First-time-tunes…continued. I left off in 1976. It looks like there were 25 years when I don’t seem to have experienced any “first time tunes.” Really??
I certainly never stopped listening to music, but I did mostly stay in my musical comfort zone and listened mostly to “old favorites” during those years. Those were “work hard, play hard” years, coupled with lots of “family issues.” Most of those 25 years are a bit of a blur….maybe that’s why I don’t have any distinctive memories of hearing a song for the first time?
When my marriage finally imploded in early 2011, I packed up a few possessions and shipped them to my sister’s place on Table Rock Lake. I stayed with her and her husband for just over 3 months, and then it was time to move on.
But I did hear a song during my time at their place that was perfect for where I was at the time. I’ve never been a country music fan, although I have always liked some artists with a touch of country, e.g. Poco, John Hiatt, John Fogerty, Wet Willie. I never liked twangy, and I don’t like “crying in my beer” songs.
I was down on the dock with my brother-in-law and another fellow who has a slip on the same 6-slip boat dock. The radio reception isn’t all that great, so we took what we could get on the hot day in mid-July. It was a toasty day, and we were a bit toasted. I had heard the name of this guy who was singing, but I’ve never listened to anything of his other than this song, and I probably never will. In addition to not liking twangy, I’m also not a fan of people who wear cowboy hats. (This probably has something to do with the narcissist who controlled the franchised business that I invested in….and the reason I always will spell the 28th state as “Texass.”)
Nobody had done me wrong. But as I approached my 63rd birthday, there was no doubt that it was time to leave nothing behind. To take to heart what Warren Zevon said about enjoying every sandwich. To be thankful and to make the best of every new day. To sing along with George Strait’s “Here for a good time.”
Sometimes I love the lyrics of a song, even though they bear absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to what has happened, or is happening, to me.
My marriage was over. My ex and I weren’t talking. It wasn’t ugly…it was just over. There were no angry words exchanged. No animosity. Nothing mean. What was said was short and sweet: “I’m not happy. You’re not happy. It’s over. Time to move on.”
So this next FTT, another country song that I first heard while down on the boat dock with Don and Randy, was not a reflection of my current or past reality. But I’ll always remember the first time I heard Taylor Swift belting out “Mean,” while those two sat and drank a cold adult beverage and I paced the dock. “…someday I’ll be living in a big old city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean…why you gotta be so mean?”
In late 2012 I had heard of Kings of Leon. I had read about them in Rolling Stone. I knew they grew up in Oklahoma. I knew that they, like me, grew up as poor preacher’s kids. My dad’s beliefs were in many ways very different than those of their father, but both were preachers. If I had ever heard a song of theirs, I wasn’t aware of it.
The radio wasn’t the only option on that day in early December, but for some reason that’s what I was listening to in my apartment. The radio stations are pretty lame in Springfield, MO; I was listening to 106.7 “The River.” When this song started playing I stopped whatever it was I was doing on my laptop and cranked up the volume. It was a deja vu experience. I felt like I already knew this song, but I’m not sure how? It had been released almost 5 years earlier, but I hadn’t listened to much radio in years (other than when I was hanging out on the boat dock with Don and/or Randy).
When I listened to the radio during the 2000’s it had usually been with my kids or my ex. Before I left Tampa, Kings of Leon most likely wouldn’t have played much on the stations they liked: hip-hop for Caroline, gangsta rap for Joseph, and sports talk for the ex. (Their radio preferences are listed in rank order for me….i’d listen to almost anything before sports talk.)
It was probably a combination of the beat and the lead singer’s voice that caught my attention that December day. But it was also the lyrics.
For me, it’s almost always the lyrics. There are some songs that I like a lot and I don’t have a clue as to the lyrics, or I might not care that the lyrics make no sense or have no meaning for me…I still like the song for whatever reason. But on that day, the lyrics that caught my attention were “…I could use somebody.…someone like you, and all you know, and how you speak….I hope it’s gonna make you notice…someone like me…”
Maybe it’s because I had met someone. I was smitten. I also knew that I could use somebody…somebody to be my playmate.
After the song finished on the radio I found a clip of it on YouTube and listened to it a few times. I listened to more K.O.L. songs that day. I bought some of their CDs. I went to 2 of their concerts over the next 16 months. Or should I say “we went…” My playmate and me, that is.
About a month earlier Shelly had posted a video clip of her and her oldest grandchild on Facebook. It was a brief snippet of them singing a song I’d never heard before. It was a catchy tune, but I never thought much of it until a bit later when we were at her son’s place and this song came on…and 6-year-old Casedy started singing it again. So did Casedy’s dad.
This time I got it…this wasn’t just a kid’s tune. It was a song for all of us.
Almost a year and a half later in Columbia, MO we saw Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros singing that song: “Home.” Lots of things had changed in that time…for the band and for me and Shelly. The female singer, who played a key role in “Home” and several of their other tunes had left the band. Shelly and I had been living together for awhile…there are a number of songs that have a “Shelly meaning” for me. K.O.L.’s “Use somebody”; Jackson Browne’s “Stunning mystery companion”; and “Home” are just three of them. “Holy moley, me oh my, You’re the apple of my eye…Home is wherever I’m with you…Home is when I’m alone with you…”
Back in late 2011 I discovered house concerts…what a great concept. So far, the only house concerts I’ve ever attended are at The Rock House in Reeds Spring…it’s a great venue, produced by 2 great people: Jeanette and Bruce. I’ve heard lots of songs for the first time at The Rock House, but one of them certainly belongs on my “first-time-tunes” list.
It was at the 3rd house concert I ever attended. November 12, 2011. A couple of guys who are in a band called The Rainmakers were the evening’s artists. Bob and Jeff had released a CD a couple of years earlier. The full band had released a reunion album called “25 years on” earlier in 2011. The band had been popular in the early 80’s. Newsday had called them “America’s Next Great Band”. There had been articles about them in Newsweek, Rolling Stone, USA Today and others.
I had never heard of them…at least consciously. Subsequently I realized that I had seen some of their videos in the early days of MTV…which I watched a lot in the early 80s, back when MTV aired nothing but videos. (What do they broadcast now?? I honestly don’t have a clue….mostly reality silliness, isn’t it?)
It was a packed house that November night. Jam packed. And deservedly so. How did the world miss out on this band? These guys are the real deal. Smart lyrics. Very smart lyrics. Maybe sometimes too smart, at least for some people. Their career was sidetracked when this KC-based band had the audacity in 1986 to release a song titled “Rockin’ at the T-Dance” which referred to the disaster when a skywalk collapsed at the Hyatt.
When they play near me, whether it be the front man solo, Bob and Jeff at The Rock House, or the 4-piece band, I will be there….for sure. I’ll want to hear this first-time-tune “Like Dogs” every time I see them, but if I don’t hear it I know it will still be a great experience. Have I told you that this band is the real deal?
Back in November of 2011 I was dating a woman who loved her dog more than she did most people, other than her daughters….well, at least 2 of her 3 girls anyway. I’m not much of a pet person. I’m OK with dogs and cats, but I never have had a pet, and I don’t see that changing. I am simply too irresponsible and too impetuous; that’s a story for another day. But because of my time with this woman and her daughter who lived nearby, and their dogs, I had developed a deeper appreciation for canines.
And even if I hadn’t, the first verse of this song hit me right between the eyes because of how directly it spoke about someone I’ve known for a long, long, very long time. “You’re the kind of man who seems to leave a trail behind him of friends who used to be so close, but then in some concocted scene they done you wrong, and so you write them off and bye-bye they are gone….”
The person who immediately sprang to my mind has never heard “Like Dogs”, and if he had he is such a narcissist that he wouldn’t really hear it. Oh well…
People that I know, or have known, spring to mind for each of that song’s other 3 verses. I’m not alone. Before I heard this song for the first time the singer-songwriter (Bob Walkenhorst….btw, he’s the real deal!) told the story about how this song came to be. He also relayed the fact that after it was released he received a few calls from people asking him if the song was about them.
There are some first-time-tunes that I haven’t listed.
I expect to have more FTTs in my future, in addition to the ones I’ve written about here. I could even include a couple of more songs from that night in mid-November, 2011: “the wages of sin” and “government cheese” have lines that are stuck in my head.
When music and lyrics and people and places come together it’s a very good thing. First-time-tunes are a very special thing.
“Here for a good time” by George Strait
“Mean” by Taylor Swift
“Use somebody” by Kings of Leon
“Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
“Like Dogs” by The Rainmakershttps:
“The wages of sin” by The Rainmakers
“Government cheese” by The Rainmakers