I’d like to introduce my first ever – guest blogger – Chris White. I’ve known Chris for a over forty years, he was my backdoor neighbor growing up and the leader of all things fun in the neighborhood. There were a lot of boys our age in the neighborhood growing up and only a couple of girls in our age bracket. Chris was a few years older than me, but I never felt that way – we played tackle football in the side yard, baseball in the vacant lot, and when I got older, he became my boss at Tempo Records and Tapes. I moved away from Texas in ’87 and he moved, too. We lost touch, but I never forgot growing up in the neighborhood. We got back in touch a few years ago on Facebook and we’ve messaged back and forth a several times catching up. His whimsical sense of humor was inspiration and I vividly remember many of the laughs we shared, many of which are not fit to print. Despite our moves, both of us still root for Houston sports teams. Which, if you know the history of most of Houston’s sports teams, is funny. Very funny.
I let Chris tell you the rest of the story……
I first discovered musical idols the day my older sister brought home “Meet the Beatles.” Not yet ready myself to idolize anyone not wearing a cape and tights, I watched fascinated as my sister melted into a puddle while the moptops went about changing popular music forever.
Flash forward a few years, leaping over a Herman’s Hermits infatuation that’s better left unexamined, to my freshman year in high school, when I first discovered that athletic skill wasn’t necessarily a prerequisite for attracting the opposite sex. I began to gravitate toward those girls who’d never heard of Johnny Bench but who could have described Led Zep’s Robert Plant in sufficient detail to satisfy a police sketch artist. It was around that time I discovered the first musical idol I could latch onto and call my own: Keith Emerson, the genius behind Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Keith was a giant of progressive rock, a colossus among multi-keyboardists — it was decades later that I learned he was (and still is, presumably) all of 5’4”. Regardless, Keith seemed larger than life at the time.
Since my family owned a Hammond organ, I began to teach myself how to play, taking baby steps at first. Wrangling a couple of friends who shared a remarkably similar complete lack of musical talent, I formed a band. Or more accurately, a “band.” Clay, the proprietor of this blog (thanks for the guest spot, Clay!), whose boyhood home was right behind my own house at the time, can attest to the fact that no amount of volume can make up for a dearth of musical skill. The amazing thing about lack of ability, though, is that it’s often accompanied by a simultaneous lack of awareness. Not realizing how bad we were, my bandmates and I continued hacking away on our respective instruments until a miracle occurred. Lo and behold, we gradually became mediocre. Eventually we progressed through “adequate” and “not terrible” and by the time we were seniors in high school, ended up somewhere around “pretty damned good,” complete with a record (recorded in an actual honest-to-God music studio) that got a few spins on KLOL, the dominant FM rock station in Houston at the time.
It was on a road trip in 1976 to play a spring break gig in Corpus Christi that I was introduced to the musical idols who would keep all others at bay for the next forty years. One of my bandmates brought along a supposedly high-fidelity 8-track tape of Steely Dan’s “The Royal Scam” album, which we listened to over and over and over in my dad’s Olds Delta 88. By the time I was back in Houston a few days later, the trajectory of my life had been irreversibly altered. No longer would I be quite as satisfied with the bombast glam of Queen or the overwrought noodlings of Kansas. I had discovered complex chord changes, jazz harmonies, guitar solos wicked enough to send the swiftest-fingered rockers back to the practice room, all set to rock songs with lyrics that were literate without being pretentious. A shimmering, gorgeous surface hid the musical complexity underneath, and the lyrics only gave the faintest of brush strokes to the sordid tales they painted, forcing the listener to fill in the details using his own imagination. That some people didn’t “get” Steely Dan, taking them as a light-rock band with glossy songs, only made it that much better. I was in that select group who understood how deep their music actually was. Genesis? Yes? Rush? Don’t get me started with those prog-rock posers, Steely Dan were real musicians playing music that was challenging in a way nothing else I’d ever heard on rock radio was. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: Reelin’ in the Years