At that time I listened to in on the radio there were very few trees surrounding our house leaving us unprotected against the winds coming down off the Chugach Mountains. The wind would whistle and moan as it ran past the power lines, TV aerial masts and leads that were mounted just over my attic bedroom, so when I hear that whistling introduction to “Wichita Lineman” I’m not thinking about Kansas, I’m thinking about Sterling, Alaska circa November 1968.

It was a good time for me –the best year out of all of high school. I’d been doing some losing and gaining over the preceding summer: losing weight and clumsiness while gaining a little height, muscle and confidence. I had a solid group of friends at school centering on judo and I was doing OK in my studies as well.

Still, living way out in the country (my high school was 25 miles away) my social life was pretty bleak and with my bedroom up in the attic even contact with my own family got spotty at times. That’s why I loved my radio so much – as I would lay on my bunk at night I’d listen to the wind howling as the music crackled in on an AM signal – and when favorite songs came on it made me feel connected with all the other people listening to the music, both right in Anchorage and those of us out in the sticks within that 150 miles broadcast radius.

“Vote For Me” – Joe Walsh

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I haven’t posted any sort of favorite musician lest – but if I did Joe Walsh would place very high on it. His rep has been built on rock but I like his slower songs – ballads etc. There is a lot more depth than people realize.

“Vote for Me” is not on any particular favorites list but I song I definitely like. It was released in 1992 and is as accurate in its portrayal of my feelings about our political system as it was then. “If ‘pro’ is the opposite of ‘con” then what is the opposite of “progress”?

Favorite Music: I Know A Place Petula Clark

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At this point my all-time favorite 10 song list is looking kind of – well “porous”. The obsessive-compulsive left-side of my brain wants to keep those lists trim and inviolate – but then another un-listed treasured tune pops up on my MP3 player. ” I Know A Place” is one of Petula Clark’s marvelous run of Tony Hatch-penned pop songs takes up a neat chunk of that MP3 player’s memory.

I’ve had this weakness for dark-eyed blondes since seeing Shirley Jones in “Oklahoma!” when I was three, but Pet Clark could be sporting Elton John windshield wiper glasses and a Day-Glo Mo-Hawk ala Pink and I’d still love her. Same for this song – “I Know A Place” was the very first 45 rpm record I ever bought. I sent a very-hard-to-come-by-for-the-time dollar bill to Shimek’s Music in Anchorage along with a scrawled note and one week later I got my record which then stayed on the record player playing nonstop for the next week.

(Outside of church we rarely made those 11 miles into Soldotna those first couple years on the ranch so ordering from a city 138 miles away got quicker results.)

Why do I like her music? Catchy tune, a stronger tempo that most non-rock songs of that time, happy message, beautiful voice – but mostly it is a gut reaction. The planet Saturn could be on a collision course with the earth but if I have a Petula Song clark on my headset everything’s going to be OK…

It runs in the family as well. My kids – especially Meghan – have a fondness and knowledge of Petula Clark that 99% of the under 50 population of the US lack.

Favorite Music: “Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel

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For various reasons my family and I moved back to Sterling, Alaska in May of 1987. We were there primarily as house-sitters for my folks as they were planning on spending a couple of years as missionaries in the Canadian Maritimes, but we also just wanted to get home for awhile. The 26 month period we spent there was the high water mark for our family’s life and had there not been a prompting of Biblical proportions that set me on the road to getting a Master of Fine Arts degree we’d still be there to this day.
At the time of my move I was making a living exclusively from freelance artwork. I was in between periods of service in the reserves and had yet to start teaching, so it was vitally important that I resume work on a massive Battletech/MechWarrior project as soon as possible after arrival. The old garage was to be closed in and converted to useable studio space prior to our arrival so packing and set-up would take as little time as possible.
(At this point you may ask “What color is the sky in your world Captain Dave?)
Other than a cement floor being poured no work had been done on the studio project. After allowing myself a 45 minute emotional breakdown I dusted myself off and got to work. Each day for a month and a half I would get up at 6:00 AM and work on marker renderings until 3:00 in the afternoon, then I would trade my artist’s tools for hammers and saws to use in converting the garage into useable studio space. The hammering and sawing would last until about midnight with the whole project stretching over all of June and a good part of July.
When it was all finally done I was in pretty much the same condition: done. In addition to being physically exhausted we were both pretty wound up emotionally; not only did we have the expected conflicts of two families living in one house, I was also getting dark messages from my main clients regarding the slow-down in production. The home-with-the-trapezoidal-studio we left back in Orem was looking a lot better in hindsight and I was wondering if I had made a colossal blunder in moving.
Finally the books on the shelves, the paints stored in the proper drawers and the track-lighting installed and “sighted-in” over the desk. We plopped down into our respective chairs and as we went into a collective funk something prompted me to drop a specific cassette into the boom-box. It was “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel and the effect of the music was startling. I hopped up, took Lori by the hand and we danced across the studio floor in a kind of combination fox-trot/hustle that fit the song’s quasi-Latin beat. As Peter Gabriel crooned in his unmistakable raspy tenor voice we started laughing about how tired we were – and how the spirit of Our House/Home had come alive again now that the studio was up and running – and we’d be able to start working together there again. It was a simple thing – but it was (up to that point) probably the happiest five minutes of my marriage to Lori, not so much for what we said but for what we felt.

Music: Taxi

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Selling a sad song to a Celt is like shooting fish in a barrel – and despite a flagrantly Teutonic surname I am of primarily Celtic ancestry (Welsh/Cornish/Scots/Irish). When you consider that Harry Chapin seems to have been unable to write anything upbeat at all it is no surprise that his first – and most poignant- hit “Taxi” would be a favorite.

( I don’t count his wretched 1981 release “Sequel” to be canon – I am convinced greedy record executives snuck Harry’s evil twin into the studio late one night to record that piece of >BLEEP< to squeeze more money out of Taxi fans.)

I first heard the song during my first summer working for Chevron at the Swanson River Oil Field on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. It was an up-and-down summer for me: I desperately missed my girlfriend who I was totally smitten with and I was just doing “OK” as far as learning the ropes to the job. I was very fortunate in that A) I had a great mentor in my foreman T.H. Auldridge B) I was able to get to Anchorage once and Fairbanks twice to see my girlfriend during my time working there and C) the summer of 1972 had some great music on the air to help pass the time and ease the stress.

Besides, I didn’t mind listening to a beautiful but bittersweet ballad. Everything was going to be just fine in the relationship department…

For some reason after that summer I didn’t hear Taxi until the summer of 1978 – again when I was working for Chevron USA out at the Swanson River field. I was driving over to a tank setting to retrieve a pig I had just shipped ( oil field jargon that I will cover in a later post) when the song game on the radio – and I just about went off the road.

I was completely unprepared for the almost-physical reaction it brought about – and I still am clueless as to why. Six years later – I was married and we were expecting our first child. I was planning to go on active duty as an Army officer at the end of the coming school year, so everything should have been OK – so why the jolt?

I think the strong reaction was the result of combining effects – like when they tell you not to drink alcohol when you are taking some medications. As I said before Taxi in and of itself really tugged my heartstrings, but sitting in the truck and simultaneously thinking of how things were six years previous and how they were at that time. Well, I think it was a case of emotional whiplash.

The song still blindsides me from time to time; the same sort of combined physical/emotional twinge upon hearing that song happened again when we moved to Huntsville (AL) in the fall of 1989. It still causes a little twinge whenever I hear it now, though at this point in my life and looking at the decisions I’ve made it would be hard not to feel something.

it’s like I tell kids “ You get old fast and smart slow”

“Hello It’s Me” – Todd Rundgren

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Vocalist David Crosby often tells people “If you say you remember the Sixties you weren’t there”. It’s a great sound-bite, given his history with “experimentation” but it isn’t all together accurate. When Mr. Crosby is talking about “the Sixties” the time period he is really talking about is the extended “Summer of Love” from 1968 to 1972. His personal history does not synchronize with the clocks and calendars in common use.

I suspect most of use function in the same manner. Our own personal history and temporal landmarks don’t always mesh with the timetable the rest of society uses. An old friend and mentor used to call his own periods of time “boxes” and felt that the boxes could be dictated by age, events or experience and (again) our boxes don’t always line up with everyone else. For example while a young man’s “ teenage years box” are supposed to run from 13 to 19 but my teen-age year-box went from age fifteen to age twenty, and the next song on my list marked the end of that box for me.

Todd Rundgren first recorded “Hello It’s Me” in 1972 but it didn’t start charting until the fall of 1973 – one of the best and worst years of my life. After going through what can be described alternately as a “Road to Damascus” or “Alma the Younger” conversion that put me permanently on track in life, I went on to the best semester of my collegiate career, making the Dean’s list and achieving a number of important personal goals.

While I love this song it conjures up conflicting memories and emotions from that time. The first time I heard it on the radio I was secure in my future but shortly thereafter the track I had been put on the summer before was reoriented 90 degrees to a very different future.

“Think of me
You know that I’d be with you if I could
I’ll come around to see you once in a while
Or if I ever need a reason to smile”

When I hear that song two conflicting set of thoughts form in my mind. One considers the valuable preparation made during that semester and now happy I was as I made progress and anticipated the future. The other set of thoughts revolves around having that “15-to-20” box nailed firmly shut.