I’ve recently been experiencing a bit of a rennaisance where my musical past is concerned. It’s been fun listening to songs from the 70s and 80s that were the soundtracks of my childhood and adolescence. You know how songs can take you back? This has been a fun time of recollections and remembrances–scenes, settings, people and places I’d long ago forgotten. What a trip down memory lane.
I’ve awakened to another realization along the way. Much of the music of my childhood and adolescence inspired me because of its storytelling and characters. As a writer, the characters and storylines I discovered in lyrics abide with me–as fresh when they come on a classic rock station today as when I was that imaginative kid–flying into outer-space with Elton John’s Rocketman or Bowie’s Major Tom.
This trip down memory lane has given me pause to consider: What were the most influential albums I listened to growing up? Which ones made an indelible impression on me? Which would I recommend to others as “musts” from days-gone-by?
I’ve decided to post a series–top ten albums of all time as I’d rate them from my life and experience. In no particular order, here’s a musical walk through the halls of my past.
POST ONE of TEN: Chicago Transit Authority (or Chicago I if you remember it that way)
Might as well start with a double LP, right? I was only two when this album was released–and with it came my very young introduction to the band Chicago and rock-n-roll. My brothers–in their teens at the time–brought the album home.
I remember Terry Kath’s voice on the first track, Introduction. I remember the horns. My brothers were both horn players, so that’s likely where they became interested. Then the transition to the second song, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (Still one of my all-time favorite Chicago songs and referenced here.)
The characters and storylines of Does Anybody Really Know were among the first I discovered in rock music. The people passing each other on the street, all with schedules to meet … and the sadness of marching to such schedules as to miss what’s really happening all around them … informed my very young and impressionable lens of life, for sure.
And then into Beginnings. What a song! The horns, the percussion–I marveled. These are those first recollections of moving to the beat–me–tapping feet, bobbing head, air-drumming. Hard to be still. Of course, if you hear this one on classic rock stations today, they usually cut the great percussion outro out of the tune. That’s a shame.
A double album, I definitely wore out side one of record one.
Questions 67 & 68 was another eye-opener. It was the first time I heard Peter Cetera’s voice. If you only know Cetera for his post-Chicago, sappy Karate Kid ballad/anthems, you’re sorely missing out. And again, the horns. Wow!
Later tracks–and admittedly played less often as I was enthralled with the tunes mentioned above–like Prologue and Someday (both referencing political events in 1969 that I was far too young to realize the significance of) did prompt me to think about popular music as a chronicle of life’s stories.
This is an album that holds a very special place in my heart. My intro to rock-n-roll, and I couldn’t have picked a better inroad. What’s really cool is that playing the album today, I’m transported back … to four, five years old, some of my earliest life recollections. Oh, and then there’s this–I didn’t recognize it at that tender young age, I do now: What an amazing guitarist Terry Kath was. If he hadn’t died so early, I bet he’d be considered among the great guitar gods in rock-n-roll.
Go back. Take a listen. Chicago Transit Authority. This is classic rock!