Making Bets on Kentucky Derby Day

Oh those cheeky monkeys. After a search through my (still unalphabetized) records looking for an early Bonnie Raitt gem that I’ve been suckling recently, I found her nestling in the ‘R’s between two duplicate copies of Sticky Fingers (with its infamous real-live-zipper, zipped down to save “Sister Morphine”). One copy has my father’s identifying mark of a peace sign stamp, and the other with my mother’s address at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA.

When we both got record players four Christmases ago, my brother and I spent Christmas day with our parents divvying up their mightily impressive dual record collection (records from before their marriage, and then glossier editions that bridged the gap until the jive turkey brought the all-powerful-cassette into our household and a thousand records were banished to the attic). This was a wonderful day, laughing, talking music, bartering for LPs, brokering trades (I got Tumbleweed Connection, Rock of Ages, and Let it Bleed, for Dark Side of the Moon) and apportioning the obvious (all Dead goes to him, all Joni goes to me).

The most interesting thing about the great record swap is that before my parents got married and permanently joined fates (and record collections), they were both huge music lovers. Their respective collections speak volumes about music consumption and discovery in the time when you wouldn’t know a thing about a band until you got their first album and then you set a date for the Tuesday it dropped, got all your friends together and listened to the entirety of side one/flip/smokebreak/entirety of side two (can you imagine, January 1969, buying the album of an unknown band because the guy on the back of it was in the Yardbirds, putting the needle down on side one and hearing this?).

My parents wed in 1974, and their records are (together) quite the comprehensive sample of what boys and girls were listening to at college 1969-73. What’s really the most interesting to me (and the impetus for this post) are the duplicates. In the venn diagram of my parents’ lives, there is my mother’s circle (Joni, Bonnie, Laura Nyro, too much Joan Baez, Aretha, Rod Stewart- for Sally-, At Folsom Prison etc), and my father’s circle (Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Greetings from Asbury Park, Zeppelin, Blood Sweat and Tears, a mess of old soul). Where the circles meet is at once like a distillation of the wonder of like-ness, the joy of newness, of music so awesome and seminal that everyone had it, like everything that mattered before 1974, the last of a collective musical consciousness that sprung equally from lack of available media stimulus and payola. Here lies Axis Bold as Love, Scarborough Fair, Europe ’72, Eat a Peach, Pet Sounds, Crosby, Stills, & Nash AND Deja Vu, The White Album (though both sets are missing the second record, would that I could trade “Cry Baby Cry” for “Wild Honey Pie“), and while we’re on the Beatles count two copies of Help, A Hard Days Night, With the Beatles, Yesterday and Today (no doll heads), and Sgt. Peppers, Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders, Crystal Silence (jazz!), Miles of Aisles, Woodstock, Will the Circle Be Unbrokenthe list is magnificent and ongoing, both a record of the ubiquity of certain albums and of what my parents were both bringing to the table when they joined forces.

I’m going to put on one of my copies of Tupelo Honey and raise my glass to my wonderful parents and the records that made records and the wonderful interdependence of music that made life live.