SOUR GRAPES: Music journey

Jim Magdefrau

What is a targeted demographic?

Nephew Wes relates he set his Saturday afternoon work music to the Beach Boys. The Pandora station played a few classics, and then a few commercials. The first was for medical marijuana. The second was for nursing home attorneys.

* * *

Music takes me back to college days, on the third floor of Helser Hall, Iowa State. The Livingston House hallway was not quite Pandora, but more like pandemonium, for listening to music. The doors were open, so the musical tastes of 90 different people rang up and down the plaster halls.

I had several albums, but no record player, which didn’t make much sense, but I was still somewhat of a library. A frequently borrowed album was Prine’s greatest hits. Others liked the new Supertramp or Van Morrison. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s collection of hits made its way from room to room. A few steps down the hall was the most eclectic collection one can find, from The Strawbs to Parliament Funk. Across the hall was someone with the master of “Katy Lied.” It was the print the other copies were based upon. It caught every detail.

Turn the corner, we’d pick up more eclectic sounds of Gabriel, Genesis and Fogelberg.

There were albums that were frequently played. Side one of “The Stranger” by Billy Joel, until he realized, “Hey! There’s songs on the other side.”

Yes. On constant rotation was the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack, which I tolerated, because from the same room I could hear Side 1 of “Heavy Weather” by Weather Report. A few doors up, I could hear Son of Schmillson three times a day. “Breaking My Heart.” I had that memorized.

Next door to us was the “rowdy” room. Every night at 10, he’d put on “Play That Funky Music.” If the record skipped, he’d put a quarter on the tone arm. It was also a house rule that everyone had to have a copy of “Frampton Comes Alive.” And right by the den I could detect the muffled sound of Zeppelin and Quadrophenia … and a funny smell.

Music was part of our identity. It still triggers a precise moment. When the weather warmed up, speakers were pushed into the windows and music was shared. There is the blues vamp in the middle of “Ramblin’” by the Marshall Tucker Band. Students dug the tune. Tossing Frisbees.Relaxing in the grass. Students walked and nodded to the beat. No more classes. It’s Friday.

Our group of college buddies, who are now in that senior category, still like the music from the era. It did our hearts good when we’d walk the campus decades later, and still hear the music we listened to back then.

We’re on the search constantly for something new as well. Just after college I played a few Tom Waits songs for them. That was it. No turning back. If Nanci Griffith was anywhere near, we’d be there. Same for Wilco or The Bottle Rockets. We heard Prine in Ames, and visited with his band back at Johnny Orr’s afterwards. It was at the Maintenance Shop we enjoyed Richard Thompson. I asked about the D chord. He said he’s never played D. Never will. It was also in the shop that we struck up a conversation with Mary Lou Lord after a great solo performance. Twenty years, that conversation and friendship continues.

The music journey is continuing. Our ears are open. Right now, I’m listening to “John Vanderslice.” I don’t know who it is, but I like it. It’s new. It’s over the Internet. That college kid in the ‘70s could never have imagined that.

Embrace the new technology. But wait. Does my turnable still work?

One comment

  1. cool way to remember college!!!! I don’t even recognize some of the groups or solo singers but I’m from a different era altogether. Thanks for sharing the memories!!


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