St. Augustine, FL — When my father was in Viet Nam, my mother and I used to record letters for him on a reel-to-reel tape recorder and mail them to him. I’m sure I babbled about what when on at school or what ball games I had watched. Being nine years old, I really didn’t have a lot to say about anything else.
Mom would record her part of the letter while I was out in the backyard missing free throws or playing with my G.I. Joes up in my room. There was one part of the audio package that we recorded together. Long before iTunes or Napster or file-sharing, it was common practice to tape music off of records. Mom and I came up with another idea.
We would tape the audio portion of music-oriented television shows (by cleverly putting the microphone in front of the TV speaker an then staying quiet while the show was on). Dad certainly would want to hear the “Grand Ole Opry” but we’d also tape “American Bandstand” and a follow-up summer show from Dick Clark called “Where the Action Is” with Paul Revere and the Raiders. We also included the songs from a new show called “The Monkees.”
Back in the 1990s, Dad was a department head for a medical center and had to attend a big sales meeting in Dallas. The sponsors brought in a lot of entertainment, including Paul Revere and the Raiders. Mom pulled Dad along, right up in front of the band, put her drink down on the stage and didn’t move. It was the time of her life and she retold the story to anyone who’d listen. It was as big as when I got them tickets to see George Jones live (Pondering the Possum’s Passing) and I was glad they got to see those performers before they passed.
As for myself, I’ve been to see some performances over the years like George Strait and KISS twice (and again later this month) but my musical tastes are a bit strange. I’m not nearly wealthy enough to be called “eccentric.” The last time the IRS helped me calculate my holdings, I could put myself somewhere between “don’t stare at that man” and “the boy ain’t right.” In the 80s, my journalism students would sometimes remark on the odd mix of music coming from my office. So, I figured getting to see my real favorites in person just wasn’t going to happen in my lifetime.
Until this year, when the moon was in the seventh house …
Suddenly, performers I had followed for decades were all going to be appearing within an easy drive from home. I got to see and meet Gino Vannelli and Swing Out Sister (with a hug and a compliment from Corinne Drewery: “The Audrey Hepburn of Jazz”), two jazz-pop acts that are in the “go to” rotation on my iPod. I got a front row seat for Helen Reddy, who had just returned to performing after several years. The non-hits and b-sides of her catalog have a lot of “enthusiastically romantic” tracks that I like and she did many of those in her show.
Then, I found out that The Monkees were coming to the area for a live show!
I thought there’d never actually be a reunion tour. There had been a few ad hoc collaborations by a few of the members but Mike Nesmith had mostly been off doing his own thing. Then, Davy Jones passed away unexpectedly and I figured that was that. However, Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz put on a great show and even included a video and audience sing-along tribute to Jones with his hit “Daydream Believer.”
Yes, they looked greyer and older and balder, but there they were. Yes, it was a striking contrast to see them live with clips from their 1960s TV show on the big screen behind them, but there they were.
I couldn’t believe I was seeing something from my childhood and I wished Mom and Dad could have seen it. I’m sure they would have wanted to hear all about it.
On the drive home, I was struck by how quickly, literally in six months’ time, I had checked off some big things from my life’s “To Do” list. I was really starting to struggle to think up what to do next. What are my goals, personally and professionally? What am I looking forward to as the next big event, not counting colonoscopies?
I had better come up with some answers soon.