Don’t player-hate, but for Christmas I asked for – and received – three CDs of old record albums I owned in my late teens and early twenties: Close to You by The Carpenters, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, and Glass Houses by Billy Joel.
The first reminds me of high school, when I listened to Close to You over and over, fascinated with Karen Carpenter’s vocal range. Singing along with her was the first time I realized I might have some kind of voice.
Rumours was a colossal hit when I was in college a few years later. It was one of the albums I played as I, an art minor, drew and painted by the back screen door of the house I rented south of campus with three girlfriends.
Glass Houses reminds me of my first car, a 1978 glacial blue Pontiac Lemans with no radio. For a year I drove around with nothing but the sound of tires on pavement and my own thoughts in my ears. The following year I bought a Craig cassette player and a pair of Jensen speakers. After they were installed, my brother recorded several of his favorite record albums on a bunch of blank tapes and gave them to me for Christmas. He’d labeled each of the dozen or so tapes by hand on the white cards that lined the plastic cases: The Royal Scam by Steely Dan; Jazz by Queen; A Trick of the Tail by Genesis. Glass Houses was another. I bought a brown vinyl carrying case from Peaches to keep them in. I still have them all.
The other day I imported my three new CDs into iTunes on my Mac, something that at age 18 I couldn’t conceive of someday being able to do. I don’t know how we start out in this world so dependent and timid and how years later we realize that we can now find our way around the world without anyone’s help. I don’t know how I evolved to this point technology-wise, but here I am.
I created a new playlist list on my iPod, named it “Old Record Albums,” and uploaded the tracks. I pulled on my boots, zipped up my hi-tech ski jacket, hit “Shuffle,”and left for a long walk along Lake Michigan in fifteen-degree weather.
I walked. And I listened. A few of the songs made me wince and others made me laugh out loud for joy.
And I suddenly wished that my mother had had an iPod with the songs of her late teens and early twenties: The Swingle Sisters; Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass; Andy Williams; Sam Cooke. And I wished that she had listened to it while taking long walks along a winter lake, her hands shoved deep in her pockets, her heart as light as magic.