I was an early adopter of pop music compared to my friends. Thanks to being an only child, and with assistance from cousins, the music bug bit early. Back then you had two ways to hear new or even old music. Either somebody played it for you on a record player or you listened to the radio. Therefore looking back it seems that you didn’t easily get to new artists; they had to find ways to come to you.
By the age of 11 I was already making primitive mixtapes off the radio. I spent hours trying to time hitting the record button after recognising the opening notes of songs I wanted. Back then Top 40 radio was much broader in its playlist. Delta Dawn could and would be played beside songs like Whole Lotta Love, Hey Jude, It Ain’t Me Babe, The Pushbike Song and Angie.
Sometimes the connection was instantaneous. When I first heard the opening drum beat [I believe, thanks to the internet, that it is a slightly modified train beat that swings] for The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz and Brian Connolly’s strangely laconic spoken intro, “Are you ready Steve? …” I was completely transfixed. Then it got even better, those sweet crunchy chords, the falsetto, the suggestive yet vague lyrics. I still love it today. Fortunately it was an easy song to record off the radio, so it was quickly on my mixtape.
One day I went roller-skating for the first time with my older and cooler cousins and as I fell over a lot I heard great songs I knew from the radio like Jumping Jack Flash, Suffragette City and Maggie May. As a bonus the music they played during the big speed skate at the session’s end was The Ballroom Blitz. As I leaned against the rail, trying to keep my skates under me and wishing I could do what my older cousins Greg and Gary could do, I became vaguely aware for the first time of the importance of music as a soundtrack to your life.
On the last day of grade six I took my cassette player to school. Last day was a day of junk food, swimming in the school pool and barely controlled running around the schoolyard. Thanks to The Ballroom Blitz whenever someone decided it was time for some music I knew I was ready, willing and able to educate and entertain. However I was the only boy who had brought music.
A couple of the girls had also brought along cassette players but they were playing Michael Jackson’s ode to a rat, Ben, and The De Franco Family’s Heartbeat – It’s a Love Beat, tunes I had already dismissed as unworthy. Unfortunately, with zero interest from any of the other boys I was outvoted and dismissed almost before the first chords of The Ballroom Blitz could ring out.
My musical taste had been completely dissed and for the first time, but not the last, I felt the pain of rejection from the opposite sex.
Stereo Story #637