Our Favorite Things: Our Music Time Machines

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The Show
CCross
Touch of Grey
bruce-Springsteen-The-River-FR
Sweet Emotion Single
More Than a Feeling
Needtobreathe
Blueprint2

This week's Our Favorite Things poll is about songs or bands that transport us back to a certain time or place in our lives. We all have them, whether they be songs remembered from childhood or that song you heard wafting from the bar the first time you were handcuffed and put in the back of a police squad car for drunken/disorderly. So without further ado here's what our murder of writers came up with this week. And we would love to hear about any Music Time Machines that you may have. Feel free to comment below or post on our Facebook page. Enjoy!

“The River”
Bruce Springsteen
By Ken Zurski
Man, I love old album covers. I can go through my stack of LP's like a box of old photos. Each one brings back a different memory of why I bought it and where I was in life. No surprise that most of my album buying took place in the early 80's when I was in high school and trying to find my place. I was making a little money then - going to school and working at a fast food joint. I bought a cheap older model car and worked it up. I hung out with friends and went to the record store. I was also choosing my own music. So the one album cover which evokes strong emotions for me is Bruce Springsteen's "The River." It's a simple cover really, just a head shot of Bruce looking straight ahead, serene and thoughtful, with tight lips and dark, static eyes. The hair tussled a bit; the chin a little shadowed. Bruce is wearing a flannel shirt (I had one just like it). And although you can’t see it, I was sure his sleeves were rolled up (just like mine). I wanted to be that guy! Or maybe I already was in my own mind. Plus I loved Bruce's music. It spoke to me. And "The River" is a terrific album! But that simple cover shot? It still takes me back. Makes me want to get out those old photos - er, I mean album covers - and look around again.

“Sweet Emotion”
Aerosmith
By Paul Gordon
One of them for me would have to be “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith. It was the first song I remember hearing from what became my favorite rock group and whenever I hear it even now I remember listening to it and other Aerosmith songs and turning my girlfriend at the time onto Aerosmith. I got to see them in concert in Evansville in June 1976 (Rush was the opener) and my friends and I got very lucky in that we saw Aerosmith getting out of limos outside that town’s top hotel at the time, The Executive Inn. We got all their autographs, found out Steven Tyler was a cool guy and that Joey Kramer was, at first, stuck-up then warmed up to us a little. Like an idiot I gave those autographs to that girlfriend. I haven’t seen them since. Not much of her, either. Oh well.

Needtobreathe
By Lindsey Tanner
They’re Seneca, South Carolina's trio. It’s the rich acoustic guitar, tinny banjo and raw vocals that take me back to the evening friends and I piled in vehicles, CD in play, caravanning to a Smoky Mountain summit. We traveled the familiar road, running alongside the wild waters. With the windows down, the deafening rush of the rivers should have overtaken our music but the southern rock, nearly bluegrass, was its perfect complement; it was its soundtrack and it became the sound of our summer. As the sun retired, the forest of trees held tightly to the humidity of mid-day. The choir of crickets joined the lyrical stories told by Needtobreathe’s vocalists Bear and Bo. That night we were venturing to see thousands of synchronous fireflies flash in unison; a phenomena that must look as though the stars fell down to wrap man up in their beauty. But we were already wrapped up — the summer-rain smell, ink-black atmosphere and dropping temperatures of our destination — we were surrounded by the beauty of June and friendship. 

“The Show”
Doug E. Fresh (with Slick Rick)
By Kevin Kizer
It’s the winter of ’85-’86 and my friend, Aaron, had just picked me up to give me a ride to high school. We already had a growing interest in the burgeoning world of rap music when he popped a mix tape in his truck’s stereo and played this song. It was like a whole new musical world had opened up with its funky rhythm, jazzy style, sing-song lyrics and wait, was that a sample from “Inspector Gadget”? We must have listened to it 4-5 times before we got to school that day. I can still see in my mind the snowy subdivisions we were driving through, letting this wonderful new sound wash over us, with Doug E. Fresh beat boxing like nothing we had ever heard before (the best known beat box at the time being Buff Love, a.k.a. The Human Beat Box, from the Fat Boys, who sounded more like someone having cardiac issues, which wouldn’t be a surprise). This song was critical in turning me into something of an anomaly in 1980s rural Indiana: a hip-hop fanatic.

“More Than a Feeling”
Boston
By Terry Towery
My musical time machine (and I have tons of them, believe me) would have to be Boston’s “More Than A Feeling.” Besides being one of the best rock songs ever, it immediately transports me back to the late summer of 1976 when I was just graduating from Air Force basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. When I hear the song on the radio today, I can close my eyes and feel, hear and smell that summer – the first time I ever stepped way out of my comfort zone and did something completely crazy. Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? You bet I would.

“Christopher Cross”
Christopher Cross
By Matt Richmond
At age 6, no activity made my life more pleasurable than operating my parents’ record player. I held the large vinyl disk by its edges in my tiny hands, set it gently on the pin, then carefully positioned the needle over the disk, setting the table in motion. I dusted each record with the Magic Touch vinyl record duster and then, to consummate, I flicked the lever that dropped the needle. That, my friends, was living.

My parents had a lot of albums. As a 6 year old, I was only interested in two of them: Supertramp’s Breakfast in America and the eponymous album Christopher Cross. While Supertramp has had staying power, muddying my memories with classic rock replays throughout my life, the sound of “Sailing” or “Ride Like the Wind” instantly transports me back to that moment when the needle dropped, the speakers crackled and I picked up the album cover to enjoy it like a morning newspaper. What was that flamingo trying to tell me? I still don’t know.

“The Blueprint”
Jay-Z
By Shaun Taylor
It's a warm, beautiful morning in Charlotte, NC. I'm a junior at Belmont Abbey College, driving in my '95 Honda Accord (which I still drive,). Windows are down, with the Notorious B.I.G blaring over my puny speakers. I get to my American Government class and find out to my pleasant surprise that it's been cancelled. Only when I find out why it's been cancelled, my surprise is no longer pleasant. You see this warm morning in September is no ordinary morning. It's the morning of September 11, 2001. I jump back in my car, zip back to my dorm room and turn on the TV. Several of my teammates join me. We watch in shock and horror as the planes crash into the Twin Towers. Snapping out of my trance I pick up my Timeport cell phone and call my grandparents who are travelling from Florida back to our hometown of Washington, DC. The lines busy! I call my other grandmother who lives in NYC and works only a few blocks from where the planes hit. I can't get through! I start to panic. Then I pray. I walk over to the quad where a sea of students and faculty are in a frenzy. One of my teammates and best friends, Jon Jon, tells me Coach cancelled workouts (which never, EVER happened). Everybody is either crying or frozen with shock. Jon and I went back to our dorm, when I remembered that it was Tuesday and my favorite rapper, Jay –Z, was dropping his highly anticipated album, THE BLUEPRINT! But with everything that's happened there's no way the album is still coming out right? I ponder this aloud for a few minutes then decide to go to Best Buy to see for myself. Jon and a couple other teammates joined me in this trek. Fifteen minutes later, I'm in the checkout line at Best Buy with a copy of “The Blueprint” in my hands. We piled back in my Honda, I ripped the packaging off the CD and popped it in. When I heard the first few bars of "The Ruler’s Back" I knew that I had just purchased something epic. For the rest of the short ride back to campus and for several hours back in our dorm room, my teammates and I listened to “The Blueprint” and time sort of just stopped. The brilliant analogies, vivid storytelling and razor sharp punch lines (directed at Nas & Mobb Deep) combined with beats from a young Kanye West make “The Blueprint” a masterpiece AND my favorite album of all time.

By early afternoon, I was able to get a hold of my grandparents in DC and New York. That day was chaos for myself and so many of my fellow students. But as Jay-Z proved with “The Blueprint”, good music can be like honey for the soul. And even though workouts were cancelled, Jon and I took a boom box up to the gym and had a great work out with Jay-Z serenading us in the background!

“Touch of Grey”
The Grateful Dead
By Greg Stewart
I suppose I’ve had many “Musical Time Machine” moments in my life: a 45 of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” when I was about 8, various compilation albums from the K-Tel collection during my pre-teens, pop radio on Peoria’s KZ93 during junior high, the high school progression through classic rock, metal, punk, alternative and hip-hop, but the moment that changed my outlook on music, and life, is still very vivid.

It was June of 1987, just a few weeks after my high school graduation. A friend of mine who had just completed his freshman year of college was home for the summer and said we absolutely had to go see this band playing at Wisconsin’s famed Alpine Valley Music Theatre. Three friends and I, in an enormous Ford LTD borrowed from somebody’s parents, set out early for the Dairy State and my introduction to the Grateful Dead.

I had been to a handful of concerts before, but nothing like this. The people, the colors, the energy … sights, sounds and smells like nothing I had ever experienced. I was hooked before I even heard the band play.

Coincidentally, 1987 was the year the Grateful Dead released “Touch of Grey,” the band’s only commercial success. That song sparked a transition for the band, as its followers swelled from a devoted cult fan base to a bandwagon of part-time Deadheads from the college crowd.

I fell into the latter group, someone who truly appreciated the music and the scene, but never considered growing dreadlocks and going on a permanent trip. But from that moment, and until the Grateful Dead played its last show with front man Jerry Garcia at Soldier Field in July 1995, I made it to 35 Dead shows. Saw many, many other bands, too. All told, I’ve probably seen more than 500 live performances.

Because of that, I like to think I have a very broad and diverse taste in music. But since that glorious summer day in 1987, I tend to look at people in one of two ways – those who know Jerry and those who don’t.

 

About the Author
A Juilliard-trained writer, Kevin Kizer has fought against numerous world-champion writers during his career, besting the reigning middle weight writing champion in an exhibition bout in Helsinki in 1976. He also played a crucial role on the U.S. gold-medal winning writing team during the 1984 Pan-Am games, where he came off the bench in dramatic fashion to write the winning prepositional phrase just as time expired.