People often ask me how I “got interested in all this,” meaning vintage goodies and history in general. To be honest, I’m never really sure how to respond. I’ve had a strong passion for the past for as long as I can remember, literally! There is one particular “a ha” moment that I can recall though. I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old, my parents and I were at Ammon’s Drive In eating on the curb (I swear!), and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ hit Shop Around came on the radio. The song instantly made me so happy! I was overjoyed, and remember that I just kept giggling. Then a year or two later with a bit of assistance, my father instructed me on how to operate the family record player. It’s possible that this was “the beginning,”
Rock n’ Roll Roots
My obsession with vinyl records was inevitable, really. I came by it honest, being raised by a couple whose romance began amongst a sea of 45s. In May of 1973 my parents began working together at WPTL AM radio station in Canton, NC. My mother was the bookkeeper and had been working there for two years by this point in time. After a couple years of relentless pursuing on my fathers part, my mom finally gave in and went on a date with the poor kid. The rest, they say, is history as they wed in the fall of 1976!
The Music of the 1950s
After all the music that I have listened to and discovered I still feel most “at home” listening to those tunes that first captured my attention as a child. Don’t get me wrong, I love, and can appreciate most forms of music. But there is something about the roots of rock’n’roll that effects me like no other. Maybe it’s the conglomeration of rock, blues, and country or the raw sound of teenage rebellion! Whatever the reason, the hits of the late 50s (and up until 1963 if you want to get technical) were the first songs to make me really feel like Courtney! Genuinely happy, at home in my body, dancing by myself… Courtney!
The first two records I fell in love with were both soundtracks: American Graffiti and Animal House. Even though the movies may be inappropriate for children I can assure you that the albums are not! Both films are set in 1962 and feature an assortment of stellar tunes from this time period down to the early 50s.
The fold out cover art for the American Graffiti album mesmerized me as a child. I imagined that someday I might have the makings of a seductive 1950s carhop. I’m always rather proud of myself when I think about that, because I do have everything that carhop has! Somehow I feel as if baby Courtney would be proud.
Around this time period I made it clear that I only wanted to listen to Oldies stations. Back when Oldies stations actually existed, and not just Classic Rock stations. This was also when I came to the realization that I had more in common with adults than with children my own age.
The Music of the 1960s
Middle School is a nightmare for everyone, right? I’m not going to claim that I was teased more than anyone else. Or for that matter, that I had it harder than any other kid in the depths of puberty. Over the years I’ve come to realize that everyone felt victimized during those hard years. But I will say that much of the inspiration for my personal teasing/bullying revolved around the fact that I was a nostalgia nut. Chatting about history made it pretty difficult to connect with my peers.
It was 1995, I was entering the 6th grade and my tastes had already started progressing further into the 1960s. I had discovered early Bee Gees (so underrated) , the Four Seasons, even some Steppenwolf. By this time I wanted to learn as much about this bygone era as I possibly could. The internet wasn’t around yet, so most of the knowledge I acquired was from reading, listening to the radio, and engaging in conversations with adults. That’s when it happened, just what I had been waiting for. The monumental musical release that would change the next three (or more) years of my life: The Beatles Anthology.
This is when I started being referred to as “Beatles Girl.” After the Beatles Anthology I dove in to the Beatles trove head first! I had always liked the Beatles, I had been watching the cartoon and their movies for years. But at this point in time I had been actively looking for a way to immerse myself in the past. With six hours of video interviews and even more lost musical footage this was the answer to my prayers. After that my family gifted me Beatles books, pins, t-shirts, records, and anything that would add to my Beatles collection! When I wasn’t at school I was in seventh heaven, it was just the so-called “real world” that I didn’t understand.
The Music of the 1970s
Now that I’m older, I realize that a lot of my interest in the music of the 1970s was an attempt to connect with my peers. In high school, it isn’t unusual for teenagers to listen to Led zeppelin, Black Sabbath, or the Doors. I decided to give these bands a chance, they were actually very similar to what I had been listening to. It was nice having interests that seemed socially acceptable! It was a huge relief after the years of grief I got for being the “Beatles girl.” There were constantly opportunities to talk about classic rock or even buy merchandise to support a band you liked! Try finding a t-shirt for the Hollies or Paul Revere and the Raiders; good luck!
Don’t get me wrong, I really DO love Led Zeppelin! Otherwise, I was just wearing a socially-acceptable music-mask. I was listening to the music, and even acknowledging that I didn’t like it, but at the same time trying to understand why it was culturally important (I still do this). It was nice for a while but mainstream bands just didn’t fulfill my musical needs.
I remember at marching band events I would find a lonely adult, corner them, then weave obscure rock bands into the conversation so that I could unleash all my suppressed thoughts. I’m sure I was just frantically talking “at” them. Turns out I was the lonely one. It was a solid attempt to “fit in” but at the end of the day I was still trading 45s with my band teacher.
All The Lonely People
Today I’m still using the same record player my father taught me how to use over 25 years ago. I love the way records age along with us. They become a bit wobbly and a bit staticky, but the heart and the soul are there just the same. Those lyrics are just as powerful and therapeutic as the day they were recorded.
For me, music has always been an escape. As human beings we all have similar experiences during this lifetime. As an introvert, I would rather curl up and listen to a record after a hard day than talk to someone about my feelings. The songwriter, the storyteller, the voice coming out of that speaker, has been through every experience known to man and that’s comforting. Most of the time as human beings we just want to know that someone else understands our joy or our pain. As a human race we all have a general need to be understood and accepted, even when we are at our most eccentric and rebellious!
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous….
“And if you ever get lonely, you can just go to the record store and visit your friends.”