And part III
Updated: Oct 5, 2019
In August of 1979, I finished my Doctorate (actually awarded in December although we couldn’t afford for me to fly back for the actual ceremony). We also moved to Austin where I took a job as a new assistant professor at UT. I was actually making about $4000 less than I’d made as a consultant working for Ken McLeroy, but that’s what they were paying. Other job offers were in Amherst, MASS and UCLA (too much snow, too expensive to live there – so Austin it was!)
Moving to Austin cemented my developing interest in country/south rock music and we visited a few of the Austin musical “shrines” while we lived there. Armadillo World Headquarters was one – was torn down in the early 80’s but for a decade prior was a home of most of the big-name bands traveling through the southwest. We also did our share of line dancing at the Broken Spoke. A dance hall in South Austin – it’s probably still there. The other place we enjoyed music was Esther’s Pool Hall. Located on Sixth Street in Austin, while it technically was a pool hall, it was more known for its improv and “Saturday Night Live” type shows. You literally never really knew what you would see any given night. My absolute favorite, and if I’m not mistaken it still goes on each year, is their performance of the Jalapeno Chorus. Yes, the Halleluiah Chorus (complete with choir and orchestra) but with slightly different lyrics. This YouTube version is newer, but about 99% of what it was like in the day.
Okay, 1980. When we arrived in Austin ('79) we'd moved into a duplex on the east side of town. It was a decent complex, had a nice pool a couple of units over and was on a bus route so I could leave Dawn with the car and just take the bus to the University. Literally the first week we lived in Austin we got sideswiped by a drunk cowboy in a pickup so we were without our custom van for a few weeks while they repainted the desert scene mural on the side (and fixed the dents). Since I’m going down that rabbit hole – we’d bought the van while living in Chapel Hill. I previously mentioned the move from Albuquerque to Chapel Hill requires its own chapter, but one slice of the story was that the VW van we were driving had some major motor problems so we traded it in on a new Ford Pinto station wagon. We’d been given a 1965 Chevrolet Malibu by Bow Wow (yet another book) so we took both those cars to North Carolina. The Pinto was a piece of crap (as was the Malibu) so we sold both and bought a year old 15 passenger custom conversion van from my cousin Robin Nix in Arkansas. He’s used it to travel around while he was running for state office. Anyway, it had about 15k miles on it and they wanted to get rid of it so I got a ride to mom and dad’s (they’d retired from Santa Monica and moved to Lake Claiborne in Louisiana - near Homer about 1975.)
You guys may remember the van had four captain’s chairs in the front, a little table between the passenger seats, a sink and cabinet with an ice box built in, and a couch that converted into a queen-sized bed. The whole thing was covered floor to ceiling (on the inside) with orange, yellow and brown shag carpeting. It had a CB radio and a built in PA so I could use the microphone to yell at you (the boys) when misbehaving in the back of the van. Usually we traveled with a wooden porta-crib fastened down in the rear, and the bed unfolded so Wes (in the crib) and the other three (free to roam about) had a really nice space to play while we were traveling. Notice I didn’t say anything about seat belts. I know they were in the front but don’t think the rear seats or the back end had seatbelts. Also, the outside had these huge murals on the sides of a desert scene – cattle skull, cacti etc. Gotta find some pictures of that.
Anyway, that’s what we drove to mom and dad’s when we’d visit from Chapel Hill and then after the move to Austin. After a couple more years we sold it and bought our first Toyota Camry (1982), brand new. We must have had more than one car but I can’t remember what it was. Oh, before I forget, when we bought our house in Austin (after a couple of years) it had a garage. I’d packed the van with tons of stuff and pulled into the garage to unload in the shade. After taking everything out I tried to back out of the garage. But unfortunately, the scoop-shaped vent on top crashed into the door mechanism as the van was now 6” taller than when I’d pulled it into the garage . . . argh.
So big songs of 1980 – Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen, and the Eagle’s “Heartache Tonight” were three of my favorites. The Rolling Stones had #53, “Emotional Rescue” and that reminds me that with a few exceptions, I never really liked much of the Stones music. Maybe a musical snob, but the drums and bass parts were always really basic, the guitars while interesting melodically were usually pretty simplistic and of course Mick Jagger’s voice is nothing special. But I have to admit that their enduring success comes from something other than an analysis of the parts -but rather than animalistic drive of the “whole.”
Boy there are a lot of good songs in 1980. All over the map stylistically. It was a fun time. We were living in Austin by then and getting exposed to local county AND western music, although not too much cause we kept having all these kids (no time, no money).
In either 1980 or 81 we got a used piano from Nancy Epstein (her roommate left it behind and when she moved to a different apartment didn’t want it so I got a couple of guys to help me bring it out to Lake Hills Drive. I wasn’t playing music with anybody at the time – only had the upright piano and my Yamaha acoustic guitar to play on. For months on end I spent a bit of time every evening just playing through a Baptist Hymnal. If you want to build up your keyboard chops, that’s a great strategy – pretty easy and melodic tunes and a great time to just be alone with your thoughts as you read the lyrics and try to figure out chords. Oh, I was playing piano for the children’s choir at church (and singing in the [adult] choir) – just not playing in a band.
1981 doesn’t have many “stand out” tunes, certainly many that I enjoyed, but to pick a couple of really winners is tough. I guess “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, would be one. The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” is another. “Elvira” by the Oakridge Boys and Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” are sort-of novelty tunes but good music – oh and “Whip It” by Devo . . .
1982? “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor (just because it won’t die!) “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band is another fun song. John Cougar (Mellencamp) had two big hits “Jack and Diane” and “Hurts So Good” at #7 and #8. “Rosanna” by Toto is also a classic. Lots of great bands – Journey, REO Speedwagon, Alabama, Little River Band etc. etc. during this era, but none of the individual songs were really meaningful. You know it’s funny, Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young sometimes) were really big but didn’t have lots of really “hit” songs – they were sort of the easy listening background to the harder stuff that was more in your face. I really enjoyed their musicality although I only saw them live twice. Second time was at the Hollywood Bowl and wasn’t a great show. Steven Stills was trying out a midi guitar that wasn’t working right and he spent most of the time fiddling with it rather than just grabbing another guitar and doing the show. They played right through as if he wasn’t distracted but it literally was a visual and musical distraction to see him messing with stuff and talking to his guitar tech. First time I saw them was in a small club in Hollywood – same place I used to see the Byrds pretty regularly (Howard’s sister was dating Gene Clark, one of the Byrds) so we’d sometimes get in even if the club was full. Place only held maybe 100 people? David Crosby, of course, was in both the Byrds and CSNY. Got to spend an afternoon on Crosby’s sailboard in Marina Del Rey, maybe a dozen people onboard. We didn’t go out on the ocean, just motored around the marina for a couple of hours. Probably best because Crosby was in no shape to “drive.”
1982 had a couple of other great songs – Dan Fogelberg’s “Leader of the Band” really spoke to me then (and now.) Wow, Jackson Browne, America, Elton John, Juice Newton, Roberta Flack – so many great musicians/performers. This was a really rich time.
1983 – hmm. “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, “Flashdance” (Irene Cara?), “Beat It” by MJ and “Maniac” by Michael Sembello and that just out of the top 9! Then a really hardcore 80’s cluster – “Sweet Dreams” by the Euthrymics, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” – Culture Club, “She Works Hard for the Money” Donna Summer, “Hungry Like the Wolf” Duran Duran, “Let’s Dance” David Bowie, “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant and “She Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby. That’s just up to #23!! “Africa” by Toto, “Little Red Corvette” Prince, “Mr. Roboto” by Styx, “Der Kommissar” by After the Fire, and “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats - - - I could go on, but you get the idea, the 80’s had finally arrived!!
I still had my “stereo” system – a Sherwood receiver, Benjamin Miracord turntable and the GTE speakers I wrote about earlier. I can’t not repeat the story of Alex and the stereo. In 1984 we moved to Temple, TX and the house we bought had a garage converted into an additional living room (since the actual living room was tiny). Since we didn’t have money to furnish another room (and since we had 4 boys to entertain) we kept the empty boxes left over from moving as an indoor playground – mazes and stacks of boxes – it was a mess but fun. The upright piano only fit in that room and I’d put the stereo on top (with the speakers on their stands on either side of the piano. Was great to be able to play along with records. The stereo had an on-off switch that was independent of the volume knob. So rather than turn up the volume as you normally would by turning the “on/off” knob, you flipped the switch and the stereo went on at whatever level the volume adjusted to. Not sure how, but apparently Alex turned up the volume, probably thinking that would turn on the sound but nothing happened. So, then he flipped the switch and the stereo came on at full volume causing him to appear to fly across the room as if foreshadowing the scene from Back to the Future when Marty turns up his guitar amp too loud. The story has been told so many times I’m not sure of how accurate my description is of “reality” but something like this happened. Speaking for foreshadowing, Billy Joel’s “Allentown” was a hit in 1983.
So, 1984, “Jump” by Van Halen was #6, “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker, Jr. was #9, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cindy Lauper was #15 and #18 was the other “Jump” by the Pointer Sisters. The Cars had a couple of hits, but I particularly liked “You Might Think (I’m Crazy) - #65. “Thriller” (Michael Jackson) was #78 in 1984, talk about staying power!
So, 1985 – Dire Straits, “Money for Nothing” was #8. Glenn Frey had a couple of post-Eagles hits that year, “The Heat is On” at #19 and “You Belong to the City” at #30. Never a tune I recall hearing until years later (thanks Justin), “One Night in Bangkok” by Murray Head was #54. Bruce Springsteen was also another guy I never really got into – I think that was Ed Meehan’s influence (didn’t care for Springsteen), but he had “Glory Days” at #67 and “Born in the USA” at #92, in 1985.
A lot of these songs are got stuck in my head because when we lived in Temple, Dawn and I were doing aerobic dance 3-4 times a week (sometimes daily). So, it was an hour each time of loud upbeat tunes that I normally would have skipped. Some fun stuff and great musicians, just not great composers.
1986 was a year that Lionel Richie really broke out. He’d be bubbling along the last few years, but “Say You, Say Me” at #2 was a big deal. Robert Palmer, with “Addicted to Love” was fun. Visited Allentown to see Ed Meehan at the end of 1985 and he was definitely into Robert Palmer. Also, Stevie Winwood’s “Higher Love” was great (keyboard player’s – except Elton and Billy Joel – didn’t get top billing very often). #89 was “Walk This Way” which I think of as an Aerosmith tune. While it did feature them, the version Billboard has listed is the collaboration with Run-D.M.C. tune. #91 was “Your Wildest Dreams” by the Moody Blues. Ah, one of my all-time favorite bands and this was sort of a comeback tune after many years “off the charts.”
1987, we moved to Allentown and I started playing regularly with Ed Meehan and a few other guys (rotating in and out). Speaking of Ed, one of his favorite songs was “La Bamba” which happened to be #11 in 1987 (the Los Lobos version). Ed’s version had the lyric “Who knows the words to La Bamba?” 1987 was also a big year for U2 – with “With or Without You” at #15 and “I Still haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” at #23. I always like Huey Lewis and the News – not a huge fan, but appreciated their simplicity and focus. “Hit to Be Square” was #49. Genesis was another band I enjoyed – “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” was #68.
1988 – Well disco was dying and nothing had come along to replace so we enter a period of “weird.” George Michael had “Faith” at #1. Billy Ocean’s “Get Out of My Dreams and Into My Car” was #15. “Wild, Wild, West” by The Escape Club was #18. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin was #37. “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys was #42. And “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. Like I said, “weird central.”
Ok, if 1988 was “weird” then 1989 was “disturbed.” Milli Vanilli had 4 hits in the top 100! But we also got “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler and “Love Shack” by the B-52s (#47). “Funky Cold Medina” by Tone Loc was #65. Not much else jumps out at me.
1990. I haven’t mentioned Madonna. Well “Vogue” was the first of her songs I really listened to. Most prior to that had dark elements that I didn’t enjoy. But I have to acknowledge her talent. Still don’t like a lot of her stuff.
Linda Ronstadt, on the other hand, I’d listened to almost everything she’s ever recorded and enjoyed the vast majority. Her duet with Aaron Neville (of the Neville Brothers), “Don’t Know Much” was #20 in 1990 and still one of my favorites. 1990 was also the year of “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer. I had a sample of this that I could play on my Ensoniq keyboard – had the major riffs and breaks. Lots of fun!! So, 1991. I was winding down my role at Lehigh Valley Hospital, starting to develop the consulting business with Mike Felix, and Ed and I got cross-ways as a result. So, no more music with him. Too bad, Ed introduced me to lots of music to which I’d had little exposure. Tom Waits, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Bromberg – so many others (none of which I can name at the moment, but take it from me, he did). Well only a couple of tunes from this year - Bette Midler’s “God Is Watching Us” and Michael W. Smith’s “Place in This World” but that’s about it for 1991!
BUT, 1992 – well let’s start with the founding of Felix, Burdine and Associates! Actually, it was a pretty good year for music too! “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton, while a heartbreaking reality, it certainly a beautiful piece of music. Then we have “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred, “Black or White” by Michael Jackson and “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus! Rounding out the top 20 is “November Rain” by Guns and Roses and “Life Is A Highway” by Tom Cochran. Moving on down the list is #26 “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by Elton John and GEORGE MICHAEL? Who knew! “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (not that I was into this, but historically have to give it it’s due) was #32. OK, going on down the list, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was #39 (Queen, obviously), “I Can’t Dance” by Genesis and “I Will Remember You” by Amy Grant (#96). Pretty darn good year!
Well, 1993 started out with “Whoomp! (There It Is)” by Tag Team at #2, then – wait for it - - - NOTHING until “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That”) by Meatloaf at #36. Then NOTHING after that. Jeez. Where is the music??
So, 1994 seems to be all about the ballad. Lots of Boyz to Men, Celine Dion, Toni Braxton, Elton John (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”) was #18. “December 1963 (On What A Night)” by The Four Seasons seemed to be my life story in a song.
1995 got heavy with “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio at #1. “Kiss from A Rose” by Seal started my appreciation of his talent. Some real talent emerged in ’95 – Blues Traveler (“Run Around”) was #14 and Hootie and the Blowfish had two hit that year “Let Her Cry” at #26 and “Only Wanna Be With You” at #33.
1996 was interesting – the “Macarena” was #1, “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman was #6, Eric Clapton was still in his mellow phase with “Change the World” at #19. The rest is a bunch of songs I’ve never heard by artists I’ve never heard of. The “wasteland of the 90’s” is in full swing!
No, wait, in 1997 we get “MMMBop” by Hansen at #12! Then “see above.”
1999, well, “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears is #5 so things are looking up!
(Trigger alert! Almost all the listings for this have substituted an ellipsis [three dots] for “Hit” so in the future please refer to this is the song formerly known as “Hit Me Baby One More Time. Thank you).
Now where were we, oh yeah, Ricky Martin’s “Livin The Vida Loca” has a nice feel. Lenny Kravit’s “Fly Away” is an interesting tune – great talent. Then Will Smith again with “Wild Wild West” and who could forget Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5”!
OK, 2000! Things are looking up musically and otherwise. Although Felix, Burdine and Associates is winding down as a business, “Smooth” by Santana with Rob Thomas and “Maria, Maria” also by Santana are #2 and #3! And with “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down at #15, and “What a Girl Wants” by Christina Aguilera at #20 we finally have a year with a decent top 20 (again!)
It’s interesting as I scroll through these years how there are lots of artists with lots of hits that I don’t recognize or that I know the name but can’t tell you a specific tune I remember or like. Janet Jackson for example. I mean everybody knows who she is, but I can’t name a song by her. Same with Backstreet Boys – I mean I’m sure I know lots of their tunes, but I don’t associate them with specific songs. Same with Destiny’s Child or Toni Braxton – big names, lots of hits, but no neural connects in my brain!
OK, 2001 we moved to College Station. Lots of changes, boys in/boys out, relocation blues and new gig excitement! I started playing music a bit more than when I was traveling all the time with Michael Felix – got permission to use one of the bedrooms in Pebble Creek house as a music room! But as far as listening to music – got zip on the hot 100 list! Nothing clicks. Somewhere in the late 90’s Dawn and I got involved with the youth group at church and I organized, at Steve Gehman’s suggestion, a “praise band” for the junior high kids. “Audience of One” was organized as an “open call” so that anybody who tried out got to play. At one point at 19 kids playing or singing. We did a recording/video of “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” which can be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/ozPqvvKkmVs. Wes and Alex were doing music at church as well, James was playing tenor sax in the high school band. Justin was still recovering from playing drums with our PA bar band.
2002. My apologies to the ‘90’s – 2002 is at least as bad as the worst year of the 90’s . . . got nothing and nobody.
2003. All the way to #75 to find something . . . “Beer for My Horses” by Toby Keith and Willie Nelson! Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” was #91 and saved 2003 from near the bottom of “best years.”
2004 – again, some “well known” artists, but few that speak/spoke to me. “First Cut Is the Deepest” by Sheryl Crow is all right. Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys both had several tunes in 2004 (perhaps foreshadowing the success of The Voice TV show? #88, “Let’s Get It Started” by the Black-Eyed Peas rocks. Interesting how many country tunes were on the list compared to the last few years.
2005. Big year for Mariah Carey. “We Belong Together” (#1), “Shake It Off” #15, and #69 “It’s Like That.” She’s one of those amazing talents who always seems to be tettering on the brink of disaster (personal and/or professional). Makes me nervous to watch.
2006. First song I recognize is #78 – “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood. Probably some I would recognize but not by name or artist.
2007 sort of the same - #76 “No One” by Alicia Keys is only thing I recognize.
OK, so this year by year approach is not working anymore. So, I’m gonna switch back to also looking at albums (for some reason my writing shifted to “singles” around 1965).
In Junior high I got a Wallensak reel to reel tape recorder and started buying albums on tape. The sound was much better than vinyl at the time and as I started listening to more and more jazz, hearing the parts more clearly rather than the overall piece was my orientation. A few I can remember of Cal Tjader’s “Soul Sauce” (1964) and Nat “Cannonball” Adderly’s album “Fiddler on the Roof” also in 1964. Pretty trippy to have a black jazz sax player doing songs from a musical about Jews in Eastern Europe. I listened to a lot of Quincy Jones as well. His “Watermelon Man” is my all-time favorite version. I even tried my hand at arranging and write out charts for the entire jazz band at school. (Took a couple of tries cause I forgot to transpose alto sax parts into E flat in first version.)
I love the Beatles, but early on there was a competitive spirit between California musicians and the Beatles (well, British bands in general). Actually, it may have been musicians across the USA or even more broadly, but I can only speak for guys I knew in CA. But, by the time Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in 1968, we all had to acknowledge their musical abilities.
A slow walk through their discography generates an amazing array of mental images/memories. (NOTE: I’m not going to put in all the links for every song).
From the “Hard Day’s Night” (1964) album the early slow-dance-love-songs “If I Fell,” “I’m So Happy Just to Dance with You,” and “And I Love Her” all harken back to early high school romances. One of things I enjoyed, especially about the early Beatles were George Harrison’s guitar “hooks.” Really made some of those songs. Don’t know if he created or just played them, but really strong. “Help!” in 1965 was a soundtrack album from the movie – included some musical interludes not just their songs. I really like “The Night Before” (recorded my own version at jimburdine.com) “Another Girl” has another iconic George Harrison lick. Probably the most played Beatles song ever is “Yesterday” that’s also on Help! (Probably should google that . . . did . . . seems like “Let It Be” may be the winner – not sure anybody actually knows!)
“Rubber Soul” also 1965 (year I graduated from high school), was a real jump forward from “songs” to “productions.” Although not particularly “orchestral” there was a big difference in the sophistication of the music from previous work. “Norwegian Wood,” “Nowhere Man,” “Michelle,” “Girl,” “In My Life” and “If I needed Someone” have much deeper lyrics and the music tends to be richer (certainly much harder to play for cover bands!)
I’m not going to talk about each and every album, but “Revolver” is remarkable in that just a year later, 1966, the Beatles had again made a quantum leap forward in their musicality. If you just look at the number of performers and the types of instruments listed for their albums they go from 5-6 guys on the basic bass, guitar, drums, etc. to 30+ guys on mellotron, tape loops, tabla, French horn, saxes, trumpets, violins, etc. And the songs “Eleanor Rigby,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “Got To Get You Into My Life” are amazing.
1967 was also “Magical Mystery Tour.” Not an album with many songs I care for – really on “Fool On the Hill” and “All You Need is Love” – the rest I could pass on.
1968 was the White Album, which switched gears back to the more fun-loving Beatles. A bunch of almost “novelty tunes” like “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” “Rocky Raccoon” and “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road,” are lightyear away from their music just a couple of years previous. There are also some beautiful and serious songs on the White Album as well – “While My Guitar Gentle Weeps” is amazing. Every high guitar player mastered “Blackbird.”
By 1969, music had changed yet again and the first Led Zeppelin album was out. Several of the songs were amazing, mostly because of the arranging. At that time, we were largely listening on 8 track tapes which have a distinctive “warble” kinda like a warped record but not as consistent. I clearly remember wondering if that was an intentional effect or just an artifact of crappy technology. It was big that summer at the DeFore’s house on Lake Millerton, north of Fresno, CA.
The Beatles released Abbey Road in 1969. “Come Together,” “Oh! Darling,” “Here Comes the Sun” and the mash-up of five songs that run together on side two were all mind-blowing.
Finally, the Beatle’s “Let It Be” album put a bow on the ribbon with “Across the Universe,” and “Let It Be.” Don’t know what I can add.
The InRhodes didn’t play much by the Beatles, although we certainly could have. We missed the timing as the stuff that would have fit our talent pool was later near the end of the InRhodes timeline. FYI, Jim Odom went on to play Paul for several years with Beatlemania.
I’ve already mentioned Cat Stevens but his first BIG album was “Tea for the Tillerman” (1970). It had a bunch of great songs – “Hard Headed Woman,” “Wild World,” “Longer Boats” and “Father and Son” were some of my favs. Also big in 1970 was Blood Sweat and Tears album of the same name. BS&T featured horns with almost the same configuration as the InRhodes. We were just a bit ahead of the curve with horns, similar to Future’s foreshadowing of “country rock” a couple of years later (Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, Pure Prairie League, etc.). Too bad we didn’t stick together, we could have done massively good “covers” of the horn bands - Chicago, Coliseum, etc. I would add Tower of Power to that list but they came along a bit later as did Earth, Wind and Fire.
1971 would be the year of Simon and Garfunkel with “Bridge Over Trouble Waters” release. Title song is obviously a great piece of music. “Cecilia” is fun lyrically while “the Boxer” tells a sadder story. Never understood the “and Garfunkel” – could hardly hear the guy in the mix and obviously the musical talent was on the “Simon” side. Oh well.
1971 was also James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” album release. Great songs, and a wonderful voice. Never tried to cover any of his stuff out of respect.
In 1972 I got my Master’s from Cal State Northridge. I’d received my Bachelor’s in 1970 and was asked to stay on as the department’s first “graduate assistant” which meant I got paid to go to school! Also got married in 1970 and the InRhodes transitioned to Future. Busy time. We moved from Santa Monica to San Jose, then later to Mountain View, CA. Took my first real job as Program Director with the American Lung Association of Santa Clara Valley (the San Jose area). We took numerous weekend trips to the DeFore’s lake house as it was sort of half way to LA so easier for us to get together with Ron, Dave, Autumn (who was still Amy at that time), and friends. Kent Sternberg, a friend of Dave’s, lived with us when we rented a house and moved to Mountain View. Eventually his girlfriend (now wife) joined us, but four adults + Justin was a bit much. Oh, yeah, Justin was born while we were living in San Jose. The San Jose duplex we lived in was next to an apartment house with some interesting characters. I got to know the guy whose garage was right next to us (the apartments were upstairs over the garages – common in California but makes absolutely no sense in Earthquake land!). Anyway, he drove a Harley and was always working on it. Had “biker buddies” that hung out – not the hard hard core kind but scary enough. I bought a used Honda 350 to ride to work after Justin was born so Dawn could have the car to use (we’d bought a new 1973 VW van – very cool! I build a “base” that went between the front seats that we could attach Justin’s car seat to so the three of us could ride together. The way the VW was set up, we’d taken out the middle seat and converted the back seat to a fold out bed so it was 3-4 feet from the front seats to the back and putting Justin the car seat there wasn’t practical unless Dawn wanted to sit in the back.
Owning a motorcycle (even if it was a Honda) gave me entre into the biker neighbors – one of them gave me a tool box (which I still have), another helped me modify the exhaust so it was “safer” (basically taking out the baffles so it was MUCH LOUDER – and I guess theoretically safer.) Living an hour from San Francisco in the early 1970’s meant that the Doobie Brothers, Grateful Dead (although not them so much specifically), Moby Grape, and lots of other SF-based bands were “around.” We didn’t have the money or much inclination to do big concerts. Did go to Golden Gate Park a few times for “happenings” (free concerts and entertainment). 1973 was a great year musically – Don McLean’s “American Pie,” the Concert for Bangladesh album from George Harrison and “Jesus Christ Superstar” were big. We were also still into the Moody Blues – our lake house theme music.
1974 we moved back to Santa Monica and I taught at Cal State Northridge for two semesters. Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions” album was massive. Every day after class I’d drive home over the Sepulveda pass on the 405 from Northridge to Santa Monica. Right now, it seems like I listened to a lot of David Bowie at the time.
1975 was another Stevie Wonder year – Fulfillingness’ First Finale was the #1 album, but that album was nearly as impactful for me as previous work. That was probably the crappiest year in our lives – we moved to Albuquerque because Allan Steckler had moved there to start a doctoral program (the reason I was teaching at Northridge was cause he’d taken a sabbatical and they needed somebody). When he announced he wasn’t coming back to Northridge I was informed they’d be looking for someone with a doctorate so I should start looking around. Allan had funding for a teaching assistant to help launch their doctorate so we jumped in the van and headed to Albuquerque. And yes, it is just as depressing a place as “Better Call Saul” and “Breaking Bad” depict it! We lived between the airport and campus in a federally subsidized housing project complete with gun shots in the evening and broken glass everywhere so we couldn’t let Justin run around outside (we did have a 10 x 10 back yard). A few interesting stories about Albuquerque but back to music. What I remember about that year was listening to Electric Light Orchestra and Leon Russell.
1976, however, was an awesome year – we’d survived Albuquerque and moved to Chapel Hill (thanks to Allan again!) Paul Simon had “Still Crazy After All These Years” with the title song, “My Little Town,” “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Slip Sliding Away” – great stuff! It was also the year Linda Ronstadt released “Heart Like a Wheel” one of my two or three most favorite albums of all time. I was going to list the tracks I really like but there isn’t one I don’t LOVE! Andres Gold’s guitar work and arranging was amazing. If you look at the personnel you realize it was basically the Eagles plus some of the best studio guys/gals of the time. Still get goose pimples! ’76 was also the Eagle’s “One Of These Nights” album release.
1977 – Stevie Wonder continues to dominate with “Songs In the Key of Life.” I remember so clearly driving to the North Carolina beach for a weekend vacation and playing the 8-track as loud as it would go listening to Stevie and being amazed at the brass arrangements.
Third year we were in Chapel Hill, 1978, Star Wars (the movie and the soundtrack) was a big deal. Fleetwood Mac produced “Rumours.” I wasn’t into them for several more years – don’t know why. But I did enjoy the Eagle’s “Hotel California” and James Taylor’s “JT” albums. Ed and the guys at Married Students Housing that we jammed with worked out several of these.
1978 to 1979, our last year in Chapel Hill was a bit of a transition in many ways (getting ready to leave for somewhere [unknown at the time], but also musically and socially. Our next-door neighbors in our four-plex (two of the three other couples) were caught up in a complex relationship. The two husbands started dating and the two wives were left with the kids and a great deal of confusion to resolve. By “left with” I don’t mean they literally left, just functionally, they were putting all their emotional energy into their new relationship. One of the wives, Helen, was one of mom’s best friends. Her approach was to “be supportive” of her husband so she and Dawn started going to the gay bar where they husbands would go to dance and hangout. Helen was supporting her husband and Dawn was supporting Helen. That’s where Dawn developed her appreciation for drag queens and her friendship with Kissa Myass (don’t know his real name) started. They actually stayed in touch for a while after we left Chapel Hill.
The gay club, like almost all clubs was doing “disco” full strength. 1979 was the year of the Bee Gee’s “Saturday Night Fever” album.
So, summer 1979 we moved to Austin. James had been born in 1978 so there were four of us making the trip. Nancy Epstein helped us drive and ended up moving to Austin a few years later.
Early 1980 we started attending Riverbend Baptist Church. There is a long story about Tupperware parties that led us there, but it felt right at home for us. RBC was a split off from First Baptist in Austin and Gerald Mann, the pastor (had been pastor at First Baptist) was leading this renegade congregation and meeting in a junior high. We were among the first 50 “regulars” so there almost from the beginning. I ended up singing in the choir and playing piano for the kids’ choir. Although we’d visited a couple of churches in Chapel Hill, it had really been a decade since I was meaningfully involved in church. Never got to what I would have called an atheist or agnostic perspective, but I was definitely a victim of the growing prejudice against being “a scientist” and being “religious.” Pretty much squeezed that out of my life for a good while. In Austin, however, Riverbend was just what I needed to get a kick start. Gerald’s preaching and being part of a close-knit church (and singing/playing all those great hymns and the early days of “praise music”) were all very meaningful.
1980 was the Doobie Brother’s “Minute by Minute” album – good stuff, but I was really caught up in church music. At about that time contemporary Christian praise music was started to become more widespread. Michael Moore, Autumn’s husband had been part of the “Jesus People” movement in LA in the ‘70’s and when we’d have DeFore clan gatherings I enjoyed our conversations about music and occasionally playing music together.
Looking at 1981-82 and 83 there were some good songs, but no HUGE albums that I can recall.
1984, however, saw “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, “Synchronicity” by the Police and “Flashdance” the movie soundtrack. Wow, some great music in all that. I’ve mentioned David Bowie a few times. While you can’t take anything away from Michael Jackson, if “Let’s Dance” hadn’t been up against “Thriller” I believe it would have been album of the year instead.
I started at Scott and White in Temple in 1983. Was invited to join an employee-based band playing largely country and western (contemporary stuff). Really enjoyed it but it never really gelled into anything substantial. It did renew my interest in C&W music so spent some time learning that style of piano.
1984 or so I bought an electronic keyboard – a Yamaha Portatone “flip top.” It was an early synthesizer with dozens of preset sounds. Had built in rhythm so I used that with a children’s choir at our church in Temple as well as with the C&W band (but no rhythm with that!)
1985 was interesting. The big albums of that year were almost all the most successful album ever for that artist. Lionel Richie’s “Can’t Slow Down,” Cindy Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual,” Prince’s “Purple Rain”, Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” and Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.” Well, ok maybe not their most successful, but all big hits.
1986 was Phil Collins “No Jacket Required” and Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms” – and Sting’s “The Dream of The Blue Turtles” – some pretty good music!
1987 Justin and I drove to the Lehigh Valley so I could start my new job with HealthEast. There was some great music that year as well: Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” (which blew lots of minds), Peter Gabriel’s “So,” and Steve Winwood’s “Back In The High Life.”
1988 was U2’s “Joshua Tree,” Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and “Trio” by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. Three amazing performers.
Early year’s in the Lehigh Valley music focused on “Drop Roll and Cool” so lots of covers and weekly rehearsals in our basement. To be perfectly honest I don’t’ have a lot of “fav” songs from the late 80’s either. Don Henley’s “the End of Innocence” in 1990 and the Traveling Wilbury’s Vol. 1, were pretty good. Clapton’s “Unplugged” in 1993 was spectacular. But that was the start up years of Felix, Burdine and Associates so I was getting used to the 3-4 nights a week on the road consulting life and don’t think I listened to much music for a few years.
Of course, the late 90’s was also the Bob Band era, so what time I had for music was going into that.
By 2000 with Santana’s “Supernatural” FBA was winding down and we were anticipating a possible move to Texas. “Smooth” is probably my favorite on Santana’s album.
Looking through the hit albums list, it’s not until 2012 that I can say there was really an “album” that impressed me. Perhaps mostly because I was listening to single tracks (who buys albums anymore?), but Adele’s “21” had so many great tunes, I have to put it on the list.
Since then the same issue – I don’t sit down and listen to whole albums like we used to, so unless I happen to notice that a bunch of songs from one artist are really good, I’m not likely to realize they’re from one album.
OK, I’m still not happy with this format so I’m going to try talking from an “favorite artists” perspective rather than songs or albums . . . sorry if I start repeating myself again.
I’ve already talked about a lot of artists I’ve enjoyed along the way, but there are a few who probably pop-up in my year by year singles/albums organizational structure. Budd Shank, for example, was a jazz sax player (baritone and tenor) who recorded a legit jazz album to go along with a surf movie – Barefoot Adventure (name of album and movie). Bruce Brown, who was probably the biggest surf movie produce ever, was about at his high point and Barefoot Adventure was the first surf movie that was actually “promoted” (beyond flyers and word of mouth). So, having an album was really cool. Since I was playing baritone and tenor at the same time I really related to Shank. His album he plays both on some songs (sometimes overdubbing but sometimes actually switching during the recording). There is a kind of wholesome, fun loving feel to the whole album. A pinch of raunchy sax thrown in a few places. The drummer (can’t remember his name at the moment) was excellent but the string bass didn’t get recorded as well as I would have liked. Anyway, for a few years I wanted to be Budd Shank.
Another musician from about the same era was Dave Brubeck. When I mastered his “Take Five” on the piano I really through I was cool. I loved to walk into the band room, sit down at the piano and toss out a couple of choruses in 5/4 and then wait for the applause. (No applause ever, really, but it felt like they should have).
Part of the reason I enjoyed playing music with Tim Elliott so much was that although I’m quite a bit older, we’re from the same era musically and so tunes like “Peter Gunn,” one of Tim’s favorites was an easy one for me to pick up. I’d never played it on piano, but on sax, dozens of times.
I’ve written this to share some of my life with you guys in a more purposeful way than “accidental conversations” allow for. I’m not through with this – plan to go back and edit, and add to, but since Justin suggested it as a Christmas present, I’m running up against the clock.
More later, Love Dad