Let Us Begin Where It All Ended

Your very own personal musical innocence, do you remember when it was last in your possession?  Probably not – innocence lost is innocence (long) forgotten; such is the nature of innocence.  I do, however, recall the days when my musical vernacular consisted of an endless stream of little ditties that were sung amidst the genesis and demise of my vocal heyday – second-grade choir.  Songs that were generally sung during holidays–like Halloween–while sitting cross-legged on a gymnasium floor.  The songs that echoed across the cement block walls and basketball backboards while 200 cherubic voices sang lyrics to Have You Seen the Ghost of John from the glow of a toasty overhead projector. Musical innocence – it’s akin to hanging on tightly to a steadfast belief in Santa.  Your jackass-yet-somehow-cooler-than-you’d-ever-hope-to-be friends are trying to convince you that your parents are actually Santa, yet you plug your ears and close your eyes and remember last year’s wonderful Santa gifts.  How in the hell did he know that you wanted a 12″ Chewbacca?  That was a truly fucking amazing guess, right?

And then one day…it all ends–with a loud, thunderous and rhythmic series of thuds!  You catch your parents listening to actual, real, authentic music.  Not the music that you played on the triangle in second-grade music class, but music made by folks who had somehow figured out how to get paid to make music.  And then all of the little musical notes randomly dancing around in your head aligned and you began to comprehend the greater cosmic significance of music.  It was more than just a rote exercise in reading and singing (chanting) lyrics off a toasty overhead projector screen.

The first non-children’s song I can remember consciously experiencing was the Spinners classic:“Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl”.  By way of web research, that song first appeared on the Spinners LP: Love Trippin.  I remember Chuck Donley–doing his best Deney Terrioimpersonation–slicing and dicing the brown/yellow shag carpet into small bits in our family room with “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl” banking off every inch the gold foil and faux-cork wallpaper that adorned the walls.  I swear I could see miniature carpet fibers being thrown into the air–screaming in horror–as the razor-sharp 1″ heels of his navy blue alligator loafers separated them from the rest of their carpet family. For me, that was where it all ended – my musical innocence.

I was forever tainted from that point forward.  Renditions of “Row Row Row Your Boat” never sounded the same, even if done in a round.  For I knew that the great wide world of music had much more to offer than a grouping of cherubic vocalists belting out the classic children’s fare of the day.

Plus, the grass sounded a hell of a lot greener coming out of the Marantz 33/330 speakers back at the old man’s new component stereo system–that was for DAMN sure!!!

Charles “Chuck” Donley (my old man) would nary discard anything that would possibly elicit some future value.  Along those lines, he saved–bless his bypassed heart–the receipts from this first component stereo system.  Just as he may have been unaware of how significant it was that he passed on to me an appreciation of music, he will never comprehend how important it was that he somehow managed to preserve these historical artifacts–the components themselves–which spawned my love of music.  10,000 thanks dad, it is one of the most amazing things, however inadvertently, you have ever done…

Here is what he preserved from the time I was eight years old to the eve of my 39th birthday, when the eventual stewardship of these historical artifacts was passed on to me:

Pioneer SX-780 Receiver

Silver Stack 2010_03_02c

Silver Stack 2010_03_02d

Pioneer PL-400 Turntable

Silver Stack 2010_03_02a

Silver Stack 2010_03_02b

Marantz 33/330 Speakers

Silver Stack 2010_03_02e

Silver Stack 2010_03_02f

By Halloween of 1980, my old man had replaced his Hi-Fi console–that was destined to become a over-sized combo: buffet/coffee table/Christmas knick-knack staging area–with a real live component stereo system.  And, as far as I know, the Spinner’s “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl” may have been the first song to pass through the Marantz LS-33-330s…I would describe my memory as solid, not photographic.

With my musical innocence lost; my fate as a music infatuationist was sealed–forever!  I believe every new experience in this life “hits” everyone with a different degree of impact.  For some, seeing their first in-person sporting event sears an unquenchable lust for their favorite sports team into their brains.  For some, their initial experiences with a pet brands them as an animal-lover forever.  For me, there would be no event–in the grand scheme my eventual reality–that would ever hit me in quite the way watching my old man give his new component stereo hell by way of the Spinners’ “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl” would.

Soon after the stereo purchase, Chuck added a pair of Koss K/A6LC Dynamic Stereophone Headphones into the mix.  And with that addition, I began to realize that enjoying music could be accomplished on a singular level.  Jamming to the Spinners did not require group participation and mass carpet-fiber homicide.

So, at the ripe-old-age of eight, I had been inadvertently converted to a music infatuaionist by my father. And there were three LPs in heavy rotation during that first formative year:

  • Juice Newton – Juice
  • Dr. Hook – Greatest Hits
  • Beach Boys – Super Hits (“As Seen on TV” – a Ronco records release)

In doing the research, all of these LPs came out around 1980.  So, it all makes sense in the grand scheme of the greater cosmic significance–phew!

All of a sudden, by way of the of Koss K/A6LC Dynamic Stereophone Headphones, I had musical freewill–it was immensely liberating!  At that same time, my old man seemed to have become more interested–at least in an aesthetic sense–in acquiring the aforementioned stereo components than actually enjoying them.  His “musical” taste had inexplicably shifted to the talk radio (WCCO) that was constantly blaring out of the cheap transistor radio in the kitchen.  Coming from the man that once played records and danced around the family room with the grace of a shadow-eyed ninja, the man that took lessons on how to dance “the Hustle“, this was sort of an abrupt shift – in my eyes anyway?

The happy accidental upshot of Chuck’s shift in “musical” taste, was that I basically had his spanking new component stereo system to myself; or so I assumed.  This was a magnificent turn of events to be sure!  I had a pair of Koss K/A6LC Dynamic Stereophone Headphones, a Pioneer SX-780 Receiver, a Pioneer PL-400 Turntable, and all of my old man’s LPs at my disposal.  And so I began to dispose of as many LPs as I possibly could.  It is akin to giving a man who has just completed 40 days and 40 nights in the desert a Thanksgiving feast.  I would quickly “devour” anything that existed in the old man’s record collection…and move on from there…

From there, life unfolded before my very eyes, musical formats evolved (media and style) and I would frantically fold the evolution of music into my own existence.  But is was not until the eventual stewardship of the musical artifacts of my youth was passed on to me, that I paused and once again contemplated raw, organic musical enjoyment.  Just like every other drone, I was immersed in a minutia of a digital music goo – more concerned with acquisition than experience.  I fell victim to all of the conventional “improvements” in the arena of musical enjoyment to such a degree that music enjoyment had become tedious.  I had become prodigiously jaded toward music.  I had completely lost track of the experience of watching goosebumps rise off my arms as the initial notes of musical excellence whizzed past my eardrums and beyond.

I realized it had been a long time since I had had any ear-shattering aural sex – a sad realization, indeed…

So, after some (significant) procurement and juggling of vintage stereo equipment, I assembled the world’s most dangerous Pioneer Silver Series stack this side of the Mpls./St. Paul border.  I foundationed it with a pair of Pioneer CS-703 speakers acquired from some dude in Ohio by way of eBay.


With the [ confl (uence conv) ergence ] =  conflergence of three events:

  • Stewardship of the musical artifacts of my youth
  • Realization it had been a long time since I had experienced ear-shattering aural sex
  • Journey of assemblage of the world’s most dangerous Pioneer Silver Series stack this side of the Mpls./St. Paul border

I felt it incumbent upon me to go back to the future and retrace the steps of my musical journey in a effort to give music a chance to once again recapture my imagination.  In the spirit of that notion, I walked into a thrift store and began flipping through the LP bin.  In 2010, I bought my first LP in 17 years, and I once again discovered the sheer joy of musical blissful nirvana.  With that, I decided to go back to the beginning and acquire the LPs that heralded the onset of the end of my musical innocence.

  • Juice Newton – Juice
  • Dr. Hook – Greatest Hits
  • Beach Boys – Super Hits (“As Seen on TV” – a Ronco records release)

I will listen to each intently, and in future episodes, provide my thoughts on said LPs.  With each new LP that I procure, I will perform a similar exercise of discovery and review.  And in the process, I hope to seamlessly weave together the two great loves of my life – music and writing.  I figure if I can’t create art (music) in the same manner as the musicians I admire, I’ll create art in the manner I can (writing) and hopefully provide a few moments of joy for anyone soul who takes the time to read this rambling.

Ramble on…

Copyright © 2012 – ∞ B. Charles Donley



Music vs. Love: The Life, the Numbness, the Cessation

If music be the food of love, then play on…and suffer a thousand deaths; a thousand tiny deaths. These thousand tiny deaths that require us to not only find, but to rebuild ourselves from a thousand tiny pieces. And in the rebuilding process, there is hope; it does spring eternal. And there sits music…watching over and interfering with both sides of this epic struggle. There is nothing so prospective as a perfect song. Conversely, there is nothing so destructive as a retrospective song.

So that makes music the almighty equalizer, right?

Time takes a toll on all of us, but it is music that accounts for every penny time exacts. It crystallizes those raw emotions that frame our unique experience. And because music is eternal, so those raw emotions are permanently woven into a unique tapestrial soundtrack. A soundtrack with the ability to remind and replay every ounce of joy and misery that love grants us. And when it finds our ears, it transports us back to the very second where we felt ecstasy or agony, whichever the destination.

Can anything connect the past to the present as music does? Can anything color in the edges of a memory the way music can? Can anything revive a long dormant feeling the way music will?

As amber preserves everything that falls into it’s fossilized minutia, so does music stop time to eulogize, memorialize and canonize every feeling, every emotion, every moment. In the notes of the music and the story of the lyrics are those feelings, emotions and moments. Each ready to sprung again at the drop of a needle, the friction against a cassette head or the kiss of a laser beam.

Whether we long to recapture on-purpose by playing a time capsule song, or we are struck like a bolt of lightening with the first few notes of an unintentional melody that accidentally drums our ears, music — like no other force for the senses — can seize our attention and demand a revival. For as painful or joyous as that may be, it is no less magical from either side. And when that time-capsule memory is intertwined with a love story — good or bad — the magic is expansive and deadly.

If music be the food of love, then play eternal…

Copyright © 2010 – ∞ B. Charles Donley