Culture, Music, Science

Then, There, That Song

On our Delhi FB site, my home town, I just saw a nearly ancient picture of Caffries Hardware store. Ancient, because I remember walking along its oiled hardwood floors, when all of a sudden someone turned up the radio, and the singer yelled out, “You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain…”. it was 1957.

My Dad stopped in his tracks, looking up, “Good Lord, what is that?”

Nobody responded, as they were all riveted listening to Jerry Lee Lewis pound out his iconic symptoms.  I too was transfixed, because I had never heard anything like it, and it changed my view and love for music forever.  Studying the floor, I noticed that Caffries had hammered straight lines of nails one foot apart from the back door to the front, for the purpose of measuring out lines and ropes.

While Lewis beat a bass line with his left hand and scampered on the high keys like a runaway flywheel, I stared at the ceiling, and back at the radio which was high up on a shelf, strategically placed there for audibility and security against moving the dial.

Why do I remember this so vividly?

There are reams of web pages with articles explaining the rush of dopamine, our reward hormone, Oxytocin a social/love brain spurt, and ramblings among different parts of the noggin, all feasting on music, a satisfying meal for memory.

They say that music may be a soothing and regenerative aid to dementia and Alzheimers sufferers.  I hope it is.  But on that day, Jerry Lee and Caffries were permanently bonded in my head.

I had a similar experience the first time I heard Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone.  1965, working on Monteyne’s farm, our kiln hanger, Rob Hewson had hung his mighty transistor radio on the side of the kiln.  Above the endless clatter of the tying machine, and the grind of the conveyor lifting the sticks up to Rob,  Dylan’s piano sadly rambles away among the guitars, all the while he asks the riveting question, over and over again, “how does it feel?”  I am taking sticks off the tying machine while smoking an Old Gold plain tip.  I had never bought Old Golds before, and never did again, but I remember on that day, listening to Dylan while I dragged on one from the corner of my mouth.  When I hear the song today, Old Golds still come to mind.

Where we grew up, radio was pretty tame and choices limited.  The parents listened to CFRB for news sports and gab.  CBL had Elwood Glover.  The kids listened to CHUM or CKEY.

For whatever reason, our house wouldn’t tune into 1050AM for CHUM, but late at night we could get CKEY–when it was 580AM on the dial.  Sitting at an elaborate study cabinet in my brother’s room, I would tune in quietly to CKEY, and Norm Perry as he ran the turn table.  There was a time when gimmick songs were profuse, but none more than Monster Mash.  That was 1962, and again pushed the listeners’ ears even further out of whack as the story unfolded, ‘working in the lab late one night’.

Monster Mash creates an indelible mark, a gauzy multi-sensory image of sitting at a large gray study cabinet, designed by Popular Mechanics, and unstintingly assembled by my Dad.  It was modular, arriving from the basement in two pieces, painted battleship gray on the outside, and dark red on the inside.  Shelves to the left, it had a chained, drop down desk, and cabinets with locks to the right.  It smelled of paint and plywood, smooth at the sanded edges, with small pock marks from a student’s compass point jamming the grain endlessly.

But in the corner was a dandy little cream-colored plastic radio with two dialing knobs shaped like bullets that managed volume and tuning.  I surreptitiously listened to that radio every night while shuffling papers for homework, chewing the end off a pencil, and staring at a small fluorescent light in the cabinet.  I listened to hundreds of songs, but it’s Monster Mash that brings back the cabinet, every time.

Is there a time when the ‘music-evoked autobiographical memory’ goes away?  That’s what they call it: a MEAM.  I am not sure, but it has been years since I have experienced a new MEAM.  The last I remember was sitting in our 71 Chevelle  listening to a country station outside Port Hope on highway 401.  My parents were staring ahead, and randomly twirling the FM dial, probably looking for Elwood Glover.  Instead, they hit Loretta Lynn as she spun a tale about herself, “When You’re Looking At Me, You’re Looking At Country”.

That was my first intense audit of country music, in 1971, and I was hooked.  The Chevy was a Super Sports, two-door, racing green with a black vinyl roof, parabolic rear windows, and a beautiful chromed gear shift in the center with black bucket seats.  It drove like a dream, and drank gas like a demon.  It was the perfect vessel for delivering Loretta Lynn, which I remember vividly, crystal clear, today.

I have a soundtrack running in my head every waking and sleeping hour.  Tunes loop continuously.  I am thankful still, as a few songs come up, that I have those visual memories to accompany them; it’s good entertainment.

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Entertainment, Media, Sports

The Peril of Cable

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Reconstruction goes on, with no traffic tie ups.

We are in the midst of rebuilding our house after extracting a 2007 Acura from the bedroom where it was abruptly parked, 9 weeks ago.

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Billy, our ATT guy sorting out phone lines.

The latest house renovation is re-connecting some of the ATT phone linkage which was damaged during the crash.   My hat is off to those dedicated techies who spend hours on their knees, on pea gravel in crawlspaces of 50-year-old houses, communing with spiders while they unravel nests of old wires, looking for a dial tone.

Cable and wires are my nemesis.

The current Stanley Cup playoffs remind me of my near cable undoing during the 1976 Canada Cup.

Forty years ago we had no television. We found great entertainment listening to the radio. But there was a new show on– M*A*S*H, and curiosity drove me to see it.

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Black & white: as good as it gets.

We had inherited a small black and white television, but its rabbit ear aerial could only bring in fuzzy pictures, even from the three local stations. I had learned that a new invention–cable– could pipe in perfect imagery.

All I needed to do was to subscribe. But reportedly, the cost was huge, so we stayed with radio.   Inspector Maigret on CBL Toronto was great theater.
At the time, we rented in a townhouse complex, one of about thirty 2-story apartments surrounding a common. Blue collar young families used the common as a play ground for their kids, who could run off their patios and into the parkland, well within the confines of the complex.

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No amount of protective sheathing will resist a wire cutter.

Our next door neighbor Buzz was a truck driver.   Buzz wasn’t an outlaw, but you could tell by the look in his one good eye and the stitchery across his face that he met challenges head on, or at least, with his head.

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Buzz, on a good day.

We called him Buzz after we heard him holler across the common to a neighbor about a batch of turkey buzzard soup he was making.  -Not sure that he was a hunter, and it would not surprise me to find he was feasting on something from the grill of his rig.

On any warm evening we could wave to our neighbors who might be on the patio, barbecuing, or enjoying dessert outside.

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Guy Lafleur works his technique.

In September, 1976, the common discussion was about The Canada Cup series.  This was a fierce hockey competition between Canada, Finland, Russia and Czechoslovakia which were fighting each other on the ice for supremacy.

The game between Canada and the Czechs was starting soon, and the chatter all along the patios was about our chances.

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Gyro and his little helper.

On our patio, I was brewing a solution to the TV viewing problem. Gyro Gearloose, unleashed.

I had often seen in our basement the TV cable snaking along the ceiling, one wire going to each room upstairs.  In the living room was a cable outlet.   My figuring was, cut a length of cable from one of the unused bedroom lines, and use it to connect the TV in the living room.

After confirming it was a bedroom line, I deftly severed it to create a 3-foot piece of cable.   Marching upstairs, I connected it to the wall, and to the TV.

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Success! With 12 channels to surf, too.

Voila!!   Pure, crisp and pristine TV viewing, not on three channels, but on TWELVE channels.   And as I spun the dial, I found M*A*S*H.   Wow!   I was amazed by my brilliance.   Running through the channels, I also found The Game.  First period, and the Czechs are pounding Canada.

Pretty pumped, I went on to the patio to brag about our newfound cable reception.  I wasn’t expecting high-fives, because everyone already had cable, but still…

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Where’s the remote??

Outside there was commotion.  Unsettled residents were sliding open their doors, crossing over to their neighbors, assembling in groups.   There was a mild but growing grumble of discussion floating across the common.

“What’s up?” I asked.

Buzz growled.    He stood about 6’4″ and 260 pounds.  The devil tattoo on his forehead was pulsing.  “Cable’s out.   How about yours?”

“Oh, geez, no, hahah, mine’s fine!” I blurted out.  I hardly had seen the words float across to his pierced cauliflower ears before I realized my blunder.

“Good.  We’re coming over.  Got a bottle opener?”

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A better idea in progress!

“Well, let me just check the kids, first.”  I dove back in to the living room, slammed the door, and literally ripped the cable out of the television.  Unscrewing the wall plate, I pulled the piece out, and ran to the basement.   Minutes later, I had re-connected the wire.

Running back up to the patio, I found Buzz gathering his restive and frustrated friends heading in to our living room.

Out of breath, I put on my most disappointed face, “Geez.  Whaddyaknow..our cable is out too.  Crap. Shucks.  ‘Can’t get the game!”   I kicked the lawn chair for emphasis.

In the next moment, another hockey fan grunted across the common: “Cable’s back on. What the…”

Buzz retreated with his entourage, shuffling back onto his patio, tearing  off a prolonged belch as he slid open his living room door.

We retreated to ours as well.  The TV screen was an oatmeal grey with Hawkeye swimming through it.   I turned it off.  Out on the patio, the sound of distant cheers.

Mean time, we clicked on the radio, Inspector Maigret, surveying a footprint in the garden.  We leaned in closer to hear.

 

 

Thanks for reading!  It wasn’t for a couple more months before I learned that cable was free: it was in the rent.  Canada won the series. Go Hawks!

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Media

The Radio Phenomenon: Our Soundtrack

Car RadioThe Country Music Association awards aired this week.

Putting aside the occasional Stetson and raffia straw hat, the confab was verging on a Pop music celebration.   “All About The Bass” opened the show, followed shortly by Steven Tyler, Ariana Grande, and closing with The Doobies.

There wasn’t a tractor, dog, train or pickup truck in sight, though Chevy was a prime sponsor.

What was phenomenal, in the true sense of the word, was the repetitive tribute to Radio.

The winners were both exuberant and humbled, and thankful, many to God, but nearly all of them to the radio industry that played their song.

In a world that is held tightly in the clutch of the Web, and Cloud, Radio is the phenomenon to be respected.   It hangs on.

A media report reveals that 84% of the 18-64 adult population watches Television over 4 hours a day.   In second place, 56% listen to Radio, over 2-1/2 hours a day.   The colossus Internet ranks third at 41%, for less than 2 hours a day.**

Somehow, the ancient invention of the 20th century persists to enjoy public subscription despite all the noise to the contrary.

Another report tells us what we could guess, that over 93% of the public listens to Radio.  More surprising, only 70% have Broadband Internet.

But here’s the real stunner: Country & New Country music is the #1 most listened-to format on the radio.   News and Talk shows rank second.   Pop Contemporary comes in third.

At this moment you may be asking yourself, there’s only one Country station where I live..how can it be that popular?   As it turns out, the vote is split among 55 radio formats.

You may have already known this, but there is a fine definition between “Hot Adult Contemporary” and “Urban Adult Contemporary”.. quite set apart from 11 categories of Hispanic formats: “Mexican Regional”  to “Spanish Sports”.

Someone somewhere is very sensitive about whose group they join.

But a solitary Country holds its ground, with the biggest corral if you will, thereby capturing the single largest audience share.

Which brings us back to Radio.   Country stars count on it, and they call it out like an old friend.   As do all of us, from the morning wake up call, to the last broadcast we pause to hear before turning off the car’s ignition at the end of our commute.

It succeeds because it offers a reliable sound track to our lives, unlike Internet and TV which are greedy for our sole attention.   Admit it– you can’t drive a car and watch football, and you can’t read a blog while mowing the lawn.

Radio is always there, a generous background to our busy day.

 

 

Thanks for reading!   The reason I enjoy driving is, frankly, so I can listen to the radio!

**The link disconnected.  Here is a replacement!  http://www.raisingthevolume.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Radio-Usage-Trends.pdf

http://stateofthemedia.org/2012/audio-how-far-will-digital-go/audio-by-the-numbers/ 

 

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