A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Memories on the Record Sleeves

Mom's Record Sleeve -Front
Mom's Record Sleeve -Front (Photo credit: Jeff to the Maxx)

          Since we've been thinking about the memories that music brings in the previous few posts and considering that Musical Memories from A to Z will be the theme on Wrote By Rote for this year's Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, we might as well continue on the theme of music in this current post.  We got to this music topic due to the Battle of the Bands posts at my other blog Tossing It Out.   For an idea of what the Battle posts are about I invite you to visit my most recent Battle.

          As I had mentioned in previous posts, lately I've been going back through my vinyl collection and listening to the music from my past.  There are more memories to those albums than the music though.  The obvious answer would be the album covers.  Album cover art became very creative in the seventies. Back then I would listen to my albums and study the album cover artwork, lyrics, and artist information. Some of those album covers afforded hours of enjoyment.

         However one part of the album package that is often overlooked is the paper record sleeve that protected the vinyl LP.   There were many of these that did have lyrics or other aspects of the total cover art package, but probably the majority were just plain paper or plastic.  There was nothing to look at on those latter types.   They were merely functional.

            Especially in the 60's and into the seventies, some of the record sleeves had promos for other albums by artists who recorded on the same label.  Much like the coming attractions on today's DVD's, these sleeves would advertise other recordings that the label had to offer.

           I used to like to look at the sleeves in each album to get an idea about the artists that were out there.  Some I'd be very familiar with and perhaps even own albums by a few of them.  Others I might have seen at the record store.  Others were new to me.  Artists like Acker Bilk, Rod McKuen, or the San Sebastian Singers were first encountered by me on the record sleeves.

           Warner Brothers records sometimes even had a coupon that could be clipped and sent off with a quarter to get a catalog of the albums that the company had to offer.  I never sent for one of these catalogs, but once I did send off for a very nice boxed set of sampler music for something like three dollars.  It was an outstanding collection of music which I apparently got rid of sometime in the past.

          I've run across a few CD's that have had advertising circulars enclosed, but this has been a rarity.  They've never had quite the attractive appeal as the promotional record sleeves.   But then of course CD's very rarely match the artistic punch that LP's used to have.   The retro appeal of albums is not just the sound quality, but those fantastic album covers.  And on those certain occasions, the promotional record sleeve that took us beyond the album at hand to other albums that we might wonder about.

         Did you ever notice the promotional paper protective record sleeves?   Did you ever buy an album solely on the appeal of the cover without knowing anything about the music?    What are some of your favorite album covers?

         Please join me here starting on Tuesday April 1st as I embark on a journey of Musical Memories from A to Z.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

#atozchallenge Theme Reveal

        This is a special posting a day early from the normal Saturday schedule in order to be a part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge Theme Reveal.    For more about the A to Z Theme Reveal Blogfest see the links at the bottom of this post.  

          My last several posts on this blog have been about music.  This has been in conjunction with the Battle of the Bands posts that I do on the 1st and 15th on my blog Tossing It Out.  The Battle of the Bands posts have been a bit of an audience dwindler in some ways, but since I enjoy these posts so much I've been adamant in my continuation to participate in this particular blogging event.  And there is a small audience of those who have shown an interest in these posts.  My plans are to continue the Battle of the Bands on a monthly basis.  My music posts on Wrote By Rote have been my attempt to do some cross promotion for the Battle of the Bands posts.

          For those who might be unfamiliar with the Battle of the Bands blog event to which I refer--and I sure that includes the majority of those reading this--the twice monthly blog posting is a contest between two versions of the same song.  In each post I pit two or more different versions of one song against each other, then readers vote in the comments as to which version is their personal favorite and why.  The following week I reveal which song version won the vote and which is my own favorite.  On the appointed days I am joined by four or more other bloggers who post their own battles at their sites.  It's fun if you enjoy music and comparing cover versions of songs to each other.  If that's something that sounds like something you'd enjoy I hope you will join me on Tossing It Out each month on the 1st and 15th.

         Since Wrote By Rote is a blog devoted to memoir, my recent music posts have been about the songs that I've chosen as my Battle of the Bands selections and some of memories these songs have evoked.   For most people, music has a power to take us back to the times we associate with that music.  Music taps us into past memories of people, places, and events.   In each of  my April posts I will present a song which my visitors can listen to if they wish and I will accompany each song pick with a short vignette that expresses the thoughts, feelings, or memories that particular song draws from within me.  

        Some of the songs you may know while others might be new discoveries for you.  Most of them will be songs that I consider to be beautiful, wistful, and even sad.  Some will be light and even somewhat funny.  They will all be songs that are meaningful to my personal history.  They might even become favorites of yours if they aren't already.

         Please join me here at Wrote By Rote in April for a musical journey as I explore Musical Memories from A to Z.  

          Does music play an important role in your life?   Do you often feel stirred when you hear songs from certain parts of your past?    Have you ever used a song or piece of music as a writing prompt?

        To see what other A to Z bloggers are doing during the April Challenge visit the Blogging from A to Z Theme Reveal Blogfest for the list.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Digging into Musical History

Browsing in the Rough Trade Shop
Browsing in the Rough Trade Shop (Photo credit: Lee Jordan)

             The Battle of the Bands posts that I've been doing at my blog Tossing It Out have been dredging up memories for me.  I discussed some of this in the two posts preceding this current post.  Most of us attach personal memories to certain songs from our past.   Finding songs to use in my "Battle" posts have prompted me to do some research on the backgrounds of the songs and the artists performing them.  Since this musical history coincides with much of my personal history, a virtual mixtape of memories starts playing in my head to help me write my blog posts regarding this topic.

            This week for example I've used a Carole King / Gerry Goffin tune called "Snow Queen" which you can listen at Tossing It Out.   I had known this song from an old cutout album that I had bought back around 1971 or so.  I usually paid forty-nine cents to ninety-nine for albums on sale.  I didn't buy many albums at full record store cost back then.  I was always rather frugal.

           Sometimes I'd find albums by bands I was familiar with, but mostly there were artists that I didn't know.  Sometimes I'd recognize a name associated with other albums I owned and that would make me more interested in the mystery album that I was considering to buy.  Most of my album collection was probably purchased from the cut-out bins. Most of it was music that I liked.

            For one version of the Battle of the Bands song I used a cut from an album by Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends.   This is an album of mostly cover songs with a couple of originals.   The group sounds a bit like Brasil 66, the Carpenters, Fifth Dimension or other groups in that vein.  I enjoyed the album when I was in college, but forty years later listening back I think I more greatly appreciate what the Nichols Trio was doing.  It's an album lushly orchestrated with some very nice vocal work.

            But don't let me digress.

            My point as far as memoir goes is that by digging these old albums out and listening to them closely I can recall times when I heard this music before.  The melodies and sometimes the words swirl through my head as a wash of memories flood my mind.  The music stretches from my past into the future of that past time.  I remember prompted by the tracks on the vinyl.

           I suppose I would compare listening to a once familiar album to paging through a scrapbook or photo album looking at the images and remembering.  

            You might want to check out some of the videos on YouTube by Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends.

             Here are links to a few of their songs:

I'll Be Back

Cocoanut Grove

Don't Go Breaking My Heart

            Did you buy cut-out versions of albums?    What interesting albums have you found in the cut-out bins?     Do you have memories associated with buying record albums or listening to them?

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Music Memories

Gramophone and records
Gramophone and records (Photo credit: GB_1984)

           Ever since I started participating in the Battle of the Bands event on my blog Tossing It Out I've been reminiscing about music.  Listening to the tunes I used to listen to back in younger days puts me in a different frame of mind.  When I pick out albums from my collection to spin on my record turntable it's like listening to an oldies station where I get to choose the playlist. 

            I may have purchased a few LP's in the 1990's and several in the 80's, but most of my records were bought in the 70's and 60's with most of those acquired prior to 1975.   My record collection would probably be considered vintage.

             There's something to be said for having old vinyl.  This probably accounts for a big part of the popularity of owning old records.  Some audiophiles will insist that vinyl sounds better than any other medium of music recording.    Having spent many hours listening to LP's I can agree with that as long as the records are in good condition.  For me, the memories evoked by vinyl records make them like gold when digging back for memoir material.

            I've got my turntable hooked to a small sound system in the bedroom across from my writing office.  Most weekdays I've been listening to one to a half dozen or so records.  With something like 200 to 300 albums in my  bedroom closet it takes a while to get through listening to them all.  And I tell  you, this listening has been bringing back many memories.

             In the weeks to come I'll be posting more often about records and music in general.  Some of this will be in correlation with the Battle of the Bands posts.  Other posts will be for reasons that will become evident in a few weeks.  I hope that you readers enjoy music as much as I do and will share your own memoir memories in the weeks to come.

            Does music stir memories when you hear it?   Is there a special era of music that taps into your past more than others?   Do you think the sound of vinyl is superior to other mediums of recording?  

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sugar Shoppe: A Confused Aural Memory

         When it comes to writing memoir or just reminiscing about one's past, the internet is hard to beat for putting things in perspective in a quick and convenient fashion.   I've been able to trace obscure parts of my lineage, look up places I've been in the past, or pinpoint dates I was confused about.

          A case in point is when I was looking for information regarding my current Battle of the Bands post at Tossing It Out.   And let me stop here for a moment while you click over to read that post if you'd like.  For those who don't know about the Battle of the Bands posts, they are part of a blog event that occurs on the 1st and 15th of each with a handful of bloggers participating.   Anyone is welcome to join in if they like.   If you join us, let us know and we will add your link to our list   My Battle of the Bands post today includes a song by the group The Sugar Shoppe.

         Now back to the story.  Somewhere in my hazy past of younger days, I seem to recall having heard The Sugar Shoppe's rendition of an old song from the 1920's called "Poor Papa".  I was certain that I had heard the song very late one night (or more probably in wee hours of the morning) sometime in February 1966 as I was traveling with my parents to Rochester, New York.  As we neared our destination I listened to the radio station that my father had tuned into.  They were playing some great tunes.  I thought "Poor Papa" was one that I heard during that cold snowy night of driving.

          As it turns out this could not have been possible.  According to all the information I've uncovered on the internet, the vocal group was not formed until 1967 and the album that "Poor Papa" appeared on came out in 1968.   There is no way that I could have heard that song on that night in 1966.

          It would have been in the summer after my junior year of high school when I heard "Poor Papa" played on some radio broadcast that I no longer remember.  I doubt whether it was played on the regular top 40 AM radio station that I would have normally listened to back then.  By this time I was usually finding FM stations that were broadcasting occasional pop and rock music.  Most of the FM radio in Knoxville, Tennessee was Muzak--FM had not particularly caught on at that time.  Still a few FM stations were experimenting with their playlists.

         Wherever it was I had heard "Poor Papa", the song captivated me.   It put me in mind of the New Vaudeville Band hit "Winchester Cathedral" that had come out a couple years before.   I liked the old timey sound.  And it didn't hurt that the production value of the record was very fine.  I discerned that The Sugar Shoppe was probably a very fine group on the basis of hearing that one song.

            Once Christmas neared, I turned in my gift wish list to my mother.   This was a tradition for me.  Each year I'd make a sensible list of things I wanted for Christmas and since I prudently kept the list within a modest budget, my mother usually got everything that I had put on the list.  By high school my lists consisted almost exclusively of record albums that I wanted.   For the Christmas of 1968 my list had selections like The Beatles White Album,  Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Creedence Clearwater Revival's debut album, and The Sugar Shoppe's album.

           I'm almost surprised that my mother was able to locate the album by The Sugar Shoppe in East Tennessee.  But somehow she found it.  She was good at that.  Rarely was there an album that I asked for that she didn't find.   As I had predicted the Sugar Shoppe album was as good as the one song I had heard--even better in fact.  There was a nice mix of modern music done very well by an outstanding vocal group.

          I still have the album in fact.  It's in excellent condition and plays very well.  In the past few months I've hooked up my turntable in the bedroom across from the room that I use for my office.  I've been digging back into my vinyl collection and listening again after decades of those records sitting dormant on a shelf.  Listening to the Sugar Shoppe album is what prompted me to include a cut by them in one of my Battle of the Bands posts.   I began investigating YouTube and found that the song "Privilege" had videos for versions by two artists.   I had my song and now I could share the music of this great neglected group with my blog readers.

          We'll find out what the response is in this episode of Battle of the Bands.  If you haven't visited the post I'll give you another chance.   Click here and take a listen.  What did you think of the song?   Which version did you like best?   Did you vote?

           Do you use search engines to jog your memory about things in your past?   Was there ever a time when you heard a song and decided that you just had to have the album it came from?   Do you still own any recordings that you owned in high school or before?

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