The Loco-Motion and Other Valuable lessons

I think that I have always been obsessed with rock and roll.  I remember being a huge fan of the Osmonds, which was oddly encouraged by my parents.  You see, the Osmond Brothers got their start in showbiz by singing as a barbershop quartet, which is pretty amazing if you have ever tried to sing barbershop.  It requires some serious skill to do it really well - and the Osmonds did it really well.  My parents had their Christmas album, “We Sing You A Merry Christmas,” which wasn’t really barbershop but, if you can sing barbershop, just about any kind of vocal harmony is pretty easy.  Anyway, they had that album and it was a staple in our house at Christmastime.  I still have it. 

Because my parents knew and loved the Osmond Brothers, they were accepted by my folks even after they grew up and became a pop band.  To this day, I still have their album “Phase III,” which was my first record that I bought.  I still love most of it, especially “Down By The Lazy River” and “Yo Yo.” 

I remember being home sick from school one day and I must have been in the second or third grade.  My mom was going out to the grocery store and asking if she could get me anything.  “Yes!  There’s a new record out called “Crocodile Rock,” by someone named Elton John.  Could you get it for me?”  She thought it was a weird name for a song, but she came home with the record. About this same time period I received my first record player for Christmas one year.  Along with it I received a 45 of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by the Supremes.  That was a good one, too. 

Having a record player was like having the keys to the kingdom - at least to me.  However, records cost money.  I eventually did what lots of kids did back then to acquire music:  I recorded them off the radio on a little Panasonic cassette recorder.  This was tricky.  Of course, you never knew when the song you wanted would be played, so you may have to wait for a long time.  Then you had to hope that the DJ wouldn’t talk over too much of the intro or outro, which they did constantly.  I would sit for hours and hours trying to get a clean recording of “Bennie and the Jets” or “The Loco-Motion” (the Grand Funk version).  I would also experiment with ways to cut down on unnecessary background noise, too.  I would construct fairly elaborate contraptions out of cardboard boxes to put the recorder and radio in while still allowing me to press “play” and “record” simultaneously. 

Now, I never really thought about this until right now as I am writing this, but sitting there for hours exposed me to a whole lot of music while I was waiting for “The Loco-Motion”.  This was in the mid-Seventies, when top-40 radio was much different than today.  In that time period that I spent waiting for “The Loco-Motion,” I would hear The Righteous Brothers, Jim Stafford, Steve Miller, The OJays, Hot Chocolate, The Bellamy Brothers, John Denver, Steelers Wheel, George Benson, The Jackson Five, The Climax Blues Band, The Eagles, Barry White and Ray Stevens, just to name a few.  That’s the kind of diverse playlist that you’d never see the likes of today.  So, while I waited for “The Loco-Motion,” I was exposed to the entire world of pop music. 

When Bruce Sprinsteen sang “We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school,” he was talking about me.