My Education in Music
Listening to my old cassettes, I got to thinking about how I started learning about music, and learning about what I liked. Considering the selection at home, I had a very late start. My family had only a handful of tapes and albums, literally. In fact, I remember the entire collection even today. There was Helen Reddy's "I am Woman," Neil Diamond's "Tap Root Manuscript" featuring 'I am the Lion;' a Virgin Islands steel drum band, Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," "Man of La Mancha Soundtrack," "Godspell Soundtrack," and a copy of "Kiss Alive" on 8-track tape. I believe the first 45's I ever bought were Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People," Terry Jack's "Seasons in the Sun," and Brownsville Station's "Smoking in the Boy's Room," all of which I bougzt at K-Mart and brought in for Show and Tell in 3rd or 4th grade. It was not until I was in 7th grade that I bought my first album, on 8-track tape, Billy Joel's "Glass Houses." During this time, friends and I always listened to Casey Kasem's American Top 40. Pam, Heidi, Steve and I used to tape the show and play it on a portable Panasonic cassette player hung from bicycle handlebars on our way to the Old Country Store to buy penny candy (and homemade peanut butter, huge homemade pickles out of a barrel, and a player piano). Upon entering college, it is safe to say that I had minimal exposure to music. I had 3 roommates my freshman year, all with completely different listening tastes. Andy had a huge collection of classic rock albums. Mark listened to electronic music like Tangerine Dream. Chris had a few collections from tv offers from companies like Ronco. Mark, Chris and I shared a radio show on Bates College's WRBC. We switched off every 3 songs, so we had a very eclectic show. Because I was Jewish, and Iran was much in the news, they called me the "Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla." The studio had a massive collection of albums, including some very strange, but also some wonderful stuff. For example, I found a gem in Diane Davidson's featuring "I Ain't Gonna Be Treated This Way," and a stupendous cover of Jackson Browne's "Something Fine." I took a year abroad at the University of Edinburgh in 1988-1989, stopping off in Ireland to turn 21. Seated in a pub in Doolin in County Clair after a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, drinking my first legal pint of beer (a Guinness I thought tasted like chalk until they added some black currant syrup), I experienced live folk music for the first time. I distinctly remember hearing Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans" that night. At my lodgings in David Horn House in Edinburgh my friend Daniel loaned me 10 cassettes a week, and this is when my music education started in earnest. Having only packed a handful in my luggage, I listened to everything from classical to rock. In addition, on my way to sign up for the Hillwalking and Canoe Clubs I got lost and popped into a doorway to ask directions. I was told that if I signed up for the Edinburgh University Crown Folk Club they would gladly give me directions. I negotiated for singing and guitar lessons and the deal was made. The once a week folk clubs were my joy and my sanctuary. Everyone was welcome to sing, play, or just listen, and no matter your talent (or lack of) you were given support and positive feedback. My singing teacher was a girl named Nichole from New York, and my guitar teacher was Alex. Alex opened for the Gipsy Kings that year, though at the time I had never heard of them. Another guy, Geri introduced me to the wonderful Christy Moore's music. Those nights got me through every week - no matter the difficulty there was always the next Folk Club jam around the corner to look forward to, along with the tea and Plain Chocolate Covered Hobnobs. Back at Bates the following year, my friend Frederik and I hosted a folk music show on WRBC. I leaned much more about folk music from Frederik and started listening to people like Shawn Colvin, John Gorka, Nanci Griffith, Luka Bloom, and Fred Small ("Wheelchair Talking Blues"), John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Richard Thompson, Bruce Cockburn, etc. Until I started hosting concerts at Treehugger Dan's, I think my music education had stagnated. Luckily, for the past 6 years I have been lucky enough to get to know some amazing musicians and support them by giving them a place to play every Thursday night.